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When a newly wedded Nidhi Kapur began decorating her new home in Saratoga, California, she hopped online to search for custom-made furniture with touches of bespoke Southern style. “I wanted to invest in high-quality, heirloom pieces,” said Kapur.
But all she found were products that mimicked the all-American designs but were actually mass-manufactured in China and Mexico. Frustrated, she ceased her online search and flew to a cluster of towns north of Charlotte, including Hickory, Lenoir, Thomasville and High Point. The region, abundant in oak, cherry and maple wood, is home to generations of skilled furniture craftsmen.
During her shopping trip, Kapur learned that North Carolina has been losing its foothold as the furniture capital of the world since the 1990s due to outsourcing. Formerly the head of business development at online beauty brand Birchbox, Kapur, now 31, raised $500,000 and in 2017 launched Maiden Home, an e-commerce platform that designs original furniture, supporting hundreds of craftsmen in North Carolina. Revenue last year was north of $2 million.
Tanya Klich: What were the early days like?
Nidhi Kapur: I pitched to two dozen furniture companies in four days; we partnered with three. We’re working with family-owned manufacturers who never did e-commerce, so we had to be sure they could meet demand. Word of mouth from decorators initially generated half our business. We’ve just started paying for social-media ads and influencers.
Klich: What’s hardest about working with small manufacturers?
Kapur: When demand accelerated 20% month over month, it stressed our supply chain. Everything is cut to order, so if one number is off , it can take a week to remake. Our software developers had to build a better system. One partner has since doubled the size of its facility; another expects to double its workforce in 2019.
Klich: Has choosing U.S. partners stunted Maiden Home’s growth?
Kapur: We could have plugged into the massive factories in China that can scale instantly, but we chose domestic artisans. We made that tradeoff intentionally because that was more important to us than growing 100% month over month. We rather carefully scale because selling high-end heirloom pieces is more important.
March 6, 2019 at 09:06AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs