The Children’s Furniture Company: Paul Hanson
Children’s furniture online retailer
Tell us what your business does:
We design, produce and retail quality and stylish children's furniture online.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Furniture shopping for our daughter we found the market to be littered with uninspiring designs, overpriced products and we were disappointed by the quality of the materials and general build quality of what we saw and bought. It seemed that there was a distinct lack of innovation in this particular market, both on the high street and online with consumers getting a raw deal! We thought this presented an ideal opportunity to create a challenger brand and innovate the market.
How did you know there was a market for it?
To explore the opportunity we undertook a number of pieces of research:
- We carried out several iterations of research amongst parent friends and family to understand what consumers in the market wanted in respect to products, designs, value, and suppliers.
- We used various online tools to understand the search patterns online – volumes, keywords and trends.
- We explored various market/retail statistics to understand the aggregate size and composition of the market.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
How did you raise the money?
The business is privately funded by us.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge we faced was finding suppliers who could help bring our ideas to life. We travelled the globe to complete diligence testing on potential suppliers to ensure that they could deliver a consistent level of quality in a commercially viable manner. We tapped into the experience of ex-colleagues who specialised in supply chain management and quality control to help us develop a system whereby we could effectively evaluate potential suppliers and help us establish a long-term business partnership.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
There are several key elements to our business model:
- We “cut out the middleman” to work directly with designers and furniture makers which allows us to achieve strong margins and gives us greater control over the supply chain.
- The vast majority of our products are exclusive to us and are not available anyway else which gives us a strong USP for consumers.
- We retail online only which limits our overheads versus traditional high street retailers, maximises our margins and helps us offer outstanding value for consumers.
- Our tight supply chain with good production lead-times allows us to hold less stock, thereby further reducing costs and driving margin.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Our first sale… whilst we had conducted a significant amount of research, it wasn't until we made our first sale that we knew we had something that works. It is one thing completing a survey but another to actually part with your money and make a purchase. Our first sales demonstrated to us that we followed the right process during our planning. It's no coincidence that our best-selling design ranked the highest in the research we conducted.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Be persistent and make sure you know your customer.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
As well as significantly growing the business in the UK, we believe there is also a significant international opportunity – we are already getting a number of enquiries from Europe and the US. Our business model is both scalable and portable which gives us the flexibility to grow rapidly and profitably simultaneously.