Greg Hayes

Totally and like Where we are here in in New York, my wife and I live in a small apartment in Manhattan and like we’ve kind of been victims of not having room for additional furniture. And so we’ve got one Branch ergonomic chair in our apartment and, and so my wife typically takes that and I’m typically the one on the couch or working from bed. And so I, I literally feel the pain. And then really the other thing that we’re seeing, we’re starting to see more and more of as people start to realize that they’re not, they’re probably not going back to the office in the traditional sense for the next, at least six months, maybe even year, we’re starting to see a lot of sales of desks, specifically standing desks. And again, this is not just us, this is a macro trend. It’s kind of a tailwind in the office furniture industry, for those who can kind of figure out how to get it to people’s homes and apartments. And so what it’s done is it’s probably at least doubled the size of the market for work from home furniture, which was still, you know, three or $4 billion a year market going into this. But now that’s probably closer to a $10 billion a year market. So it’s been an interesting shift. But yeah, to your question about the future of work, I’m sure you’ve read the commentary that’s out there about the end of the office building and starting to convert all of these office towers to, to residential buildings, and we’re just not really seeing that. Two things are happening. One, there hasn’t necessarily been the flight from cities that I think most people expected, I certainly expected, some cities have been hit harder than other San Francisco and in New York City have probably seen a little bit more of a flight. But you look at cities like Dallas, in Atlanta, in Houston, and you’ve actually got an increasing population in the cities throughout COVID. So we don’t think that there’s going to be this Exodus to the suburbs. And then the other thing that we’re seeing is leases are starting to be signed, again, for office space. And, and we’re starting to see companies purchase furniture for 612 months from now. They’re making those decisions now knowing that they’re going to be back in the office. So we are going to end up in a world where companies realize that people can work from home and be productive, and they’re gonna allow them to do that few days a week, maybe or a week on week off. And otherwise, you’ll be at home base at the office,

Jeremy Weisz

you’re seeing you know, what, when people are saying it’s the end of the office type of thing, you’re still seeing the trend of people buying on building out, or, you know, starting to plan for going back.

Greg Hayes

Yeah, and it’s really interesting. We, there were a number of companies that we were working with going into this who who obviously put their leases on hold, and now they’re getting back to it, and they’re starting to renegotiate are starting to negotiate the leases again. And so part of what we do is we do the planning of the office space for companies before they purchase the furniture. And we had expected these companies come back and say, okay, change the plans, we’re going to really spread things out. But the approach that they’re taking is, look, the world is going to go back to normal, at some point, we’re signing a five or 10 year lease, we’re not going to outfit the office in a way that works for the next year, and then have an office that doesn’t work well for us for the, you know, the next four or nine years. And so these companies are from what we’re seeing still planning to build that offices just like they had been before. And so they’ll have a they’ll have a different work schedule, they’ll have an alternating day, or alternating leaf work schedule until there’s a vaccine in place. But ultimately, they seem to be planning to go back to kind of business as usual in the office, which is really interesting.

Jeremy Weisz

Because it seemed to be almost better for you in that sense, because all these people have to outfit their homes because they’re gonna have to, you know, work out of their homes, even if they go back to the office.

Greg Hayes

Yeah, it’s been. It’s weird to get a boom to your business from a pandemic. But we certainly had a boom to our business we in we can talk about this a little bit, but we didn’t even have a consumer facing business. before April, we were strictly focused on on enterprise businesses. And now we’ve got two markets to sell it into. And beyond that, now, the average office worker dude needs one ergonomic chair or one desk, historically, now they need to and so in a weird way, the size of the market for what we do has almost doubled overnight.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, I could see it even tripling. Because for me, like if someone has an office and they have a home and they realize I don’t want to work from home, because they can’t get anything done, especially if you have kids they’re running in. So I have a separate office that I got closer to my home outside of the other office. So I have to outfit this office in my home, which I’ll be working more out of so I could see it. Actually, there are three workspaces. I don’t know.

