‘The Skyscanner for furniture’ -ufurnish.com is an innovative start up that’s redefining the way people search for and find home furniture
Deirdre Mc Gettrick, Co-founder and CEO of ufurnish.com, shares her journey as an entrepreneur and key brand developments since participating in our event last October titled: ‘Irish Innovation: Celebrating the Irish Start-up Community’.
Since the LIBS start-up event last year, you and the team have been busy — what key milestones have you achieved?
There has been a phenomenal amount going on since we last spoke, we have increased the number of people working in the business from just Ray and myself to over twelve team members (half of which we have hired since Covid-19, meaning we have never physically met in person!). None of this would have been possible had we not closed our funding round in February 2020, raising just shy of £1.8m in funding from investors, including prominent Irish businessman Pat McCann (Founder and CEO of Dalata Hotel Group). Our furniture retail partners have grown significantly to over 100, with over 50 inbound enquiries alone since Covid-19. Our most exciting development is we have branded to ufurnish.com!
We’re living in challenging times in the wake of coronavirus, and headlines portray a ‘doom and gloom’ scenario. There are however businesses thriving. Do you see this crisis as a growth opportunity for ufurnish.com?
According to ONS data, online sales have increased from 20% to 35% of total retail sales since Covid-19. This is undoubtedly a huge opportunity for any business involved in the online space including ufurnish.com. As people spend more time in their home, they are more focused on creating a sanctuary for them to enjoy. We have seen a huge increase in online sales on the ufurnish.com website since Covid-19, which reflects this trend. Sales in June were up 55% from our previous record-breaking sales month of May.
You were working in banking prior to setting up your own business. How difficult a decision was it to leave a stable, corporate day job and set up a new venture?
It was very tough to build up the courage to leave a very well-paid job when I had worked so hard to get to the level I was working at as a Vice President on the Leveraged & Acquisition Finance team at HSBC. While I had a great team and enjoyed my job, I was already running my own client portfolio and originating my own deals, including left lead bond roles. I think my success in banking helped me to leave as I realised I would be required to continue originating new deals but I had already proven I could do this and I wanted a new challenge. My motivation for leaving however was my belief in the business idea and knowing I would always regret not trying to give it a go.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of starting their own business and what are the key pitfalls to avoid?
Research, research, research — do your homework at the start. Meet people within the industry to get their view, listen to the critics (they are not always right but their viewpoint is the most important as not everyone wants to tell you to your face your idea might not work). By not making assumptions but getting data and evidence to re-enforce your business idea, you can proceed with more confidence in the idea and hopefully reduce the need to pivot in the future.
You have lived in London for a number of years, how important has the Irish diaspora and networks such as LIBS been in your career to date and also, from a personal perspective in maintaining your sense of Irishness when living abroad?
I always love attending LIBS events. I joined the network when I first moved to the UK and I loved walking into a room full of Irish accents, it always made me feel at home. I cannot praise the Irish diaspora enough since starting ufurnish.com, they are beyond helpful in making suggestions, sharing their opinions, giving me their time and introducing me to their network. It was at a LIBS event back in 2017 at the Andaz Hotel that I first met Pat McCann, little did I think then, that I would be the founder of my own business and have Pat as a lead investor.
What’s next for ufurnish.com?
Post the launch of the new platform, we are focused on growing brand awareness of our innovative solution. By connecting people with amazing furniture from over 100 retailers, we are really excited that everyone can search, discover, compare and shop for their home all in one place. We want the whole of the UK to become aware of our ability to help them furnish their home, in their style and specifications, and within their budget.
If you want to get in touch with Deirdre, connect with her on LinkedIn or email LIBS on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to introduce you.