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INTERVIEW: Disrupting the $30 Billion Dollar Home Furnishings Market: LoomDecor.com

Disrupting the $30 Billion Dollar Home Furnishings Market: LoomDecor.com

Job Seek­ers should strong­ly con­sid­er com­pa­nies whose busi­ness plan is based on bet­ter, smarter, cheap­er as they are poised to take exist­ing busi­ness away from the big guys.  Like tak­ing can­dy from a baby rare is there a con­sumer who would not want to pay less for the exact same item.  Loom Décor is enabling the 84% of home­own­ers plan­ning to redec­o­rate to save up to 50% on cus­tom fab­rics.  How do they do it? By cut­ting out the many, many mid­dle men in the home fur­nish­ings mar­ket.

 

We had a chance to learn more about Loom Décor from Ash­ley Bak­er Gensler, one of the founders.

You can lis­ten to Ash­ley’s Inter­view here and read it below:


Roy:     My name is Roy Weiss­man from Mediajobs.com. Today we’re speak­ing with Ash­ley Bak­er Gensler, the founder of LoomDécor.com.  Do you know that 84% of home­own­ers plan to redec­o­rate in the next 2 years, but only 20% plan to hire an inte­ri­or design­er.  Loom Decor taps into the $30 Bil­lion dol­lar home fur­nish­ings mar­ket by pro­vid­ing this mas­sive pool of Do it Your­selfer access to online design tools, trade-only fab­rics & cus­tom prod­ucts at half the price of hir­ing a full-ser­vice design­er.

Ash­ley:   Hi, Roy. Thanks so much for hav­ing me.

Roy:     We’re going to talk about Ashley’s web­site LoomDecor.com and get a lit­tle sense of what they’re up to, why they cre­at­ed this ser­vice, kind of where every­body comes from and why you guys believe, you’re going to be the next big thing. Why don’t you tell us what Loom Décor is?

Ash­ley:   Well, Loom Decor is essen­tial­ly an online cus­tom home fur­nish­ings resource, aimed at the DIY dec­o­ra­tor mar­ket. The styl­ish mas­ter who’s read­ing mag­a­zines and look­ing at blogs and they see these beau­ti­ful rooms and think, “Why can’t I have that? How do I get that?” These peo­ple are not peo­ple who have the finances to hire a tra­di­tion­al inte­ri­or design­er but they also may not be able to com­plete­ly go it alone in a DIY sense. Loom real­ly offers an access to design­er fab­ric, cus­tom fur­nish­ings and style advice, much like what an inte­ri­or design­er would do but at 50% less than work­ing with a full-ser­vice design­er. It’s all based through online inter­ac­tions and peo­ple are able to choose a prod­uct, design exact­ly what they want using lux­u­ry fab­rics and visu­al­ize what that’s going to look­ing like online and then check out from there and get some­thing unique for their home.

Roy:     Yeah. How can you do it for 50% less?

Ash­ley:   That’s a real­ly good ques­tion. It’s one of the rea­sons we’re tack­ling this mar­ket. In the inte­ri­or design world, there is a lot of markups in the sup­ply chain between Chi­na or India, where the fab­ric is com­ing from and then it gets held in the U.S. and then it gets put into a show­room usu­al­ly in very high, expen­sive real estate and then the inte­ri­or design­er buys it and marks it up and then also charges a fee. By the time, you get through all of those mark-ups, you’re talk­ing prices to the con­sumer of $60 to $100 the yard for fab­ric or can go even $150 a yard for fab­ric. Our fab­rics are being sold more for $15 to $30 a yard and obvi­ous­ly, we also sell fin­ished prod­ucts, which also ends up being about 50% less than what they would be if the inte­ri­or design­er bought the fab­ric at that high­er price point and then took it to what they call a work­room, where inte­ri­or design, cus­tom fur­nish­ings are typ­i­cal­ly made.

These are usu­al­ly small seam­stress­es and man­u­fac­tur­ers local­ly that don’t do high vol­ume and charge very high rates. Both on the fab­ric side and on the work­room side, inte­ri­or design­er are just not get­ting the vol­ume pric­ing or the scale effi­cien­cies that we can get as a online e‑commerce play and as a result, their prod­ucts that they give to their clients are just a lot more expen­sive than what we can give. Part of it is a vol­ume thing, part of it is, we go direct to man­u­fac­tur­er, instead of going through a show­room and that keeps our cost down and we’re able to pass on some of those sav­ings to the con­sumer.

Roy:     In essence, peo­ple could actu­al­ly come up here and just buy the fab­ric by itself or have it actu­al­ly put on some­thing?