Greg Hayes

We haven’t seen that yet. But there is a lot of talk in the commercial real estate industry right now about satellite suburban satellite offices. And so you may see in places like you know, using New York City as an example, and Places like Connecticut and New Jersey and Long Island, where you historically have pretty high vacancy rates in the commercial buildings there, you may see those vacancy rates really drop in. And these companies that are headquartered in Manhattan, take little satellite offices. And so yeah, you potentially end up in a world where there are three desks and three chairs for every one employee, which is wild.

Jeremy Weisz

How is the shift to direct to consumer? Is it a natural shift? Where they find out from you about you from their company? Like, okay, well, we’re you could This is the company we’re dealing with? or How are you getting in, in front of the consumer?

Greg Hayes

Yeah. So I would say that there was one enormous shift, and then a number of very small iterative shifts that followed it, as we kind of learned what we were supposed to be doing. To be clear, we were we had never intended on being a direct consumer business, we were strictly focus on enterprise business, if anything, we did not want to deal with consumers, when with our traditional business, we would have an order come in from a consumer, it’s 1% of the value of a typical order that we were dealing with. And it takes almost as much effort. And so and then, you know, the pandemic hits, and in our enterprise facing traditional business pretty much goes away. And so we had to shift. And for us, that meant completely changing the way that we did everything, changing the way that our warehouse operates, and how the those employees were trained, changing the way that we ship things, changing the way that we handle things like white glove delivery, changing with the way that we market. And so marketing was really, it went from a very hands on approach where our sales people were in touch directly with businesses, or were developing relationships with architects and with landlords and with commercial real estate brokers, to a world where it was all about, you know, PR, and advertising on Facebook, in Google and finding affiliate opportunities, things that we had spent almost no time or energy on going into this suddenly became very important to our business. So we had to learn very quickly. And that’s where a million little ships came in. And so from the time that we started that process in April, until now, in August, we actually looked like a completely different company, if you would have popped your head in for office in April. And then if you sat in on a zoom meeting today, you wouldn’t even know that you were dealing with the same company. And so we’ve learned a lot, we’ve seen a lot of progress. And it’s been just from like that business case study experience. It’s been a really, really interesting ride for the last six months.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, I could see how the workflow would totally change. You get a call from Google, we need hundreds of desks. It’s just way more efficient to Okay, boom, sent to one location, then you have someone in, you know, wherever New Jersey like I need this one chair.

Greg Hayes

Yeah, totally different workflow. And we had to learn things about consumers like we our business. And part of what we we we did for enterprises to make things easy was you know, there’s, there’s one price and it includes everything, and that includes delivery and assembly and cleanup of everything. And so, you know, we’re entering this direct consumer world. And we’re thinking well, is that what we need to provide to consumer students that what they expect, and very quickly, you learn that they don’t really care, they’ll take the 1015 minutes to put an ergonomic chair together. Because for a consumer, I mean, there used to spending two hours trying to put a dresser together for my IKEA. So 10 minutes to put the chair together isn’t a big deal to them. And we kind of learned these things. As we went some things we learned very quickly, some things took a while to learn. But yeah, it’s been a very interesting experience.

Jeremy Weisz

Did you find from the you know, the chair to the desk? How did you manage that? Is the desk still? Okay? it, you assemble it? Because the very white glove for you, you can send one person to assemble a bunch of desks? How does it work for the consumer for the desk perspective?

Greg Hayes

Yeah, it’s even more. So that is one where there have been a number of iterations. A big problem that we faced early on in the transition was that all of our products were packaged to be shipped in bulk on pallets, arrive at an office and then be assembled by professionals. They weren’t packaged to be dropped in the mail with ups and go through their entire supply chain and then end up at a customer’s house for them to put together. And so we had to repackage everything. It was quite easy for chairs. It was very difficult for desks. And so it was a it was a process of a few months to get our desks in a position where they can do that. And we also had to make changes to the way that we actually manufacture the desks, because there are elements on the desk that require professional put together. And so we started having our factory pre assembled parts of the desk that might be difficult for a consumer to do themselves. And so we’ve just very recently got into a position where we can now ship out desks, they can arrive through ups at a consumers home and in five to 10 minutes. The consumer has a desk up and running and ready to work at.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, and we’ll talk about kind of Your background how you came to this with commercial real estate and Breather too, but, I mean, I remember, you know, it’s just the pain of actually buying furniture. You know, when I went to to get desks for this office, I did so much research. And part of it was, I don’t want to assemble something, so is easy to assemble, and I would have to find someone to hire to assemble it, because I would probably put my computer on it would collapse or something like that, I just I would I’m not the person to assemble something. So I can imagine there’s just a lot of, you know, hard, a lot of research that goes into it. So you provide just talking about some of the stuff that you provide. If someone goes, you know, they can go to Branchfurniture.com And see, but you know, this is stuff you you sought out many manufacturing options. It’s not like, Okay, this is like been a painstaking process in general define the right, right thing. And it’s probably a process to think, figure out which products we want to actually produce.

