The renaissance of the traditional, crafts-and-skills focused furniture business is here, it’s happening right now. The rapid growth of successful furniture startups suggest that people are becoming tired of mass-produced, soulless furniture, choosing something else instead: something different and made with a man’s own hands. Thus, the moment seems to be more than suitable for launching a furniture business – but how does one do it?
Below is the list of all the important things to consider before launching your own!
The place matters
The time is right, but is the location? While avoiding crowded cities seems like the smart choice, it would sure be a mistake to start up a business in some remote wilderness. What’s most important is finding a location where there’ll be no problems with neither the workforce nor the infrastructure. Maintaining the correct balance between the former and the latter is the fundamental basis of all further success. Also, make sure to get along with the locals. These are the people that will first get the word out. Treat them right to earn their trust. Their word-of-mouth advertising will help you out a lot.
The inspiration comes first! (or so it should be)
There’s a lot of uninspired, unoriginal furniture out there. What makes things worse is that almost each new line of it is about as uninspired and unoriginal as all the previous ones, making the furniture business as a whole look like a ctrl+c-ctrl+v festival of bad taste and bad (sometimes: nightmarish) design. Instead of following the beaten path, set out to make something new. The inspiration is out there: It’s in nature, the music, the paintings. The movies, the novels. The pictures. The stories. It is all there, ripe for the taking.
General advice for finding inspiration:
- Be mindful. Sometimes it’s not about focusing your attention, but rather letting things influence you on the deeper, emotional level.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a good brainstorming session. When it comes to inspiration, brainstorming is one of the most important techniques at your disposal. Use it in times of inspirational crisis!
- Learn from the better (as long as it’s not stealing their ideas!)
- Remember: The inspiration will come. Sooner or later (believe me) it will.
- Relax a little. Sometimes it’s helpful to let some things go.
Easier to learn, harder to master
As with all the crafts and skills, furniture craftsmanship takes plenty of learning. What’s most important here, however, is that there’s no need to be a certified carpenter to make top-of-the-line furniture. More than a dozen successful furniture startups began with a vision of passionate, self-taught individuals. Mastering the craft is an imperative, of course. Yet, truth be told, in terms of your business it’s not as crucial as, for example, having all the proper tools. In fact, it’s more like a goal for the future, or an idea to follow (rather than an actual business-starting condition.)
The perfect toolset (or is there one?)
There’s no such thing as the perfect toolset, but there can be one that’s perfect for you. That being said, some tools are essential: It’s not even about saving your time, as you won’t go far without them. Be sure to do proper research to find out which tools are most needed, which are useful, but optional, and which are spare or even useless, then make the relevant purchases. Some of these won’t be cheap, so be prepared to bear the prices. Consider applying for a grant (there are numerous possibilities) or starting a crowdfunding campaign.
A list of furniture maker’s essentials includes:
- Circular saw
- Extension cords
- Reciprocating saw
And, of course, the good old laptop.
Not to mention all the carpenters’ evergreens, like carpenter’s pencil, hammer, levels, nail puller, some square (speed or framing,) tape measure, tin snips, etc. These are a must have, but then, it’s more than probable that you already have them.
Some things have to come naturally
There’s this popular assumption that talent is 10% success, with the rest being love and passion, and, sometimes, resilience, too. The truth is that, no matter the actual percentage, there’s no reason in starting the furniture business if making the furniture is not what you love doing most. If it’s about financial success, there are other, faster means. If it’s about having a business, no matter what kind, there are easier endeavors that are safer and require far less time. Yet, if it is about passion, about making things with love, with care and with fondness, there’s no hardship that could stop you. No matter if such a hardship is 10, 20, or 90 percent of your undertaking: If what it requires brings you happiness, the door to success stands open before you.
Market research is the mean, developing an interest is an end
Even if you believe that yours is the best, even if it is the best, the importance of proper market research is not to be underestimated. It doesn’t mean that you have to hire someone to do it for you, it just means that you have to get interested. Take some time to gather the info. Browse the internet, read furniture reviews, devour editorials and monitor the news. Develop an interest in arts and design (this one is important!) You’ll be surprised at the level of expertise you can acquire from conducting such an investigation! The reasons behind what’s considered well-designed and what’s not – what is selling and what’s not – will soon become apparent. You’ll gain a better understanding of the various trends and modes. You’ll be able to plan according to informed predictions and you’ll get better and better at making products. You’ll nail it! (Besides: Case studies confirm that the most successful furniture startup entrepreneurs did often do the initial market research themselves. This is no coincidence, since most of the times being passionate about something means expanding your knowledge about it.)
