Winter Tent Designers Develop Profitable Business - Jan 25, 2013 - Small Business Development Center - UW-Superior News and Events

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    Winter Tent Designers Develop Profitable Business

    Posted on Jan 25, 2013
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    Winter Tent Designers Develop Profitable Business

    © 2013 Jenny Schlender

    Duane and Margot Lottig decided to start a business after discovering that the perfect tent for them was not available. They would have to design this tent themselves but had no idea how to start a business. One day they stumbled across a used commercial sewing machine. They bought the sewing machine only to say to themselves, "Now what?" They learned to sew and decided one day to attempt to use this machine by making a pair of mittens. After making a few pair of these mittens they took a sample pair to a Duluth store and found that the owner liked them and wanted two dozen pair. The Lottigs then realized they could take an idea and make it happen.

    They started with things like anoraks, duffels and toboggans and were called Empire Canvas Works and Snowtrekker Tents. They made and sold a few tents but were not really making a profit. They realized that if they were going to make their business grow, they needed a business plan. They knew people from the local hardware store who had taken the Business Plan Writing class and highly recommended they take the course. They knew they needed to do something. They signed up for the class and completed it. When asked how they felt about this course, Mrs. Lottig said that it was a "phenomenal class". Mr. Lottig agreed but added, "You get out of the class what you put into it, it's hard work but well worth it." There were times that Mrs. Lottig wanted to pull her hair out but says that Julianne Raymond, program director, encouraged them not to give up.

    Through the class they developed a business plan, developed their networking online, developed a computer program for sales and bookkeeping, and brought on an accountant who they still use today. Most importantly, this class took their break-even business to a profitable business. It did this, according to Mr. Lottig by "Allowing us to focus in one area and made us realize that the tents had the most potential for growth." Within two years they sold Empire Canvas Works and became only Snowtrekker Tents. They were back to their core values and their original vision. They both feel that it is rewarding to be able to focus on their dream.

    Their profits have increased significantly. They realized that subcontracting was more cost effective which led to the tents being made in an out-of-town sewing facility. The canvas they use for these tents is ordered from India and is a lightweight, hand-woven material, making it ideal for traveling through snow with these in tow.

    Duane Lottig had this to say for the effectiveness of this class, "To try to start a business without a good business plan would be insanity. This class gives you a laser vision look at your business instead of a panorama look." The Lottigs highly recommend for anyone who has a small business dream and wants to be successful in it to contact the Small Business Development Center at the UW-Superior.

    For information on Business Counseling and Training Programs, please contact the Small Business Development Center at 715-394-8351 or

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