Anthony Phelps/Stuff

Lotus Belle tent co-founder Jessica Walsh is celebrating 10 years since her gamble on TradeMe paid off.

A co-creator of a popular glamping tent has come home for the summer, and her set-up on the family farm is already attracting admirers.

Jessica Walsh and her cousin Hannah Walsh have set up a Lotus Belle tent as a showroom on the Walsh Farm in Hawkesbury, Marlborough, in anticipation of a post-Covid summer busy with festivals and camping trips.

The trip home also marks 10 years since she threw her last $2000 into a trial run of the bell-shaped tents, shortly after her OE full of tent-related adventures. Co-founder and fellow camper Hari Seddon designed the 10-sided prototype, inspired by the Mongolian yurt.

“I remember my Dad being like, ‘what have you done, you don’t even have a job and you just spent all that money’,” Walsh laughed. “And I was like, ‘just trust the process, Dad’. And then I put them on TradeMe and they just sat there for two weeks, I didn’t sell any.

The 10-sided glamping tent is inspired by the Mongolian yurt, and they come in several sizes.

Anthony Phelps/Stuff

The 10-sided glamping tent is inspired by the Mongolian yurt, and they come in several sizes.

* Marlborough Wine and Food Festival goes ‘cashless’
* Wild Forest Estate: Inside New Zealand’s new romantic adults-only tree house
* Best free attractions: The amazing sites that won’t cost you a cent
* Where to glamp it up on the West Coast

“And then one day they got nominated for the Cool Auctions list on the front page of TradeMe, and I sold all of them within two days. I still remember standing in the lounge and telling my Dad, and his jaw just dropped to the floor.

“The next week I was in the bank asking to borrow a hundred grand … bought my first 20-foot container, and they were 70% pre-sold before I even got them in the country.”

Her father, Blenheim man Mike Walsh, is now the chief financial officer of Lotus Belle, as the company grew to have branches in Auckland, Brisbane and San Francisco, with celebrity clients and a product all over social media.


From farms to private islands, here are the country’s best glamping escapes.

“I’ve never lost money, in this business, it’s just been growing. In the pandemic there was a period I was really scared … but then the word staycation started trending – and then April that same year Stephen Curry the NBA star bought one and his wife posted about it. And the next day I woke up and there were a thousand new followers,” Walsh said.

“It was an amazing thing to happen at a time when people were really worried about their businesses, and that’s really humbled me because I’ve got friends who are entrepreneurs that have really struggled through this. It could’ve gone either way for me.

“So I’d say it’s really 60 per cent hard work, and it’s 40 per cent good luck. But I have worked really hard to be here. Especially during lockdown, I was doing 4am starts to keep in time with the US.”

Walsh now spent a lot of time travelling, between major festivals, her parents’ place in Blenheim, and her permanent home on a ranch in Byron Bay.

So she said she was pleased to be spending her 10th summer in the business with her family, and where she spent many childhood summers “basically living outside”, often in a Sir Edmund Hillary tent in the backyard.

In fact her Lotus Belle show tent was pitched on the farm her great-grandfather Michael Walsh bought when he emigrated from Ireland more than a century ago.

Lotus Belle tents have been popping up all over social media, and in dozens of travel articles.


Lotus Belle tents have been popping up all over social media, and in dozens of travel articles.

People were already stopping to check out the tent, off Hawkesbury Rd, she said.

Walsh’s top tips for comfortable camping included bringing a mat to sit on, solar lighting, and books and boardgames.

“I’m not a fan of air mattresses, especially in Autumn and Spring because you get too much air temperature variation. So I suggest a camping mattress or topper, or I really love a good old sheepskin, honestly it’s like being a baby again and they’re really warm and comfortable … some people put a whole bed in.

“I always suggest people try to teach the kids something, so they can come away having learnt something from the experience … whether that’s fishing or hunting or building a fire, or whatever your thing is, some practical skill.

“And try to give yourself a digital detox, we all need to do that, as hard as it is, you’ll feel better for it. It’s the whole point of getting back to nature and reconnecting.”

published 2022-12-02 23:38:38