Greg Hayes

Yeah. And look, I guess, backing up to even finding the factories in the first place. A lot of a lot of there’s a lot of luck involved in the process. So there’s, there’s hard work, and there’s luck. And then in a weird way, naivete played to our advantage. because me and my two co founders, none of the three of us had any background in office furniture, we were coming in completely uninitiated, we had no kind of preconceptions about the right way to do this. And so we just came in from from the perspective of like, if we were starting an office furniture company right now, or if we were a consumer ordering office furniture right now, what would be the biggest annoyances for us to deal with we talked to a lot of people about that a lot of office managers and people that bought furniture, we took all of those things, and then we constructed a process ourselves that would fix those things. And so when you look at our process, from from an enterprise, from the enterprise side of things, not from the direct to consumer side of things, what we wanted to do was provide very high quality furniture that is high design. And so the way to do that is to find really good manufacturing partners, which took a while but we were able to do and then to make the process from choosing your furniture, to having your furniture installed and ready to work at completely seamless, and, and totally affordable. And so that involves a few things that involves one being able to do it very quickly. And so we do that by limiting our excuse having all of our skews on hand stationed in North America. So we have warehouses in, in the United States and in Canada, and, and in the ability to ship those out and have those installed in kind of, like 10 days. The second thing is to make sure that it’s a very easy process for designing an office, historically, you would go out and you get an office designer, and you pay a whole bunch of money and you might get an architect, and we’ve just had like, Look, here’s the price, the price involves your office design, we will take care of that for you. That includes the delivery, it involves the assembly involves the removal of all of the, the debris afterwards, and pretty much everything you need to get it from I need office furniture to people are up and running at our desks and chairs. And so just getting to the last part of your question, how do we figure out what it was that we actually needed? We started with just the basics. So in in early 2019, when we launched the business, it was a very limited lineup. We had an ergonomic chair, we had a standard desk, sit stand desk, and in a filing cabinet and that was it. And so that was almost like a test can we can we brand a business that sells very high quality furniture? And can we get companies to trust us to install that furniture? And can we install it correctly and and so there was a lot of learning involved. We did it well. And then we very very quickly learned what else they cared about. And so with every new customer, every new business that we brought on board, we learned that you know, they needed conference chairs and conference tables and Easter tables and you know, stacking chairs and over time we design new furniture and brought on new manufacturing partners and eventually have reached this point now where we are able to outfit entire offices for large companies and you know we’re we’re doing up to kind of 150 200,000 square feet at a time which a year ago what it seemed like pipe dream.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, so if you go on some of those on Branchfurniture.com you could see the work from home area, the office chair area, the desk area, the storage area, conference area, lounge area, and panels also so there’s different categories.

Greg Hayes

And a year ago that would have been a desk a chair, like here’s your other desk. Yes, it was. It was very, very well that’s

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, I mean you you have to start somewhere you know and what people are probably the most need of So you looked all over the place for manufacturing? All right? Yes, you show up in China. What happens?