Ash­ley:   Both. We sell fab­ric by the yard, that’s not our main busi­ness but it is avail­able for peo­ple who want to recov­er a couch or a chair, maybe a bench, that’s just not cost-effec­tive for us to ship back and forth to a con­sumer that kind of good but they also can use those fab­rics to design pret­ty much any­thing made out of tex­tiles. Our main prod­ucts are win­dow treat­ments, draperies, Roman shades, that kind of thing; bed­ding and we also do a lot of acces­sories, pil­lows, poufs, floor pil­lows, even out­door cush­ions for out­door fur­ni­ture. Not every­thing is online yet because we’re still a young com­pa­ny but that’s where we want to grow. It’s real­ly any­thing that’s made of fab­ric; we can do and do it out of design­er-qual­i­ty lev­el.

Roy:     You actu­al­ly have peo­ple sell­ing these in Unit­ed States?

Ash­ley:   We do. All of our prod­ucts are made in Nashville, Ten­nessee. We have a great part­ner there, a high-end work­room that typ­i­cal­ly does com­mer­cial projects hotels, tour bus­es, that sort of thing. They also do some res­i­den­tial work but their main bread and but­ter in that area, is the part­ner­ship with Loom. But they have all of the exper­tise and real­ly, real­ly high­ly skilled seam­stress­es that can churn out these kinds of goods with beau­ti­ful tech­niques but as I men­tioned, at a much low­er price point than some of the small­er uphol­ster­ers that you’ll find in big cities or in kind of local areas. That’s some­thing we real­ly val­ue about our busi­ness mod­el is keep­ing it on shore, made in USA. Of course, it does mean that the goods are slight­ly more expen­sive than what you find in a store but not so expen­sive that they’re out of your price point and cer­tain­ly still vast­ly less expen­sive than work­ing with an inte­ri­or design­er. The gray points would be in between the chain store and that’s man­u­fac­tured in Chi­na and get­ting fair­ly low qual­i­ty, good and work­man­ship out of that and these super high end inte­ri­or design work you’re get­ting where like I said, they’re not get­ting the economy’s scale that we can get.

Roy:     I was just look­ing at some; you can buy fab­rics from what, from $15 to $50 a yard or some­thing for your fab­rics?

Ash­ley:   Yeah. They’re between 15 and 35. We’re prob­a­bly going to add anoth­er price point above that for some even more high qual­i­ty embroi­deries and that sort of thing but yeah, they’re still on aver­age if not, 50% less. Our fab­rics can be up to 20% less, a lot of the cost is in the labor. It just depends on what the fab­ric is and what the price point would be for a design­er, how much less expen­sive we are than work­ing with a full-ser­vice design­er.

Roy:     Now, do you have a back­ground in home décor or your part­ners? I guess you have two oth­er part­ners. Maybe give us a sense of what your back­grounds are, how you got into this?

Ash­ley:   Sure, yeah. My back­ground is real­ly more on the busi­ness side. I worked in strat­e­gy con­sult­ing for a while in the health­care indus­try and then I moved into mar­ket­ing and mar­ket­ing man­age­ment in con­struc­tion. Dur­ing that peri­od, that was kind of my ear­ly career, I took a hia­tus and said, “What do I real­ly want to do with my life?” I was always real­ly inter­est­ed in the arts. I stud­ied art and art his­to­ry in school as well as busi­ness and I have been tak­ing a lot of con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion class­es in the area of inte­ri­or design and archi­tec­ture. It’s real­ly a pas­sion for me. I took a brief hia­tus from my kind of nor­mal career path, if you will and worked for a very high end, very rep­utable firm here in New York City. I was an intern for a while and then a project man­age­ment assis­tant for a while and that’s real­ly where I got to know the busi­ness and start­ed to see this oppor­tu­ni­ty and real­ly learn how frus­trat­ing it can be as a con­sumer, not to be able to order these gor­geous fab­rics that you can get access to if you’re work­ing with a design­er.

Fifty per­cent of my time was prob­a­bly spent brows­ing fab­rics in what’s called the D & D build­ing here in New York. It’s a real­ly famous loca­tion, where all the high end fab­ric hous­es have their show­room and there’re just the most beau­ti­ful fab­rics and fur­nish­ings there but all of it is avail­able only to the trade. You can only buy that if you are work­ing with a design­er. A design­er has to have a trade ID and a tax ID in order to work with them.

When I left that job and I was work­ing back in con­struc­tion again, I real­ized, wow, all of a sud­den I didn’t have access to any of that any­more. I couldn’t even make my own drapes and I have been in the indus­try. That was real­ly frus­trat­ing for me and I said, “Why is it that the nor­mal con­sumer or the DIY-er read­ing this mag­a­zine and see­ing how these beau­ti­ful homes in mag­a­zines that they can’t get access 90% of the prod­uct that they’re see­ing?” It’s only avail­able to the trade and that was kind of where the idea came from. I didn’t go after it right away. I was still quite young at the time and when I decid­ed to pur­sue it that was the point where I went back and got my MBA from MIT because I felt like I want­ed more entre­pre­neur­ship learn­ing and want­ed more under­stand­ing at the dig­i­tal mar­ket­place, because I was real­ly more focused on mar­ket­ing on a day to day sense.

