As a child, Deirdre McGettrick would cut homeware products out of the Argos catalogue and glue them to hand-drawn floor plans to create her perfect imaginary home. Now the CEO of London-based startup ufurnish.com, the Irish former banking expert is now looking to turn her lifelong passion for furniture into profit by helping people improve their real abode.
Deirdre cofounded the company with her husband Ray Wright, the company’s Chief Revenue Officer, in 2017. Described as a ‘Skyscanner for furniture’, it works like a search engine by retrieving furniture products from more than 100 retailers in a click.
The idea is that this saves time while removing the frustration of having to trawl through retailers’ websites one at a time. As Deirdre says, it also adds an element of discovery by showing products from smaller independent retailers in addition to recognisable brands. “We introduce customers to retailers that they would have never otherwise found because everybody can’t be on page one of Google.”
Beyond a cool idea
Relaunched as ufurnish.com in early 2020, the company started life a few years ago as an MVP called Kuldea, pronounced ‘cool idea’. Deirdre and Ray launched it to prove the commercial viability of the product, and they successfully attracted partners and paying customers.
Its cofounders then set their sights on raising a seed round to develop the platform. However, they were repeatedly told by investors to change the company’s name to something easier to spell and pronounce. After conducting extensive customer research, they settled on ufurnish.com. “It has that emotiveness of doing the furnishing yourself, rather than an interior designer who does it all for you,” says Deirdre.
In December 2018 the company raised just short of £1.8m from multiple investors. They included Pat McCann, the founder and CEO of the Dalata Hotel Group and ex-CEO of Jury’s Inn. Deirdre says that her company’s name and mission resonated with the high-profile investor, who saw a similarity in how he advertises hotel rooms on booking.com and how ufurnish.com lets retailers advertise their products.
“I think it’s important to explain your business to investors through a story or way that makes it click for them – whether that’s in a B2B or B2C sense,” she says. “It’s about figuring out their level of knowledge and pitching that story in a way that makes them understand the problem you are solving, which in our case is the frustration people face when shopping for furniture.”
Ufurnish.com has brought several new people onboard during Covid-19, including marketing hires and a CTO. Tony Woods, the former Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer at DFS, the UK’s biggest sofa retailer, most recently joined the company as Chief Marketing Officer.
“I met Tony through a random introduction and we really clicked,” says Deirdre. “I have no fear of bringing on more senior people during the pandemic because they know how to get work done and are results driven.”
Transition to online
Online shopping is booming under Covid-19 as people look for more convenient ways to buy without venturing outside. According to ONS data, online sales have increased from 20% to 35% of all retail sales during the pandemic.
Deirdre says that home furniture retailers have seen their sales take a hit due to being unable to attend global trade shows. This has led to an uptick in companies interested in partnering with ufurnish.com in a bid to improve the visibility of their products and be discovered by more customers online. “The transition from the High Street to online has been happening for some time, but Covid has no doubt accelerated that decline in footfall which is reflected in the data.”
When asked for examples of product categories that are selling well on her website, the entrepreneur points to “the little things that make you feel really nice at home,” such as bedding.
Deirdre has a lifelong passion for furniture
Garden furniture is another. That is unsurprising considering the growing popularity of outdoor gatherings that make it easier to comply with social distancing regulations, added to the fact that more people are working remotely from home than ever before.
Deirdre says that running ufurnish.com is her “dream job” and admits to occasionally having to remind herself that she is at work when browsing her website and buying products. “I’m a big fan of bedsheets which I buy from Rise & Fall, and I recently saw yellow cushions from the French bedroom company with grey tassels on them that were really nice.”
Deirdre is set to be busy for the next six months partnering with more furniture retailers and publishing content to connect with consumers. By continuing to spend most of her working and spare time in the home, she won’t be short of inspiration.
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