ERIN – What started as a solution to help a family temporarily house visiting relatives has evolved into a full-fledged backyard bunkie business.
Erin resident and founder David Fraser and his wife Karrie launched Bunkie Life in response to their family’s problem of where will their visiting parents sleep?
With both the couple’s families living over two hours away, they were looking for a way to be able to accommodate them for visits without the hassle of a hotel.
“So we created a way where we could have our family come and stay with us for longer periods of time without having to stay in a hotel or sleep on the couch or cut their stay short,” David explained.
“A lot of people are connecting with Karrie and I’s story, our personal story,” David explained. “We put our faces and our story into it, and I think people connect with that as well.”
The Erin business is known for its small log cabins, referred to as “bunkies,” that can be easily built in a weekend without needing a permit – in most areas – or a second mortgage.
“It’s basically a huge Lego kit, essentially, made with wood instead of plastic,” David explained.
The business, launched in 2017, has now gained traction from coast to coast.
“It’s been a really cool journey for sure,” David said of the evolution of the business over the last four years.
The business offers DIY (do it yourself ) kits for families to construct the bunkies themselves, or Bunkie Life can also have contractors put it together.
“What we do is create extra space for people so that they can connect with each other and especially during COVID that’s been so key for a lot of families,” David explained.
At the outset of the pandemic in early 2020, David said the business faced a lot of uncertainty in the first month, but then business began to soar.
“We found not a lot of people cancelled and then come April everyone wanted a bunkie right now,” he explained, adding they’ve noticed the demand has grown even more in 2021.
“If we could have made 200 more bunkie’s we probably could’ve sold them,” he said. “There’s just such a demand.”
Dragons’ Den appearance
Earlier this year, the local family business was selected out of hundreds of applicants to appear on the season finale of Dragons’ Den, which will air on Dec. 16 at 9pm on CBC and CBC Gem.
“It was very exciting,” David said, recalling when they received the notice Bunkie Life was selected for the show.
“We’ve been fans of the show for a long time, so it was kind of surreal. We didn’t really know what to expect.”
The couple went in with the pitch well rehearsed, but that didn’t stop them from feeling the jitters.
“It was nerve-wracking for sure when we first walked in and then after a while it felt pretty natural,” David said. “I felt good at the end.”
While on the show, David and his wife constructed a bunkie in the backstage of CBC studios, building their biggest, and best, bunkie to date. They were then faced with trying to fit the 16-foot bunkie through a 16-foot door, with the bunkie just barely making it through.
“There was a genuine fear I had that it would get stuck, and we wouldn’t actually be able to do the pitch,” David said.
“So it was nerve-wracking right up until the point where, ‘Okay, bunkie’s in place, we know we at least got it in here.’”
The couple spent the entire day before the filming building the bunkie and then immediately began tearing it down following the pitch.
“So we got the whole bunkie built in half a day basically and then spent half a day tearing it down so that was kind of a fun technical challenge,” David explained.
“It’s really exciting to be a part of the season finale because I think it’s going to be good,” he added without spoiling the outcome.
“That’s all I can say.”
After the show airs, the full episode will be available at www.cbc.ca/dragonsden.
David said besides the feedback on the aesthetics and the quality of the product, the biggest takeaway the business has received from customer feedback is the difference it’s making for their families.
“In a lot of cases it’s allowing them to get together when they otherwise maybe couldn’t or would’ve had a short-day trip turn into a weekend and they can really connect with each other,” he explained.
“So it’s a lot of ‘hey you really gave us our time with our family back’ – that’s probably the number one thing that we hear.”
Asked how the business has evolved since its inception in 2017, David said at that time, for himself and Karrie, building a bunkie was just about solving their own problem of housing their family members.
“It helped our family get through a really tough time as well, so it was very meaningful for us,” he said.
“I knew people kind of liked the bunkie because we had people come and stay … but to the extent it’s grown, it’s really beyond what I could’ve ever predicted.”
For more information visit bunkielife.com.