Roy:     How long did you work in the actu­al indus­try for the com­pa­ny or …

Ash­ley:   I was in inte­ri­or design for about a year and then over the course of my col­lege career and ear­ly career, I prob­a­bly have tak­en a thou­sand hours. I think I cal­cu­lat­ed once for my resume. It was art and design train­ing. It’s some­thing that I’ve stud­ied exten­sive­ly as well but I’m not the pri­ma­ry or the only inte­ri­or design resource that the Loom uses in terms of our styling and help­ing our cus­tomers out.

Roy:     Now, tell us about your oth­er part­ners. What are their back­grounds and how did you all come togeth­er?

Ash­ley:   Sure. One of my part­ners is actu­al­ly my best friend from high school. I think you’ll find in start-up brand that it’s a cer­tain­ly com­mon thing to find some­one that you’re close to. They can be real­ly tough but for me, I real­ly want­ed some­one that I could trust and that real­ly has a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent out­look in back­ground than I did. I’m real­ly strat­e­gy cre­ative spir­it and she is an oper­a­tions admin­is­tra­tions finance guru. That’s Nic­hole. She now runs our oper­a­tions down in Nashville, Ten­nessee where we make all our prod­ucts and then she also runs every­thing that has to do with admin­is­tra­tion and finance at our busi­ness and then my third part­ner was actu­al­ly some­one I met at MIT. Her hus­band was a fel­low class­mate of mine and it turns out, we were both tak­ing an intro to busi­ness plan­ning course at MIT. She was work­ing on a real­ly sim­i­lar idea to mine, kind of attack­ing a sim­i­lar mar­ket, real­ly want­i­ng to pro­vide high-end goods in afford­able price point with an ele­ment of cus­tomiza­tion. It makes you feel like this is unique to your home and we decid­ed that we want­ed to part­ner up instead of being com­peti­tors. Espe­cial­ly giv­en that our net­works over­laps so much. She has been run­ning our sales team. Her back­ground is in orga­ni­za­tion­al devel­op­ment and real­ly has the pas­sion for peo­ple so she’s been run­ning our sales team.

Roy:     What’s her name?

Ash­ley:   Her name is Jes­sa McIn­tosh.

Roy:     Okay, very good. Now, you sent me some stuff before we did the inter­view and you said, this is a 30 bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket. Who are the play­ers in the 30 bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket? Who are the peo­ple tak­ing the bulk of the mon­ey there?

Ash­ley:   Yeah. It’s a brand that you would rec­og­nize. Williams-Sono­ma is the biggest play­er in the mar­ket. They have mul­ti­ple brands under that umbrel­la. That includes Pot­tery Barn, West Elm, Williams-Sono­ma Home, which is a bit on the high­er end. This wouldn’t be includ­ed under the 30 bil­lion but they also have a kitchen. Williams-Sono­ma is real­ly usu­al­ly known for their kitchen appli­ances and cook­ing uten­sil store. In addi­tion Crate & Bar­rel is a real­ly well-known play­er. They’ve been around for 30–40 years now and are a very large in the mar­ket and then there are sev­er­al new­er com­pa­nies that have prob­a­bly come out in the last 10 to 15 years and real­ly kind of grown. Room & Board is one of them and then those are all what I would con­sid­er the brand­ed fur­nish­ings mar­ket. They go after more of a refresh your home, get new pil­lows, throws, bed­ding, and lit­tle bit more com­fort­able to our prod­ucts. In that 30 bil­lion is also includ­ed the fur­ni­ture stores that are more local in your home area, as well as the nation­al brands like Ash­ley fur­ni­ture, for exam­ple.

It includes a lot and you’ll find that if you leave the report out there, some peo­ple say it’s a 30 bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket and some peo­ple say, it’s 120 bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket depend­ing on the cat­e­go­ry in the home that you actu­al­ly include but we do with the 30 bil­lion because usu­al­ly it’s a lit­tle bit more tar­get­ed to what we would call fur­nish­ings, as opposed to things like kitchen and back cab­i­netry and hard­ware and those sorts of access to home improve­ment.

