Quite the duo these #FREDAGIRLS are, Kelsey Sheofsky, Founder and Maggie Wilson, Creative Director are two women that have created and helped Shelter & Co, a luxury pop up camping and outdoor events supplier, blossom. Shelter & Co was founded in 2012 by Kelsey and her husband Mike, who at the time were working in wedding planning and custom furniture fabrication and saw a niche that needed to be filled. Thus, Shelter & Co was born and started to grow when Maggie Wilson, one of Kelsey’s good friends was hired on to the team. Since then, they have grown the team and the states that their business can reach, and today we got the chance to hear about the adventure they have been on.
Tell us how Shelter Co came to be. How have both of your past experiences lent a hand in creating such a unique and versatile business? How do your roles differ?
K: My husband and I started Shelter Co. in 2012. I was working as a wedding planner at the time and he was working for a furniture manufacturer. We saw a hole in the event rental market and wanted to fill it with a design forward lodging solution. Maggie was our second hire and quickly became an integral part of our business. Maggie and I run the day to day design and production side of all Shelter Co. events. She’s a bit more focused on event design and product development and I spend more time staring at spreadsheets and managing the inner workings of the business. But we both have input on pretty much every decision made in the company.
M: Kelsey is definitely our fearless leader. I came on a little over three years ago and a really great creative and working relationship just evolved naturally between us. We both come from a mixed background of event work and design so we brainstorm really well together. I think we both have that balance of practicality and imagination you need to keep a small creative business thriving. We’ll go from sipping cappuccinos and reviewing textile notes from our India trip to troubleshooting a broken restroom trailer at an event in the middle of the woods on little to no sleep.
Describe the experience of a camping or “glamping” trip with Shelter & Co. What is your favorite part about running a business where you are able to interact with all kinds of people, from wedding parties, corporate retreats for Google, to working with National Parks?
K: It turns out that camping is a great filter. By and large the people attracted to our services are lovely people from all types of backgrounds. The core of what we do is the same each time we produce an event in terms of infrastructure needs but each group is totally different. This year we had a wedding in Lake Tahoe, an eclipse party for Virgin Galactic, and a Wilco festival campout all in the same weekend. Three wildly different groups all enjoying a Shelter Co. experience in their own way.
M: We pride ourselves on creating really comfortable functional spaces to enjoy the outdoors. We’ve had guests at events come up to us in the morning and say they had never been camping before and now they want to plan a big trip to a national park with their kids. That part is rad, watching people catch the bug. And of course we get to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the US and work with incredible people; ranchers, fire dancers, wilderness survival guides, foragers, musicians, chefs, artists, animal handlers you name it.
A favorite place to camp in the world or dream campsite?
K: We’ve been spoiled setting up camp for people on the most amazing private properties so I prefer isolation to traditional campsites these days. I threw myself a camping birthday last year up in Anderson Valley on a big private ranch with my 40 closest friends. It was nice to go camping for fun again since most of my camping these days is work related.
M: The list is so long! I grew up camping in the Sierras, there is a secret spot in Big Sur that I love, a recent backpacking trip up to Jackass lake, my husband took me camping in the Adirondacks which was such a cool experience and so different from west coast camping. I’d say most recently though, my husband, brother and a bunch of our friends did a road trip / motorcycle ride from Oakland to the tip of the Baja Peninsula. We would pull over in the evenings and just find a decent spot to camp in the desert. We stockpiled tamales and firewood in Ensenada so every night we would build a fire, warm up tamales and pass around tequila and mezcal, search for weird bones as the sun set among these really trippy cacti and then pass out under the stars. It was awesome and truly memorable.
What are your essential items for a good camping trip?
K: Warm bedding, soft lighting, slip on boots for late night pees. Also Irish Coffee in the morning.
M: A pocket knife, snacks and baby wipes.
The best part of running a business with a friend? Biggest challenge?
K: I’m lucky that I have an incredible working relationship with my husband Mike but it has been such a bonus to add Maggie to the management mix. It feels like we are a group of friends who get to hang out ALL the time and just happen to talk about camping a lot. Maggie and I have been in a lot of very strange and entertaining situations together over the years and there’s no one I’d rather be on this adventure with. Her sense of style, humor, and grace have helped Shelter Co. get to where it is today. Biggest challenge would be productivity. Especially when Mike is in the mix. A lot of laughing and not a lot of emailing on certain days.
M: Since Kelsey owns the company and she hired me a year in, our working relationship came first and our friendship is just a total bonus. The whole Shelter Co. crew will be on some long out of state job sharing a rental house together and we’ll come home and have debauched dance parties in the kitchen after a long hard day of work. It makes showing up and working hard really easy. I think the only challenge is that we all crack each other up too much. It’s like “OKAY for real we have to get to work here y’all”.
What’s next for Shelter Co?
K: Our favorite pastime around here is brainstorming new branches of the business. Right now we are focusing on expanding our rental offerings with a line of custom designed furniture pieces. We also have a home goods line with some fun collaborations in the works . Oh and launching our own venue. Never a dull day at Shelter Co.!
M: We have a running list of projects we brainstorm at the office that is pretty hilarious. Currently we’re all obsessed with figuring out the best looking and best functioning bathroom system for our events. It makes lunchtime conversations super appetizing. But honestly we would love to see the company grow in many ways; more branches across the country, home goods line, expand our rental line, start up some unique event venues, start a line of motels…anything that keeps me traveling to India for work I’m fully on board with. Also gunning for Morocco. And Japan. Also anyone who wants to invest in any of that, call us.
Words to live by.
K: There’s always money in the banana stand.
M: Take a chill pill.