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Tupelo Goods is Making a Splash with Waterproof, Multi-Use Furniture

'Tis the season of backyard chic with stylish and durable outdoor pieces

Tupelo Goods – Patio Furniture

Entrepreneur Sara Kenton’s lifelong love for Van Morrison’s song “Tupelo Honey” is the inspiration behind the name of her new and growing Austin-based brand that’s all about durable, sleek and simple, long-lasting outdoor furniture. Pronounced just like the town in Mississippi, Tupelo Goods is a spin-off of drinkware company, YETI, with its entire product line designed by YETI’s original designer.

“Tupelo is always described in music as this idyllic place, and it’s also the tree pollen that makes the sweetest honey. There’s a lot of different elements to it,” says Kenton. “I just like the sound of it, and it’s fun to say. Van Morrison is always playing when I’m outside, so it’s perfect.”

Functionality with Style

Much of the Tupelo Goods’ products are based on creating outdoor memories through games, accessories and comfortable seating. Formed in 2018, and only five years old, the brand is taking off with pieces of multi-use outdoor furniture that are displayed and used as far away as the new Ritz Carlton in Maui. A major bonus? The furniture pieces are designed with silicone seats to easily go from water to land with so much functionality that you can easily move a chair into your backyard pool’s Baja shelf without damaging the pool or the furniture. A hatch on the bottom also allows the furniture to fill with water, weighing the chairs down into the surface.

Tupelo + YETI

Kenton has been part of Austin’s start-up circuit for years now. She first started as the 40th employee at HomeAway before the group entered an IPO in 2011 and later joined Expedia Group and rebranded as VRBO. She later joined YETI to work in direct-to-consumer marketing, ironically once again as the 40th employee.

“Working at YETI was super exciting, and we learned a ton. At the time I had two little kids, and while we were creating all this great, high-quality product for the outdoors and these far-flung adventures, it occurred to me that there was an opportunity to apply the same approach of elevated design and unparalleled durability — but to a different category,” says Kenton, who also notes she used to have to replace her outdoor furniture once every five years.

Fast forward — and YETI’s founder, Roy Seiders, became their Angel investor. Then Tupelo Goods was formed based on Kenton and the original YETI product designer, Steve Nichol’s experience with rotational molding, which is also the material used to make traditional coolers.

“Steve, who is our head of product, designed almost every beautiful YETI product you’ve ever known, and he designed every chair we have today,” says Kenton. “He is super, super talented.”

Tupelo Goods started out with a waterproof, durable, lightweight tote bag made out of EVA foam, while Kenton worked with Nichols to develop outdoor furniture prototypes. With five bold color options, the vibrant tote bags are still a top seller today, offering parents a good beach bag that can be hosed down quickly at the end of any long, adventurous summer day.

Sophisticated Outdoor Designs

Today Tupelo Goods focuses mainly on yard furniture with a total of four different styles of chairs currently on the market. The original chair is called The Loop Chair, a sleek and sophisticated lounge chair that dips inward and promises superior comfort, all from a timeless aesthetic.

“Our designer spent over a year studying ergonomic principles and the principle of the back,” says Kenton. “A lot of times you just assume a chair is going to be straight surface, but that barrel of the back is something he really obsessed over to make sure we achieve the right comfort level for humans of all sizes.”

The Loop Chair is considered a lower lounger, which makes it perfect for pool use. Since its launch, Tupelo Goods has introduced some more lounge postures that are more upright. The team plans to continue adding different levels of postures for different uses, along with stylistically different options.

Comfort and Durability

“Most importantly, it’s comfortable. You can’t have a chair unless it’s comfortable because who cares about the durability if it’s not. What’s beautiful about polyethylene and rotationally molded furniture is that it’s hollow. When you sit in it, it gives a bit. It’s remarkably comfortable. People are absolutely shocked when they sit in it just because of the comfort level.”

Durability is a strong focus. All chairs are produced in Wisconsin after material arrives from Italy through a lengthy prep process of tooling, where technicians basically carve the mold out of a piece of aluminum with an acrobatic arm so it’s super precise and then hand polished. By mixing various types of polyethylene together, designers were able to come up with neutral color options of sandstone and concrete, which are popular within the landscape design world where a lot of designers want more natural Earth tones and not everyone necessarily wants the white, modern furniture look.

“We spared no expense on materials. We are looking for the highest quality to make something that’s going to last a long time. Almost like an heirloom product,” says Kenton. “Our price points are high, but it’s something that stands the test of time.”

Fun & Games for Families

Another timeless area of the business is a passion for providing fun, outdoor space options and activities for families, and Kenton and her team are constantly looking for ways to elevate already existing products and activities. Tupelo Goods also sells cornhole games, a Zephyr Flyer swing and a device called Captain Safety — a sign that encourages people to slow down in neighborhoods.

“I would say that we like to think that we try to make the everyday aspirational in our homes and backyards,” says Kenton. “I’m personally very motivated by encouraging my kids (and us, too) to put their devices down. Just finding more opportunities to create spaces where we can lounge together and enjoy each other and really connect with the family.”

Popularity and Growth of Tupelo Goods

Tupelo Goods’ cornhole games and chairs can be found at local businesses, including Driftwood Golf Club. The items are also becoming popular everywhere from California to Florida to New York and in the Caribbean. For the future, Kenton and her team plan to add new categories but also go deeper with more products within their core chair lines of Loop Chair, Line Chair, Bask Chair and Desk Chair. For example, Line Chair already has a matching Line Ottoman, and Loop Chair has options for a matching Loop Table.

“On the marketplace, there’s nothing else like what we do. You literally can’t get it anywhere else. We’re really proud of the originality of our designs,” says Kenton. Tupelo Goods currently has four full-time employees and eight part-time employees. Its 15,000 square-foot office space and warehouse are located in Dripping Springs.

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