Roy:     Well, do you expect to sell fur­ni­ture at some point or house wares or just stick with the fab­ric and the pil­lows …

Ash­ley:   We expect to sell fur­ni­ture at some point. Our client mod­el is to start with all cus­tom fur­nish­ings that are made with fab­rics and that’s usu­al­ly to make use of our inven­to­ries as effec­tive­ly as pos­si­ble but we do plan to cre­ate part­ner­ships with lin­ing brands, rug brands and use our fab­rics, as well on fur­ni­ture to round out our abil­i­ty to dec­o­rate an entire room for our client. Right now, most of the clients that we work with, we end up doing either a reassess where they real­ly have a base room that they’re work­ing with and they want to update it or we’re work­ing on just a tease of the room that they’re try­ing to fin­ish out. Maybe they already bought their fur­ni­ture at Pot­tery Barn or Ashley’s Fur­ni­ture and now, they’re look­ing for their cur­tains and they want cus­tom cur­tains that fit their win­dows exact­ly and Loom is a great resource for that but ide­al­ly, once we built that rela­tion­ship with them, we’d rather be able to max­i­mize that brack­et size in a rela­tion­ship over­time by being able to pro­vide the whole kind of room pic­ture from floor to wall, to fab­ric to fur­ni­ture but that’s the long term vision of the start-up.

All of my men­tors are always say­ing, “Focus, focus, focus.” It’s so impor­tant. It’s so easy to say but what I real­ly want to be is, Pot­tery Barn. Well, Pot­tery Barn’s been around for 30 years build­ing that up and Loom’s been around for one year so that’s why we’re focus­ing right now in the fab­ric side and the rea­son for that focus as opposed to say, lin­ing or rugs, is fab­ric is the most close of all aspects of the inte­ri­or design mar­ket. While there are a lot of home fur­nish­ing play­ers out there, the one thing that you can­not buy and there’s a lot of great fur­ni­ture that you can buy that fur­ni­ture design­ers use but the one thing that you real­ly, real­ly can’t buy and have a lot of knowl­edge for how to use, is fab­rics and how to make them into draperies and kind of high end, high qual­i­ty items like bed­dings because it’s takes a unique skill set your aver­age dry clean­er doesn’t have and because of the way the mar­ket is, that it’s what you called, to the trade only and there is just a lot more fab­ric com­pa­nies that are to the trade only than there are fur­ni­ture com­pa­ny.

Roy:     Is any­one doing what you’re doing, the cus­tom fab­rics with the pil­lows and the oth­er prod­ucts?

Ash­ley:   That’s a good ques­tion, not pre­cise­ly. At least not in the online space but we would say our biggest com­peti­tor in terms of the most liked com­peti­tor is Cal­i­co Cor­ner. They’ve been around for 50 years, I would say and they have stores all over the coun­try and have been doing rel­a­tive­ly well even in the down terms but they only real­ly address the mar­ket in an offline way. They have stores with their fab­rics. They have design­ers that will come at your house and work with you, much like an inte­ri­or design­er will but not, again, they’re sim­i­lar to us and they do sell fur­ni­ture, unlike us, but they don’t address every­thing in your home. It’s real­ly the heart of what they do is around fab­rics. They are very sim­i­lar to us but like I said, com­plete­ly offline. The only thing you can buy online with them is fab­ric and we’re real­ly trained to update the indus­try and bring next gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­o­gy to the home décor indus­try, where you can visu­al­ize your prod­ucts dynam­i­cal­ly online. You can buy them with ease. You don’t have to go into the store. You can do all of these from the com­fort of your own home if you want to and we’re the only com­pa­ny cur­rent­ly address­ing the entire cat­e­go­ry of home décor in terms of cus­tom fur­nish­ings online.

The oth­er com­peti­tor that we would say, most close­ly repli­cates Loom is, there are a cou­ple dif­fer­ent drap­ery com­pa­nies that focus sole­ly on win­dow treat­ments. They do draperies, they also do win­dow shades and some of them are more advanced com­pa­nies in that area and do have online visu­al­iza­tion and the abil­i­ty to just order online. We con­sid­er them com­peti­tors as well but their tra­jec­to­ry is to stay only in win­dow fur­nish­ings and not in over­all home design process and like I said our vision is to be more of an alter­na­tive to hire an inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tor, where you could get your whole room with Loom and get styling assis­tance on the process from them.

Roy:     You’ve struc­tured your busi­ness today, where you’re basi­cal­ly out­sourc­ing the pro­duc­tion of all these cus­tom items. Are you get­ting enough mar­gin on that to real­ly grow the busi­ness or is your goal right now just to build the busi­ness up and then even­tu­al­ly get your own in-house fac­to­ry going?

 Ash­ley:   That’s a real­ly good ques­tion. For now, I mean I think in the fore­see­able future, we’ll con­tin­ue to use an out­source part­ner at some point. I think our goal would be to meld with our exist­ing part­ner or with anoth­er part­ner. Hon­est­ly, start from scratch. We’d either buy or have an exist­ing work­room buy­ing to us so that we become eco­nom­i­cal­ly joined as well and can best get bet­ter rates than what we cur­rent­ly do on lat­er. We orig­i­nal­ly con­sid­ered going abroad. After build­ing the upper vol­ume, it makes sense to do and try­ing out or in Mex­i­co but for now, espe­cial­ly with the econ­o­my and some of the changes and the Chi­nese mar­ket­place. We are plan­ning on stay­ing in US now for the fore­see­able future …

Roy:     Are there enough mar­gins in that to make some mon­ey?

