Lawson Hammock makes hanging out in the trees look easy

Lawson Hammock—Lawson Hammock

Designing the prototype, pitching to big name retailers, managing shipping and manufacturing, and talking to customers, Wes Johnson is hanging solo.Lawson Hammock Company, known for its combination tent hammocks, has reached 25 countries since it was founded in 1997.According to Johnson, the business has evolved by accident and difficult decisions. Johnson first discovered hammocks at a festival and quickly learned they weren’t comfortable for a long period of time.”I realized, ‘Hey, this is really cool for hanging out and lounging, but it’s not really conducive for overnight sleeping or camping,'” Johnson said. “It creates a cocoon effect or a banana effect, and it’s comfortable for a short period of time. But for overnight, it’s not spread out enough, and you can’t really roll over on your side or sleep on your side, and at the time, there weren’t accessaries, like for bug netting.”Johnson said he started to tinker with bringing the two together, both a tent off the ground that could protect campers from animals, bugs, and rain as well as a temporary shelter to be able to camp on all terrains or without trees.He said the design has allowed a variety of people to enjoy the outdoors, especially kids who may have been afraid of camping or sleeping outside beforehand.”That’s been fun and exciting to see that well I’m not changing the world,” Johnson said. “There is a component of it that is inspiring people to get outside more, especially in nature, especially kids these days don’t as much. It’s good for this generation to inspire them to get outside.”Starting his own business has also helped Johnson change his lifestyle. Lawson Hammock first was a side business for Johnson. He was operating it out of his house and using just a few resources for manufacturing, shipping, and promoting. As the business grew organically and the product was sold in retailers, such as Great Outdoor Provision, he was struggling to keep up.”The way I was doing it wasn’t sustainable,” Johnson said. “If they ordered five or six or ten, I was overwhelmed. It’s going to take forever putting all the components together, getting it to them, and at the time, it was a little side gig. I had a real job at the time, and I did this for fun.”Johnson was at a crossroads — whether to end Lawson Hammock or get help with the assembly and production. He chose the latter.When Johnson lost his job after the economy tanked, he found himself with another decision to make. He now had the time to concentrate on his business full-time but needed to decide whether to find a new job or expand Lawson Hammock.”I realized when I started focusing on it full-time, I was like ‘hey there is something to this. I could really potentially turn this into something, like a full-time job or a legitimate outdoor, camping product business,’ so I started to do that — focusing on it full-time and I got into additional retailers,” Johnson said.He added Bass Pro Shops and L.L. Bean to his list of retailers. He also started going to HQ Raleigh, at first as a way to work in a different atmosphere.”It would be five or six o’clock in the evening, and I would realize I was wearing what I woke up in,” Johnson said. “I would go in public and feel socially awkward because I hadn’t seen anyone all day. I really need to be around people and living.”Johnson realized HQ Raleigh provided more opportunities for networking, resources, and partnerships like the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic. Between the support he gets there and a little help with assembly, he is equipped to run the rest of the business all on his own.”I’m really a one-man show — a solo entrepreneur,” Johnson said. “It’s me for the most part.”