We started Tensa Outdoor without a crowdfunding or other capital push, instead bootstrapping to refine the products as we went, testing the market with a build-to-order model. We (well, Cheryl) have been building each Tensa stand with hand and home shop tools from small lots of raw materials purchased mostly at consumer prices. You read that right: no fat markup. However romantic, this has been a huge effort alongside real day jobs, frankly not sustainable either as a business or a hobby.
This phase of our company is now over. For the next several weeks, we’re not shipping stands. We are waiting for our first factory order of custom-made tubing to be finished and delivered. In the hiatus, we’ll build up stocks of the other necessary components, revise documentation, and possibly sign up some dealers.
We estimate, but cannot promise, that orders placed in the interim will ship before the end of September. As before, we will fulfill orders in order of deposits placed. Once we fulfill backorders and have ample stock on hand, we will end the “deposit and wait” model, and sell product normally.
With the shift to custom-made tubing, today we announce some major improvements to the Tensa line, sample quantities of which have been quietly trickling out to customers for a few weeks.
First-generation Tensa stands used round drawn telescopic tubing. Readily available from specialist industrial suppliers, and having a better stiffness to weight ratio than other shapes, round tubing has done the job. But round tubes rotate freely within one another. This has been an annoyance. It has meant that extending the tubes to engage the spring buttons has required careful visual alignment, dozens of little “hunts” each time you set up the stand. While not difficult, it’s slow and prone to accidental disassembly when buttons drift out of alignment with their engagement holes.
This is over. Tensa stands now use custom-made keyed tubing, meaning manual alignment is no longer necessary. Just pull the collapsed assemblies to extend, and all the buttons pop into place. The keys are subtle and curviform, unique to each tube size, preserving nearly all the favorable stiffness to weight characteristics of round tubing. This one change knocks a few whole minutes off setup time!
First-generation Tensa stands used raw aluminum tubes, hand polished and waxed to remove mill marks and provide corrosion protection. This is both labor intensive and not very durable anyway. After the wax wears off, the tubes can blacken hands, and the surface of the metal is naturally soft, so it scratches pretty easily.
Anodizing is the best way to finish aluminum. By running electric current through the tubes as they are immersed in an acid bath, a smooth hard oxide layer builds on the surface, protecting the underlying metal from scratches and corrosion. Early on, we got lots of quotations for anodizing all 28 tubes of a Tensa4 stand. All exceeded the already high cost of the tubing itself.
By working our way higher up the supply chain to custom-made tubing, we finally got to a tolerable price point for anodizing. We chose a bright clear finish instead of colors, since colors often fade in sunlight, and scratches look worse than on clear finishes. We think it looks great, and hope you agree.
While it isn’t necessary to guy both ends of a Tensa4 stand, enough of our customers prefer to do so that we’re now bundling a second, head end tether line and anchor. It’s deliberately lighter duty and stretchy to encourage users to set up their stands with proper reliance on a higher foot end, but it helps assure that odd weight shifts, gusts of wind, or groggy wee-hour happenings don’t result in a fly-trapped stand.
I got a first-generation stand and wish I’d waited!
To our early adopter customers and beta testers: thank you. Your purchases and kind words, private and public, gave us the confidence and revenue necessary to pursue these improvements. If you bought one of our early stands or were in our beta test program, we’re offering you a new stand at $100 off the regular price. Offer expires 31 December 2018.