Ash­ley:    There is actu­al­ly. One of the great things about cus­tomiza­tion is one of the rea­sons we felt like it is an inter­est­ing place to be is, when peo­ple are part of the design process when they get involved in the process. Whether it’s build­ing IKEA fur­ni­ture or whether it’s design­ing a shoe at Nike ID online, you get invest­ed in it and you’re will­ing to pay more for it as the result. We actu­al­ly can charge high­er mar­gin or high­er prices than we oth­er­wise would, because of that will­ing­ness to pay fac­tor. We’re also look­ing at like I said, adding a new, high­er priced front­line. We found that the price sen­si­tiv­i­ty is actu­al­ly not very high. Once some­one wants cus­tom cur­tains, they don’t real­ly care what it costs because they’re look­ing after some­thing how so much less expen­sive than I would have paid inte­ri­or design­er. A lot of peo­ple that we worked with had some expe­ri­ence while they’re with an inte­ri­or design­er so they have a per­spec­tive but they’re will­ing to pay a lot more. We’re even con­sid­er­ing bring­ing in some high­er end fab­rics than what we car­ry now and charg­ing more for them and get­ting even more mar­gins out of that.

Roy:     Do you inven­to­ry all these fab­rics or is it just you order it when peo­ple order?

Ash­ley:   No, we don’t. That’s part of the secret. That’s where we real­ly cut costs. There are two aspects. We can charge high­er prices because of the cus­tomiza­tion aspect but we do also cut a lot of cost out of the typ­i­cal retail chain and also the typ­i­cal inte­ri­or design chain. We don’t car­ry inven­to­ry. What we do is, once the cus­tomer has bought the first prod­uct in a par­tic­u­lar fab­ric, we will buy a bolt of that fab­ric and that’s part of the deal that we have with our fab­ric com­pa­ny and it helps save on ship­ping. We feel that that’s enough on an indi­ca­tor that we’ll be able to sell the rest of that bolt in a rel­a­tive­ly short time. We do have some inven­to­ry but it’s prob­a­bly only about a tenth of the over­all fab­rics that we would have to oth­er­wise have to car­ry if we were real­ly car­ry­ing every sin­gle fab­ric.

Roy:     Most fab­ric man­u­fac­tur­ers keep the same designs for a while I guess.

Ash­ley:   They do. They keep them for two to four years and then they’ll have new ones. The cycle is actu­al­ly, every six months. The fab­ric com­pa­ny will come out with new designs but they don’t retire their old designs for at least two years so that allows us to car­ry them for a while.

Roy:     Where do you see the bulk of the rev­enue com­ing from? What are the dif­fer­ent prod­ucts? Obvi­ous­ly, you’re sell­ing cus­tomized pil­lows and cus­tomized win­dow treat­ments and such; do you envi­sion just these prod­ucts for now? Do you envi­sion con­tin­u­al­ly adding, I know you said you’ll bring up a high­er price point on the fab­ric but that’s more of a line exten­sion, do you envi­sion get­ting more new prod­ucts or you envi­sion just work­ing these for the first peri­od of time, what peri­od of time would that be?

Ash­ley:   Yeah. That’s a good ques­tion. We have very active stance for adding a lot of new prod­ucts. We’re going to be adding floor pil­lows and poufs in the next cou­ple of weeks. We’re adding table linens in the fall. We’re hop­ing to add even start­ing to get into the fur­ni­ture mar­ket with head­boards and ottomans some­time in the win­ter. We are very much active in adding addi­tion­al prod­ucts that we can make out of our exist­ing fab­rics. Some­where our oth­er growth plan is to start adding addi­tion­al cat­e­gories that we don’t have to car­ry. They would be drop shipped so that we don’t have inven­to­ry through part­ner­ship rela­tion­ships that we have with sim­i­lar brands and what we con­sid­er at sim­i­lar brand is a high end brands that have aes­thet­ic design­er qual­i­ty but is suc­cess­ful to a con­sumer audi­ence.

There’s some real­ly great light­ing com­pa­nies out there, rug com­pa­nies out there that we’d love to part­ner with to be able to, like I said, round out that room and that’s where we will prob­a­bly see the most growth in terms of being able to increase our fab­ric side. We already get a lot of ques­tions around, “Oh, you know I love my drapes. What’s the best rug avail­able with these?” or “I just renewed my bed­ding and I need new lamps or my night­stand table.”What we’ll do with these kinds of ques­tions is just offer up resources that we like but we might just for­mal­ize this rela­tion­ship.

