No one can accuse Greyson Junggren of being lazy, even though he’s been just hanging out for most of his college career. For him, hanging out is a business endeavor—Junggren, a senior Economics major, runs a hammock company he founded and developed alongside his full-time studies at Fort Lewis College.
“My idea with Elevate Hammock Company was to start something I could run out of my dorm room, from my computer, and on social media,” Junggren says. “I’ve always been entrepreneurial. So I realized the best way for me to work is in a situation that is one hundred percent based on me.”
Elevate Hammock Company, which Junggren now runs from his off-campus home in Durango, specializes in a single product: the Altitude Pro Hammock, which comes in a pouch with all the accoutrements needed to swing from the trees.
“It’s super packable, great for backpacking, awesome for hikes, and it’s perfect for campus,” Junggren says. “Of course I’m biased, but I bring my hammock everywhere I go. It’s always in my school backpack. I have one in my car. Definitely a fun product, that’s for sure.”
Every great idea has an origin story, and the genesis of Elevate Hammock Co. is rooted in Junggren’s time at FLC. “I had the idea at the end of my freshman year at the Fort,” he says. “Here in Durango there’s such a unique love for nature and the outdoors. I noticed that hammocks were becoming more and more popular among college students. I wanted to jump in on it. Looking back, it was the perfect product for me to start at the time.”
To fund his business venture, Junggren started yet another business during his first summer break—a window-cleaning operation, which funded his first inventory of hammocks. By the beginning of his sophomore year, he sold his first products.
But there was a lot of learning on the ground before Elevate Hammock took to the air. “I knew when I wanted to start a business that my skills were sales and maybe marketing,” he says. “As a freshman, I didn’t have many tangible skills yet. But the bottom line is, one of my skills was not sewing hammocks.”
So in addition to building his own website and developing the voice of his fledgling company, he had to contact various manufacturers, many of whom he says were unwilling or unable to work with a small-scale company.
This origin story has a happy ending, though—Junggren found a communicative manufacturer to partner with Elevate Hammock, and he developed a collaboration with a non-profit organization called Trees for the Future.
“I wanted to create a business that gives back, that doesn’t have just that greedy-business, for-profit stigma around it,” he says. “With every purchase of an Elevate hammock, we plant two trees in developing villages all over the world. Our brand kind of developed around the tree planting.”
As of March 2017, Elevate Hammock has planted more than ten thousand trees through Trees for the Future. “Nowadays, consumers care more than they ever have,” Junggren says. “Young people really care about what’s going on in the environment. If good things happen when they buy a product, that’s a way to drive change and positive impact. I’m a firm believer in that.”
This model has certainly contributed to Junggren’s successes. He also acknowledges that being enrolled at FLC while starting his business has been an immense advantage.
“The professors at Fort Lewis are here to help, and they love helping with an idea,” he says. “Those relationships have been extremely beneficial. I’ve learned more from them than I would have ever imagined.”
In addition to turning to the faculty in the School of Business Administration, he relies heavily on the College’s other resources. “I can come up here and use all the software programs, or make my ads, or ask my graphic design classmate to help me whip up a logo,” he says. “If I was out of college, I wouldn’t have those luxuries."
Now, Elevate Hammock Company can measure its growth in more ways than trees planted. The company has one employee—FLC alumnus Conor Henricks (Economics, ’16)—and more than four dozen “ambassadors,” international representatives for the Elevate brand.
These ambassadors promote Elevate Hammocks in several states, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Junggren does not have active marketing campaigns in all these places, so the ambassadors are his brand representatives.
“These people are learning how to sell products and get people to be passionate about a brand,” he explains, “and they're doing so of their own accord. For them, it’s like an entrepreneurship, where they get exactly what they put into it.”
Whether he’s encouraging his Elevate ambassadors or other college entrepreneurs, Junggren enjoys supporting those people who decide to shape their own futures.
“The biggest words of wisdom that I ever have are: Try it,” he says. “You can execute your idea. Just trying it is going to leave you more qualified than somebody who didn’t. And now, when we’re in college, is the time when we have people around us who can help us.”