The story behind the SansBug {malaria prevention} tent

Nov 7, 2012Kingdom Uncaged, Work Uncaged

As one who has been to countries where malaria rages, I’m excited to feature this post about SansBug. This is a sponsored post; if you’re interested in running one, click here for details.

When Aidan and I ventured to Ghana, he had some money that he wanted to give away. He prayed and asked God for guidance. He ended up giving the funds to a girl we met who wanted to learn how to make batik fabric. She was in her early twenties. We left at the beginning of July, and in November, she was dead. Malaria had taken her. Which is why I’m passionate about this product.

Here are my questions and SansBug’s answers. I’d love to see this product prevent more and more and more cases of malaria, wouldn’t you?

How did your pop-up mosquito net come about?

The SansBug was borne somewhere between a 4-month tour of India and a road trip across Canada (who knew the Arctic tundra has a higher concentration of mosquitoes than any tropical jungle or festering swamp?).  We saw a need for an easy-to-use mosquito net tent, one that could pop open in a second and stand on its own.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve done in being an entrepreneur and bringing this to market?

Every.single.aspect of it has been difficult… brainstorming, designing, raising capital, branding, registering, choosing a factory, conforming to U.S and Canadian safety standards, dealing with customs officials, website design and coding, raising more capital, marketing… and oh, knowing when to call it the end of the day so you can devote time to your family.  There were several times when quitting sounded like an option but we believed in the product so we kept going.

Even after bringing it to market, there were numerous challenges with educating the user.  Folding it, for one.  We thought it was a no-brainer that you need to view the demo video that comes with a product but it took us a little while to realize that not everyone watched it and so they ended up breaking a pole.  We then posted fire-and-brimstone warnings about the importance of watching the video before folding the tent and guess what – the returns plummeted to less than 0.5%!

The SansBug also folds into a slim 26-inch disc (only 1 inch thick) so it doesn’t fit in a suit-case or conform to the “rectangular” dimensions of carry-on luggage.  However it easily fits in the overhead bin and only weighs about the same as a 36 oz. drink.  Some customers are apprehensive about taking it as carry-on until we point out that so many others have taken it – and are taking it – without any problem.  In the 3 years since we’ve launched, we’ve yet to hear of someone who wasn’t able to take it as carry-on even if they had another piece.

What is your favorite testimonial about the product?

It’s difficult to choose between the testimonials… there’s the parent of a soldier deployed to Afghanistan anxious about camel spiders, or the volunteers in Haiti trying to avoid malaria, the boy scouts worried about the many critters in their old canvas tents, or even the graduate student who was craving sleep because he was kept up by bedbugs.  I think this one from England (posted on about a child and his deepest fear summarizes it best about the SansBug providing refuge when you’re at your most vulnerable – asleep: “A member of my family has a serious fear of anything creepy crawly, and finds it hard to sleep… got him one of these to sleep in on his bed, and you should have seen this face when he snuggled up for bed feeling 100% safe…”

How has your company used this product to bless malaria-ridden countries?

We launched the SansBug less than 2 months after the earthquake in Haiti so it was an immediate hit with missionaries and volunteers.  Sometimes they have to move to a new place every few days so it’s pretty convenient to just fold up the Sansbug and pop it open at the new location.  There’s Yee who lived in a SansBug for 11 months, while helping to build treated drinking water facilities at different locations in Haiti.  An official of a disaster response veterans service organization is also taking the SansBug to Africa next week so we’re hopeful of equipping the whole team with our tent.  We know that so far, the SansBug has been used in 38 countries but we receive feedback from only a few customers so we’re sure that number is much larger.

Is there a way our readers could contribute to providing these tents to needy countries?

Of course!  We do not collect donations for charity but we can work with an organization of your reader’s choice to provide group discounts.  We recently had an inquiry from a customer who spent a week at an orphanage in Haiti.  Many of the children refuse to sleep inside the building because of their tragic experience in the 2010 earthquake in which their families died.  She loved the SansBug — “It’s terrific! – and I left it with the Director of the orphanage; he was thrilled” — and returned to the States with the goal of purchasing a hundred tents.  We’ve also been contacted by another organization involved in medical missions.  They put about 50 volunteers in the field every month.  While it is not economically viable to mass-distribute the SansBug like the cheaper regular-bednets, it can certainly be donated to specific institutions as it performs much better.