RANCHO SANTA FE — A passion for innovation drew a local family together to reinvent the idea of play forts for kids. Father-daughter team, Ed and Luciana Hanley, who are residents of Rancho Santa Fe are the co-founders and inventors of AIR FORT.
The idea emerged one night over dinner when Luciana, who used to babysit while attending USD, chatted about how so many kids built a furniture fort. That was the impetus behind the creative thinking of using a fan to inflate a fabric fort.
“We dusted off mom’s old sewing machine and hit the local fabric store. Not long after that, we had a prototype that really performed,” said Ed, noting how they later brought on a sewing company based in National City to assist with the prototypes. “Once we began testing AIR FORTS on kids and parents, we knew we really had something. There was nothing even close to this on the market for kids.”
Ed said what set Air Fort apart from other competitors in the market was virtually no assembly. When inflated with an ordinary household fan, he said, the AIR FORT expanded to 71-inches in diameter and is 50-inches tall. It also has the ability to fit three to five persons.
When not in use AIR FORT was created for easy folding and compact storage, weighing in at 24 ounces.
Two months after that initial dinner, Ed and Luciana met every morning developing their business which evolved into AIR FORT, LLC.
Ed is quick to point how his daughter was the driving force behind AIR FORT.
“When Luciana was young, my wife Rainey and I noticed how she really had this entrepreneurial spirit. It was this inner drive to succeed at everything she did,” he said.
His daughter stood out early on by earning $500 a day with her lemonade stands, creating a store inside a family friend’s garage, and raising more than $13,000 for fire victims, he said. Ed described Luciana’s marketing skills as great when she was a young girl.
Luciana, 23, who is a R. Roger Rowe alumnus, played volleyball at SDSU and then transferred to USD where she received her undergraduate degree in communications. She said the partnership with her father helped make her AIR FORT vision become a reality.
According to Luciana, AIR FORT inflates in less than 30 seconds with an ordinary household fan.
“What makes it so unique is that it is so much bigger than any of the other kids’ forts on the market. And it has no moving parts or any parts at all for that matter,” she said.
The ABC Kids Expo Show in Las Vegas invited the duo to its 2015 show.
“It was there we met some very key people who have been instrumental in helping us get the AIR FORT off the ground,” said Ed, calling it the “who’s who” in the industry. “We were very well received and we also held all our meetings in the AIR FORTS.”
The father-daughter team calls their venture as fantastic.
“This experience has made us grow much closer than we already were,” they said. “We praise each other and keep things positive while voicing our differences with respect and professionalism.”
According to Luciana and Ed, AIR FORT is available for preorder on Kickstarter now until Dec. 14. Around the first of the New Year, buyers can purchase it on Airfort.com and Amazon. A few months later, the duo noted that Walmart.com has plans to offer AIR FORT online.