Bonslaver graduates from Penn State Berks and embarks on an entrepreneurial career

He was one of six selected for the Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program

After Nathan Bonslaver graduates from Penn State Berks on May 7, 2022, he will close the door to one chapter while opening the door to another. Not only is Bonslaver the co-founder of CarToCamp, which provides universally suitable SUV sleeping platforms for car camping, but he was also one of six selected to participate in the Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program, a 13-week accelerator program that provides funding. and resources to develop startups.

Bonslaver says the idea for CarToCamp came to him while driving through Kansas as part of a two-month cross-country road trip he’s embarked on during the coronavirus pandemic. Opting to sleep in his car at campgrounds rather than in a tent, he quickly discovered that this popular style of camping required two things: a sturdy bed to fit the vehicle and organized storage options to help maximize space. .

He explains that he was a client before becoming an entrepreneur. “The problem is that a lot of people love car camping, but there was no solution on the market for a ‘no tools, no assembly’ sleeping platform that was shipped direct to the customer. Our product is suitable for 95% of the best-selling SUVs in the US market. »

Bonslaver, a mechanical engineering major with a business minor, reached out to two friends: Robert Miller ’19 and Kevin Gulick ’20, both Penn State Berks mechanical engineering alumni he met while doing a internship at Carpenter. They had bonded over their mutual interest in the outdoors and “car camping,” so it made sense for them to join forces. CarToCamp was officially founded in September 2020.

They started working on the concept of the product and eventually landed on a universal sleeping platform that could support up to 500 pounds, while still being relatively light at 40 pounds and including ample storage space. The patent-pending platform can be assembled without tools and is shipped directly to the customer’s door.

The group set to work creating a spreadsheet of vehicle specifications – lengths and widths – for their sleeping platform. Then, after six cycles of design, prototyping and testing, their product was optimized for manufacturing.

Bonslaver worked with Berks LaunchBox, a Penn State Berks innovation center, to develop its product. The Berks LaunchBox connected him with the resources he needed to file a patent application and with mentors who advised him on these pricing and pitch deck preparation issues.

“We owe everything to the Berks LaunchBox,” says Bonslaver. “Their pitch deck competitions helped us craft and refine our pitches and they helped us file for a patent. They put us in touch with the Small Business Development Center, the Happy Valley LaunchBox and other organizations. They connected us with all the right people at the right time. The people we met and the connections with the mentors were invaluable. »

From there, Bonslaver got involved in as many Invent Penn State and LaunchBox competitions as he could.

Earlier this year, CarToCamp was one of six startup student teams selected as finalists in the Penn State Inc. U Invent Contest where they competed for $30,000 funding on “The Investment,” a WPSU shark tank-like a television production that was broadcast live for Penn State Startup Week. CarToCamp and another team both received $15,000 in the competition.

These six teams were then invited to pitch their startup to investors across the country during the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conferenceon April 28 and 29, during its Student Startup Showcase.

During Penn State Startup Week, Bonslaver stayed at State College so he could participate in all events and activities. Later that month, it won first place in the 2022 Mont Alto LaunchBox LION Tank™ pitch competition and was awarded the top prize of $1,500.

More recently, CarToCamp was shortlisted for the 2022 competition Invent Penn State Summer Founders Program. Each team of students will receive a $15,000 scholarship to work full-time on their startup over the summer. The Summer Founders teams will work to Happy Valley Launch Box, which will offer programming as well as 24×7 access to its space. Teams will also receive mentorship and access to a network of 60+ advisors, plus up to $3,000 for client discovery through the Inventing the Penn State NSF I-Corps Programamong other benefits.

Bonslaver is extremely excited about the Founders Summer Program. He will move to State College the week after graduation and work full-time on CarToCamp, while the other two team members will continue their work with the company, in addition to their part-time engineering positions. full.

He states that he plans to use the funding to contract out the manufacturing of the sleep rigs, which the team is currently assembling in his father’s garage in Exeter Township, Pennsylvania.

Despite the fact that they haven’t started shipping their product, CarToCamp has already sold four units and shipped them to Colorado, Utah, Missouri, and New Hampshire. The only form of advertising they placed was a message in a Subaru RV group that Bonslaver – a Subaru Outback owner – belongs to.

When asked how Penn State Berks prepared him for his future as an entrepreneur, he says, “I graduated with unique qualifications: a background in engineering and business. I completed a two and a half year internship at Carpenter, where I met my business partners. And I use a lot of what I learned in the minor trade with CarToCamp. Starting this business was the best way to do all the things I love.

He adds that he chose Penn State Berks because it provided all the resources of a great university, right in his backyard.

Bonslaver and his co-founders set up their business in Reading. For more information, visit www.cartocamp.com.