$ $$$ $$$ (and some more $$$…)
Then, there is the budget stuff. As I’ve mentioned earlier, it is important to secure the funding. All the things I’ve pinpointed so far point in this direction: If there’s no cash, there is no business. But how do you get $$$ to start? A loan is one option, but it’s not too attractive. Finding an Angel Investor seems like the perfect option, but it’s easier said than done (and I’m not talking parental investment.) Crowdfunding is a great option, but it will require some campaigning: You’ll have to have some pieces pre-made and you’ll need to have at least some knack for marketing. Obtaining a business grant can be easier, because all it requires is preparing a business proposal and applying for the financial aid. Still: Don’t rush it! Likewise, always remember: The writing has to be good! If you’re struggling with it, consider hiring a professional.
Pre-launch marketing determines the scope of your initial success. Thus, it determines how much $$$ you’ll first make upon the release of your furniture collection. There’s no skipping it: No matter your take, you’ll have to get used to social networking. Set up the accounts, prepare the photos and make them look good: make them look as good as possible, so that people will like instantly them. If need be, hire a professional photographer, as this expense will be more than worth it. Also: Prepare the plan! You don’t want to go in blind and you don’t want people to lose interest in what you’re selling.
After the launch
After it’s done, there can be no stopping you. To use a rather blunt metaphor: There is no stepping out from the rocket mid-flight. In other words: Be sure that you’re prepared. Once it is done, once it’s a fact, things can get wild. There will be pressure. There will be stress. There will be no more balance between your personal and professional life whatsoever. Sleepless nights are guaranteed. (The fact is that if, somehow, you happen to get up well-rested, it could mean there’s something wrong.) Furthermore, before it’s getting better, it is going to get worse. Much, much worse.
Three things to remember before launching a furniture business:
- Remember not to give up. Sometimes the initial sale can go poorly. It doesn’t mean that your business will fail. Sales depend on more than one factor. Be patient and keep the positive attitude. Despite the popular belief, it’s never a race to success, it’s more of a crawl.
- Remember to make more furniture rather than less. It’s not a big problem if, at the end of the initial sale, there’s still something left. In fact, that’s what happens most of the time. These pieces still can be sold. But running out of stock in the middle of the sale can sometimes be a severe blow to your business, both income- and marketing-wise, slowing down its progress indefinitely. Believe in your product! Prepare some more products.
- Remember to take care of the details. It all matters. The links and pictures on your website, the descriptions, the dots and commas in your text. The arrangement of your showroom, all those little additions, all the little accessories. All the scratches on all the pieces. All the drubbings. All the details. Don’t take your chances: If it can be double-checked, double-check it. Do it twice!
Once the initial fever is past and there’s time to wrap things up, wrap them up, but don’t succumb to laziness: There is still some work to do. If the initial sale was successful, it’s good, word-of-mouth marketing will do it for you, but if it wasn’t, you’ll have to put some additional effort into post-launch marketing. What’s most important now is that you can’t afford to lose the momentum: The initial interest has to be maintained. Depending on the income, you can have different options, but make sure you choose wisely: you don’t want to blow it up now. Use all the advertising techniques at hand, both priced and free. Don’t forget about social networking. Keep your images coherent and build up a brand. Do your best to become recognized and to build a base of devoted clients.
And… that’s it. The road to success lies open. Take it! Make your furniture even better. Upgrade your workshop, expand your offer. Come up with some new ideas. Also, one final piece of advice: The more time you’ll be in the business, the more possibilities you’ll have to move forward. You don’t have to take them all – not all at once. Focus. Take it slow. And do it right.
Successful Furniture Startups:
Clubfurniture.com is an example of an online retailer offering upholstered furniture. It is owned by brothers Darrin and Jeff King. The buyers their furniture; moreover, their products are high-quality and targeted mainly at the high-end audience. Furthermore, the main focus is put on the customer service to provide the best information about the final product.
Mebelkart – when the Bangalore-based company was set up in 2012, its aim was mainly to sell furniture online. With the passing of time, Mebelkart upgraded their offer to take a more complex approach to the client’s needs. A client who moved into a new house can count on them in terms of the organization of entire furnishing process and organization of entire furnishing process and home-space arrangement.