Vinterior: Sandrine Zhang Ferron
After struggling to sell a designer sofa when moving house, this female entrepreneur noticed a niche in the high-end furniture market
Name: Sandrine Zhang Ferron
Company name: Vinterior
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 23/11/2015
No. of employees: 1
Tell us what your business does:
Vinterior is an online, curated marketplace for high-end pre-owned furniture and home accessories.
Vinterior connects design lovers across the capital and makes it easy for Londoners to buy and sell quality vintage furniture to one another.
For shoppers, we carefully curate our selection to offer only the best choice of modern, vintage and antique furniture, with the guarantee that delivery and returns will be effortless and reasonably priced.
Vinterior also helps people sell their high-end furnishings when they move or redecorate.
We collect and deliver everywhere in London and handle secure payments
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I got the idea for Vinterior after attempting to sell a designer sofa when I moved house two years ago.
I created listings on eBay and Gumtree but spent far too much time dealing with time-wasters and scammers.
After asking friends for suggestions, I discovered that my experience was far from unique.
Many people have stylish quality furniture that no longer fits, but because of the hassle of selling, beautiful pieces in great condition end up given away for free or sold for nothing at auctions.
This was frustrating, as at the same time, many people would love to buy these items at a fraction of retail prices.
I was also looking for the perfect yellow mid-century armchair to complete my new home.
Endless trips to independent shops across London was inspiring but simply too time-consuming.
That was when the idea of Vinterior was born; an online marketplace that would make it easier for Londoners to both sell and buy great pieces of furniture.
How did you know there was a market for it?
I interviewed people who had recently moved to London, and I found out that furnishing their home was a painful and time-consuming process for many.
It meant spending their weekends visiting endless shops around London to find something special.
Often, the process led to yet another trip to IKEA, because new design furniture was unaffordable or required a long lead time.
At the same time, there are many vintage furniture boutiques and people who don't know how to resell their quality furnishings in London.
I felt it was necessary to find a way to connect these buyers and sellers in one place; Vinterior.
What were you doing before starting up?
I worked in finance for seven years, first at a brokerage firm, then managing investments for a HNWI.
Before working on Vinterior, I did a 3-month bootcamp at Makers Academy in order to learn to code and be able to build the prototype for www.vinterior.co myself.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Not really, it was never my plan to become an entrepreneur, although I have always worked in small, entrepreneurial structures.
Moving home allowed me to identity this market opportunity, which combined to my interest in interior design and technology, made it clear for me that I needed to tackle this challenge.
I was also in a comfortable situation where I had personal savings to fund this new venture.
How did you raise the money?
I am self-funded.
Vinterior is a commission-based business model with limited fixed costs and therefore raising money was not a priority.
The largest initial investment was the website, but I designed and built it myself. If I want to add a feature or fix a bug, I don't have to stress over having to pay an agency to do it for me.
I don't want fundraising to distract me from business development, and am planning to seek funding only when necessary.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We connect discerning buyers and sellers to make it easier for Londoners to transact quality pre-owned furniture.
When a transaction is completed, sellers receive 80% of the selling price, and our commission for the service is 20%.
As part of our service:
- We help sellers promote their products to an audience of buyers who value design and quality.
- Business sellers benefit from an additional online presence and can increase their sales and shorten their sales cycles with minimum effort.
- We also organise shipping and handle secure payments to make the selling process safer and less time-consuming.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
As a sole founder, I have to juggle multiple roles: business development, marketing, PR, web developer, admin, finance, etc and days can be hectic.
I have to be extremely organised and thankfully there are many useful free online tools for entrepreneurs and project management.
I also hire freelancers to work in areas where I have less experience.
I am also lucky to have a strong support network of friends and mentors who are always there to offer precious advice.
I also have a regular yoga and meditation practice to keep myself grounded.
What was your first big breakthrough?
The supply-side of the marketplace has been growing steadily since launch: we had 200 listings at launch and now shoppers can browse through more than 600 products.
Private and business sellers are joining every week.
I wouldn't necessarily call it a big breakthrough but I still remember the moment when I received the notification for our first sale.
I was jumping around and called the seller straight away, who was very pleased too to have a sale happening so fast.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
The best advice I have received was to learn to code.
I would recommend it to all entrepreneurs who want to build a technology-based startup. Not only will they save money by building their MVP themselves, but it will also give them knowledge and credibility when communicating with their future tech team.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I'd like Vinterior to be the go-to place for anyone in London who wants to buy or sell furniture with character.
For many people of my generation, buying “grown-up” furniture is a stressful experience and can feel like a life-time commitment.
I hope that Vinterior will change that and help people create the interiors they want with the assurance that they will be able to resell their furnishings easily if their circumstances or tastes change in a few years.