Making the Outdoors Accessible
“We want to turn the Prius into a pickup truck.”
For many entrepreneurs, where they live is almost as important as what they do. Tom Dempsey is one of those entrepreneurs. Dempsey is an avid outdoorsman and entrepreneur known to fit mid-day mountain bike rides into his daily routine. Given his love of everything outdoors it makes perfect sense that he calls Brevard, North Carolina his home now.
Though he isn’t a native, Tom Dempsey, founder and CEO of Sylvansport LLC has spent a lot of his life in Western North Carolina (WNC). He grew up in Chicago, Pennsylvania, and Alabama before making Transylvania County, NC his home and eventually founding Sylvansport, a camping trailer maker based in Brevard in 2004. Tom Dempsey previously worked for Coleman Co. and after leaving, founded Liquidlogic Kayaks in 2000. Dempsey also chairs an industry group that advises the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
Sylvansport currently manufactures two models of lightweight camper-trailer hybrids, the Go and the Go Easy. These lightweight trailers make camping easier and more comfortable, while not breaking the bank like a full-size RV, or requiring a large truck like a large camper. They are described as the “Swiss Army Knife of camping trailers” because of their versatility. Sylvansport is estimated to sell more than 1,000 of their innovative campers this year, throughout about 30 countries.
Dempsey has stated that his goal with SylvanSport is “to make access to the outdoors easier, more convenient, and more fun, so people have more time to enjoy themselves when they get there”.
Dempsey is also very committed to improving the economics of Western North Carolina. Sylvansport works hard to source as much of their supplies within 100 miles of Brevard as they possibly can. They live by the idea that creating local jobs and sourcing locally is a responsibility, “which is why 80% of the GO and GO Easy is sourced from within 70 miles of the WNC area”.
Sylvansport is very dedicated to growing industry in the Western North Carolina area and are currently working to expand, investing $5 million in coordination with Transylvania County, Brevard, and the Golden LEAF Foundation to build a 60,000 square foot industrial building that may eventually double in size. At this new facility, Sylvansport will continue to grow, with a new line of campers, which are more adaptable to weather conditions, as well as a car top camper. This investment will allow Sylvansport to create more jobs in the area and hopefully entice more manufacturers to call WNC home, while making the outdoors more accessible to their customers. Sylvansport has joined the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina, a group of businesses in the area who collaborate to “share talents, encourage new ideas and inspire each other”.
Sylvansport’s focus on outdoor recreation is important to Western North Carolina. The area offers many outdoor activities to partake in, and a consistent flow of vacationers and visitors who are looking to partake in activities in the two National Forests in the area (Pisgah and Nantahala). The outdoor activities range from mountain biking to rock climbing and kayaking. Tom Dempsey’s dedication to sustainably growing businesses while making the outdoors more accessible make him the perfect entrepreneur for WNC.