TentCraft is known beyond northern Michigan as an innovative and high tech pop-up tent maker. The company is also a leader in attracting knowledge-based talent to Traverse City, which is why we featured "people manager" Rob Hanel in a FacebookLive interview in late February. TentCraft's innovation — and ability to recognize the needs of its workers — extends to employees with young children, as well. Our story Live, Work, Play in Traverse City—But Who'll Watch the Kids? posited TentCraft's "infants in the workplace" pilot program as a possible solution.
TentCraft has also created dozens of manufacturing jobs which offer a livelihood to Traverse City residents who don't have to leave town in search of work. We spoke recently with two blue-collar employees and Grand Traverse area natives.
Jared Prusick is a production supervisor for sewing fabrication. A Traverse City native, he has worked at TentCraft literally since the day after he graduated from St. Francis high school in June 2008, at age 17. At the time, TentCraft had only 3 employees. Since then Prusick has worked his way up to a supervisory role at the company.
Prusick takes pride in hearing what customers say about TentCraft's products when he's on the road at trade shows. He also appreciates the cameraderie that TentCraft has created in the work environment, with kayaks and paddleboads available for loan on the nearby Boardman River during lunchtime, as well as a ping pong table and popcorn machine.
"We like to have fun here, and get work done at the same time," he said. "I actually enjoy coming here. I never feel like I go to work.
Susan Zenner, is a full-time sewing specialist and fabrication seamstress from Kingsley and has worked at TentCraft for 3 years after running her own home-based embroidery business. She is married and has 7 kids, the youngest of which is a high school senior living at home.
Like Prusick, she enjoys the many benefits provided at TentCraft — both health benefits and recreational ones. Once a year the company offers its employees a "skip day" such as a trip to a Detroit Tigers baseball game or a nearby sail on the Tall Ship Manitou. Workers also get a monthly "team lunch" with food catered from a restaurant in Traverse City.
"All 80 of us are in the same room and enjoy a great lunch while socializing," said Zenner. "Matt (Bulloch, the CEO) likes us to interact with people we don’t work next to. It's really nice to work with other people, especially after being home for so many years."
Employee wellness CSA
Speaking of employee benefits, TentCraft recently teamed up with Taste the Local Difference — a social enterprise of the Groundwork Center — to launch a community-supported agriculture (CSA) employee wellness program.
"TentCraft recently adopted a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Employee Wellness Program, which is an initiative that supports local farms by giving businesses and their employees the opportunity to buy fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer. Interested community members or organizations sign up for a share of a participating farm’s harvest and, prior to the growing season, make a payment to support their assigned farm and preserve their share for the summer months.
We’re partnering with local food marketing agency, Taste the Local Difference (TLD), who will facilitate our CSA program. TLD’s mission is to “help food businesses and the communities they serve benefit from the economic value of local food, while ensuring that fresh, healthy, local food is available to everyone.” It’s a mission that runs near and dear to our TentCraft heart, and we’re thrilled about the opportunity to support our agricultural economy while filling our dinner plates with wholesome, farm-fresh veggies.
Part of TLD’s promise involves pairing participating businesses with one carefully selected local farm. Based on our company size, employee interest, and employee feedback surveys, TLD paired us with Loma Farm, a 13-acre farm just eight miles outside of Traverse City. They produce flowers and “extra fancy vegetables,” and they host specialty events and happy hour soirees for its members. If there’s such a thing as farm soul mates, Loma Farm is definitely ours.
Beginning in early June, Loma Farm will deliver shares (boxes) of 7-10 vegetables hand-selected from over 30 distinct crop varieties for TentCraft employees to take home to their families. Loma Farm is offering two different sizing options, one for a two-person family at $17.50/share and another for a four-person family at $25/share. Shares will be delivered to our office every week until late October. The icing on the cake? Loma Farm owner, Nic, writes a weekly newsletter featuring recipes, culinary discussions, and farm updates that will accompany every share. So when obscure veggies like sorrel and Romanesco broccoli show up in our boxes, farmer Nic will provide some tips on how to cook or sauté or roast or do whatever it is you’re supposed to do with sorrel and Romanesco broccoli.
When you live in a region surrounded by rolling farms and rich soil, and work in a community that embraces agricultural and economic growth, participating in a CSA Employee Wellness Program makes a ton of sense. And it’s another small reminder that working for a company that values their employee’s health and supports their local community is something to be proud of. Hats off to you, TLD, for paving the path to a more sustainable future. TentCraft is happy to be a part of this revolutionary movement.
Bring on the farm fresh veggies!"
Jacob Wheeler is the communications manager at Groundwork. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.