Roy:     What is your aver­age order size now?

Ash­ley:   It is around $500 and we think it will actu­al­ly go up to about 1,000. It’s very large for the e‑commerce indus­try because of the price points of our prod­ucts. We typ­i­cal­ly get about two orders per year from our cus­tomers grant­ed we’ve only been around a year but we do get a lot repeat busi­ness from exist­ing cus­tomers.

Roy:     Now, when did you launch this site?

Ash­ley:   We launched in Feb­ru­ary of 2012. We’ve been around for about a year and would that be four months?

Roy:     What kind of traf­fic and can you give us a sense of the traf­fic or page views or vis­i­tors or some­thing to your site that you have achieved?

Ash­ley:   Yeah. Well, I can’t give too much of the infor­ma­tion out because of our investor rela­tion but I can say a lit­tle bit about the gross that we’ve seen. We are now hav­ing reg­u­lar sales come in on a dai­ly basis. We’re on tar­get to break even by next year at our cur­rent oper­a­tional bud­get. I mean we expect we’ll be grow­ing so adding new peo­ple will make that a lit­tle bit hard to achieve but that’s where we are right now, which is pret­ty excit­ing for being a young busi­ness and our traf­fic has tripled over the last six months, grant­ed we are going from trick­ling in and a hun­dred vis­its a day but we’ve real­ly seen a lot of growth and I feel like we’re only just mino­ral­ly tap­ping into the mar­ket­ing side. Right now, it’s tak­ing us a long time even with a net year or two, con­tin­ue to build out aspects of our online expe­ri­ence.

We have a major update com­ing up in the next month where we’re going to have a shopable cat­a­log where you don’t have to start with a, what we could call a light prod­uct and that’s going to open up a lot of chan­nels for mar­ket­ing that we cur­rent­ly can’t use like affil­i­ate type of mar­ket­ing where we can place our prod­ucts in oth­er piece across inter­net.

Roy:     How big is your team at this point?

Ash­ley:   There are five of us. I guess it’s 5–1/2. One of my part­ners, Jes­sa who I men­tioned ear­li­er is on mater­ni­ty leave. We’re work­ing with five peo­ple but when she comes back, we’ll be six. We’re very much a small team.

Roy:     Maybe even sev­en when she has the child.

Ash­ley:   Well, that’s true, yeah, we’ll put her right to work, right? (Laughs)

Roy:     Maybe. That’s how you grow your busi­ness very inex­pen­sive­ly, have every­body have chil­dren.

Ash­ley:   Exact­ly, yeah. It’s just like old days in the farm.

Roy:     Exact­ly. That’s how they did it. The whole fam­i­ly is in the busi­ness. That’s all. That’s fan­tas­tic. The tech­nol­o­gy behind your site, is that very com­pli­cat­ed, is it sim­ple, is it pro­pri­etary, do you fill it secret sauce, what do you feel that fits in to what you guys are doing?

Ash­ley:   That’s a good ques­tion. The base prod­ucts that we use for tech­nol­o­gy are not pro­pri­etary but I will say the abil­i­ty to con­nect those dif­fer­ent plat­forms have been a huge, huge part of what we’ve been spend­ing out time on for the last two years, build­ing the site. That aspect, I would say a pro­pri­etary. I think it would be very hard for a com­peti­tor to come in and build a site as com­plex as ours is, where you’re deal­ing with mul­ti­ple prod­ucts, each with dif­fer­ent options, how do you man­age the inven­to­ries of those dif­fer­ent options, how do you man­age the sale side of that and make sure the orders are going out right. It’s much more com­plex than it cer­tain­ly seemed to be at the out­set when we decid­ed to buy rather than bill. It’s out there in the inter­net. We use Magen­to as our plat­form, which I real­ly like and we used Adobe Scene 7 which is the top dynam­ic imag­ing soft­ware out there right now and con­nect those two togeth­er and have a lot of cus­tomiza­tion on top of Magen­to that allows us to deal with the cus­tomiza­tion aspect of each of our prod­ucts.

Roy:     Do you have a full-time devel­op­er or is that to some­body high when you need them?

Ash­ley:   We have a full-time devel­op­er but they’re not on staff. When I men­tioned that we are work­ing with five to six peo­ple right now, we also have like a time and half resource, a devel­op­ment firm that we’ve worked with since we start­ed or actu­al­ly, since we launched and they’re a great team out of Mil­wau­kee and India. I end up hav­ing a lot of late nights work­ing with my Indi­an-based devel­op­ers but luck­i­ly, we also have a project man­age­ment team here in the US. It’s easy to com­mu­ni­cate with them and part­ner with them on a pret­ty close base.

