Margaret Larson is the founder and Managing Director at Sustainable Furniture, an online furniture business based just 30min from me in Cornwall. In the past year they’ve won a plethora of awards for both the quality and eco-friendliness of their products. Founded in 2007 they now do 7-800 orders a month and have sales of £3.5million annually.
About the Business
- Located in rural ‘Clay Country’ in S. Cornwall
- 2.2 acre site with warehouses and an office
- Transport furniture all over the UK and many European countries as well
- Magento 2 Platform
- Some products on Amazon and considering other marketplaces like Wayfair
- Busier in the Summer
How Margaret Got Started
Margaret headed up sales for a company selling garden tools online. During that time, she noticed that there was an interest regarding the sourcing and sustainability of the timber in their products.
During the course of researching answers to those questions, Margaret saw the opportunity to fit into a niche. She continued on at the company for three more years, cutting her teeth in the sales department before striking out to Indonesia where she planned on doing on the ground research for her future products.
When she started, Margaret says you had to visit your suppliers in person and figure out who you can trust.
When she started, even though eCommerce was still young, Margaret said she saw the writing on the wall. Shop rents were going up and she felt that online was the way of the future.
She also finds eCommerce more relaxing and says that their office makes an enjoyable business.
The team is made up of 12 people in total. 4 in the office and 7 in the yard plus Margaret. The business ramps up a lot in the Summer which keeps the team busy and then in September Margaret says they can refocus on the projects they are excited about to move the business forward.
Everything is handled in house. One office employee looks after social media and marketing and the other three employees split up the rest of management work. The company also keeps a fleet of three vans—while most of the furniture is delivered via a freight partner but they do try and do tricky deliveries, including to older customer themselves.
Margaret says they struggled with poor quality from carriers, especially initially. Items that do come back are sold via eBay or an annual sale rather than going to the trash.
Buy Now Pay Later
The company has implemented buy now pay later through PayPal. It’s entirely managed through PayPal and PayPal, not the business takes on the risk in its entirety. It’s easily adopted and Margaret points out that Paypal is such a trusted name that it’s been adopted easily.
The Team Makes The Business
The sustainable furniture team are problem solvers are energetic and passionate about sustainability.
Margaret says that her employees are the most important part of their business and because they value the customers so much the company’s customer service is supreme. Everyone, she says goes above and beyond and makes the company what it is.
The team is excited about the future and as they grow year on year Margaret says they are all ready to continue building the brand into the furniture.
On Building a Good Team
Margaret says that the way they’ve been successful building a team is through active recruitment. When a new employee doesn’t come through a word of mouth channel, Margaret says they give potential employees the opportunity to come into the office for a few days so that everyone feels like its a good fit.
When the dynamics don’t work, Margaret says it can really hurt the entire team. Having that team right means that even in the most chaotic time, everyone pulls together and gets things done.
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eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Anyone Can Do It by Duncan Bannatyne
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Google advertising has worked great for the company, but Margaret says Bing has been edging up on Google
Tool Top Tip
- Bespoke order system does everything including automatically extracting order from Magento, stock recording dispatch management etc.
- Todoist for office task management
Growth Top Tip
- Having cash flow is essential. It’s too easy for a company to go down not managing cash flow properly.
- Get the product out—manage getting the product out properly
- Gently growth is more stable and you’ll sleep better at night!
- Serious Readers’ Alex Pratt on selling the world’s best reading lights and growing sales to £5 million
- Maison Rustic’s Georgina Hustler how and why she’s taken her physical stores into eCommerce
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