For us, that was a strate­gic move not to hire an inter­nal tech team, which is very dif­fer­ent I would say from a lot of fel­low entre­pre­neurs. We felt like what we’re real­ly try­ing to build is more about the expe­ri­ence with the cus­tomer, the brand and the prod­uct than it is about the tech­nol­o­gy. If 3D visu­al­iza­tions become more acces­si­ble and eas­i­er to use then we’ll move to 3D visu­al­iza­tion and we’ll want to be able to move to a part­ner that real­ly knows what they’re doing in 3D visu­al­iza­tion. Right now, we’re work­ing with a part­ner that real­ly knows what they’re doing in Scene 7. We want­ed to have that flex­i­bil­i­ty ver­sus hav­ing an inter­nal team that was real­ly great at what we do now but maybe not able to scale if we move to a dif­fer­ent plat­form in the future.

Roy:     What are you doing about mobile and tablets and things?

Ash­ley:   Mobile is not big for us at all. I think there are some great oppor­tu­ni­ties in the home décor mar­ket. Some peo­ple are doing real­ly cool stuff with aug­ment­ed real­i­ty, where you can take a pic­ture of their chair and see it in your house that sort of thing. We’re not there yet. It’s just not a big enough part of our busi­ness, but tablet is huge. I would say we get about 15% to 20% of our site vis­its from tablets. We opti­mized for iPad about two months ago. It worked on iPad before but there would be but­tons that real­ly wouldn’t work quite right with click­ing. We’re real­ly try­ing to, I wouldn’t say we’re exact­ly mobile first yet in terms of the way we devel­oped, but we’re try­ing to be much more savvy about the way our site inter­acts so that it is touch­screen friend­ly. Some­day, I’d love to have a total­ly mobile first dynam­ic site but giv­en that we already built it where it is, we need to stick with what we’ve got for a while while we’re build­ing up our traf­fic and our rev­enue.

Roy:     Also Win­dows 8 is very touch dri­ven. It doesn’t help either as more peo­ple get Win­dows 8.

Ash­ley:   It’s going to push that even more and espe­cial­ly with such an inter­ac­tive site, it’s some­thing that we’re con­stant­ly look­ing at and we’re going to be updat­ing the inter­ac­tions in terms of how you cus­tomize a prod­uct at Loom in the next six months and when we do that, I think for that par­tic­u­lar set of inter­ac­tions, we’re very much going to com­pen­sate on how do those work on mobile. We also find it’s real­ly impor­tant because we do do what we call trunk shows, which is we’ll go out and see those hous­es or we’ll work with oth­er busi­ness­es and we’ll set up a demo area and have clients come in and we’ll work togeth­er with them design with them live and we usu­al­ly do use iPad exten­sive­ly in those kinds of inter­ac­tions. The clients can see what we’re rec­om­mend­ing to them live and we can play togeth­er on the iPad as we’re in this trunk show in the sales envi­ron­ment, if you will. It’s going to be very impor­tant for that side of our busi­ness as well.

Roy:     You men­tioned to me ear­li­er that this whole project start­ed maybe three years ago and it’s tak­en obvi­ous­ly time to get it off the ground. Have you raised mon­ey along the way?

Ash­ley:   Yes. We wouldn’t have been able to sus­tain for three years. There was a lot of eat­ing rice and beans in there too. But we raised fam­i­ly and friends round ear­ly, ear­ly on, just to kind of get through the lis­ten­ing stage and try to fig­ure out what our con­cept real­ly was and then we have a seed round of fund­ing right now that we’ll def­i­nite­ly last this for anoth­er six months and then we’ll be look­ing at how, I believe our cur­rent investors will rein­vest at that point but we’ll also be look­ing at where we want to go for addi­tion­al invest­ment. We feel like our con­cept is more appro­pri­ate for what we would con­sid­er strate­gic or cor­po­rate investors. For exam­ple, fab­ric com­pa­nies that I men­tioned, the big fab­ric hous­es I men­tioned, a lot of them are look­ing at how we get to the con­sumer audi­ence with­out alien­at­ing our cur­rent busi­ness which is the inte­ri­or design­er. That is an area where we feel like we could poten­tial­ly get some finan­cial back­ing and some rela­tion­ships that could evolve both on the investor side and on the poten­tial exit side.

Roy:     Speak­ing of exit, do you have an exit strat­e­gy?

Ash­ley:   Not for­mal­ly. I come from a back­ground with two par­ents who both have been entre­pre­neurs and work­ing in our busi­ness for a long time and my per­son­al vision is that this is my career and I want to be a part of Loom for a long time and help it grow and have it be my life but obvi­ous­ly, you can’t look entire­ly at your busi­ness that way. You have investors, you have employ­ees who are look­ing for growth and depend­ing on how well this goes, there might be a point where there’s just no choice but to exit in order to get the growth that the com­pa­ny or sim­i­lar to the way we look at our invest­ing side, that’s very much the way, we would look at an exit.

The ide­al exit for us would be to be bought by either a large fam­i­ly-owned fab­ric brand, that’s very much a fam­i­ly-owned busi­ness, the entire fab­ric mar­ket end, who is look­ing to get more retail focus or by one of the big chains that are cur­rent­ly just going to the mass mar­ket strat­e­gy but want to get into cus­tomiza­tion or per­son­al­iza­tion, which has become a real­ly hot trend late­ly in terms of both in the fash­ion world, Home is just now catch­ing up but if you look at shoes for exam­ple as cat­e­go­ry. Cus­tomized shoes have been around for 10 years and every sin­gle shoe com­pa­ny out there has them. There is a chance, I think less though than a fab­ric has this option, that some of the retail chain might want high­er end option before going after dif­fer­ent clien­te­les than their typ­i­cal chains or what they have right now.

Roy:     Well, I think you have giv­en us so much great infor­ma­tion here. You’ve just cov­ered every­thing. You’ve real­ly giv­en …

Ash­ley:   I hope I didn’t give away the store too.

Roy:     Well, you prob­a­bly did give away …

Ash­ley:   I’m pret­ty open about our busi­ness, where I can be though; I wel­come oth­er peo­ple in the indus­try and want to see the indus­try grow.

Roy:     No, you’ve been very gen­er­ous. I think you’ve giv­en the audi­ence a real­ly won­der­ful sense of what your busi­ness is about. It just sounds so excit­ing. It sounds real­ly good. I might end up buy­ing some pil­lows from you, you nev­er know.

Ash­ley:   I hope.

Roy:     You nev­er know. Is there any­thing that I didn’t ask or we didn’t cov­er that you want­ed to men­tion?

Ash­ley:   Not real­ly. I guess I’ll end with just how excit­ing it is to be in an indus­try that has seen a lot of upheaval with the econ­o­my and the down term par­tic­u­lar­ly in the hous­ing mar­ket. It’s not a vast­ly grow­ing indus­try but it is an excit­ing phase where I think there’s a lot of change that is going to hap­pen in the next 10 years because of the con­trac­tion and that’s real­ly where every­one wants to be. You see the inte­ri­or design mar­ket has been shrink­ing by about 8% for sev­er­al years.

The home fur­nish­ing mar­ket has been stag­nant although online has been grow­ing and I think there is right for inno­va­tion and that’s where we want to be and things that, on the flip side you have cus­tomiza­tion and the idea of per­son­al­iza­tion and con­sumer psy­che out there is get­ting more and more in tune with I want what I want, I just need to help find­ing it or I need help mak­ing it and you’re see­ing more com­pa­nies go after that. I think Loom is a real­ly great con­cept that com­bined both the cus­tomiza­tion, per­son­al­iza­tion aspect that you’re see­ing with big names Nike ID and even Star­bucks I would con­sid­er in that buck­et. You can get any­thing you want at Star­bucks and the … the DIY home décor mar­ket which is very much grow­ing while the tra­di­tion­al inte­ri­or design mar­ket has been shrink­ing. We’re excit­ed about that.

Roy:     I guess Burg­er King’s old say­ing real­ly is becom­ing involved, get it your way.

Ash­ley:   It is, appar­ent­ly and I mean, there are peo­ple who love to talk about both sides of the equa­tion. Some peo­ple love to tell me how you have the para­dox of choice and it makes it hard to pur­chase but then you have oth­er research that I men­tioned ear­li­er where peo­ple who are a part of the design process or a part of the choice process are that much more will­ing to pay and will­ing to share and excit­ed about their pur­chase to be a brand advo­cate. There is both sides to the equa­tion and Loom tries to walk a fine line between those and make sure that real and peo­ple you are hav­ing trou­ble mak­ing deci­sions with our styl­ist pro­gram by pro­vid­ing advice and guid­ance in terms of what would real­ly work in their home. Excit­ing seems to be.

Roy:     It sounds very excit­ing and we thank you so much for tak­ing the time to share the sto­ry about Loomdecor.com and how would peo­ple get a hold of you if they want­ed to e‑mail you or what­ev­er?

Ash­ley:   Sure. My e‑mail is Ashley@loomdecor.com. That’s  A‑S-H-L-E‑Y @ loom, L‑O-O‑M decor.com and I’m total­ly open to talk­ing to any­one who’s inter­est­ed in the home fash­ion space and the busi­ness in cus­tomiza­tion or in a job. We are look­ing to hire in the next six months. I know we’re talk­ing about Mediajobs.com here. If you’re inter­est­ed par­tic­u­lar­ly in the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing space, we’re going to be look­ing for peo­ple in that area. Please reach out.

Roy:     Well, thank you so much Ash­ley.

Ash­ley:   Thank you Roy.

 

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