Greg Hayes

So Well, a couple of things happen. First of all, we looked everywhere we we initially wanted to manufacturer in North America. So we looked in Canada, we looked in the United States, it just wasn’t going to happen. It the prices that we were targeting to sell the businesses were lower than the prices that would have cost us to manufacture here at the scale that we were at that now we do manufacturing in California, we’re working on some in Canada as well. But initially, so we kind of looked at the whole world. And ultimately, like, China, I heard this line somewhere, China’s the world’s 3d printer, they just had the entire supply chain, and I forget the number now. But it was something like, you know, 89% of the furniture on earth comes out of this one area in China. And so I flew out there, I had hired translator, we had almost no money to work with. So we did this kind of on the cheap. And it was like, I I had bound a bunch of factories that I wanted to go visit, the translator took me around all these factories, they were all terrible. And so ultimately, we went to this trade show where they were terrible. And while we’re at this trade show, the translator mentioned she had forgot to tell me this previously, but she mentioned that one time, government representative from a Middle Eastern country had hired her to be to be a translator, and because he needed to outfit an entire government ministry building with very high end furniture. And so she knew about this factory. And she could take me there and like, okay, let’s let’s go see this factory. And I walked in, and it was just like immediately, okay, this is it. This is incredibly high quality. This is American quality manufacturing. And so we just kind of pretended I just kind of pretended that we were bigger than we were and hammered out a contract with them to get them to start building our designs. And and then kind of a couple of months after that we were in market in New York, knocking on doors, selling furniture, but it was a wild process that when I mentioned earlier, that luck is involved. That’s one of those moments where like, if if my translator doesn’t mention that she had been to this factory one time, five years ago, if you have a different translator, if I have a different translator, then we don’t make the connection with this incredible factory that’s allowing us to produce really high end furniture, you know,

Jeremy Weisz

so well, I want to go back to Sweden in a second. But keep going in this journey. So you now have to sell you just signed this contract. Yeah. And what do you do first?

Greg Hayes

Oh, so it was a mess. We we had no idea what we were doing. So so the first thing we did was we negotiated for a showroom in Manhattan, near near Madison Square Park, which we couldn’t afford. But we were like, oh, how are we gonna sell it? You know, furniture? Sorry? Good.

Jeremy Weisz

We know we’re in New York City. Yeah.

Greg Hayes

So it was like, Well, how are we gonna sell furniture, you know, the average furniture deal is going to be, could be $100,000, we didn’t even know it’s like buying a car, you’re not going to buy a car without going to show we need a show. And so we you know, we take the showroom, we have some samples of our furniture flown in. And we just start reaching out to people like cold reaching out to people reaching out to real estate brokers reaching out to businesses that are growing on LinkedIn. And of course, everyone ignores us. But luckily, a couple of businesses, they come in and they see the furniture and they had been to competitor showrooms in the area and had seen comparable quality furniture that was priced at two to three times the price that ours were was and they were willing to take a risk on us. And so then suddenly, we had a new problem on our hand, which was we had no idea how to actually execute on the operational side of the business. And so suddenly, we’re learning about, you know, having to deal with unions to install furniture in a building and booking freight elevators. And, and the big thing that we didn’t know about was how slow things can be getting from our factories to our warehouse. And so, you know, we ended up in some situations where we had companies telling us companies who we had already signed contracts with telling us that they needed the furniture in three weeks, but the furniture wasn’t going to be in our warehouse for five weeks. And, and, frankly, we got really lucky and we had some construction delays kind of go our way and everything ended up going smoothly. Customers had a good experience. And then they started telling their friends about us and things started to grow organically. But it was I will say in the early days, when we didn’t know how to sell and we didn’t know how to execute on operations. It was touch and go. But you know, there again, there’s some luck that plays into it. There’s a lot of nuances there.

Jeremy Weisz

When you Say freight elevator booking in and you, you know, be like, Okay, give up, it’s just all the little, little things you don’t think about.

Greg Hayes

Yeah, or even things like, you know, you’re you’ve got a delivery schedule to a building. And then the freight partner that you’re working with for the last mile delivery informs you that Oh, actually, we’re not open on Mondays in, everything is scheduled, everything else is scheduled for the Monday. And you know, you’ve got to get into this negotiation, you need to open for this one day. And so just things that, you know, you build a business plan, and you build a financial model, and everything looks like, you know, why is nobody doing this, this is such an enormous opportunity, you know, we’re gonna print all this money, and then you get into it. And it’s like, oh, it’s really, really hard to run a business. But you learn that quickly.

Jeremy Weisz

We’ll talk about starting it, and how did you have the capital and everything like that? But, um, what happened in Sweden?

Greg Hayes

Yeah, so that’s funny. I’m trying to think of where you might have heard that I read that. So I’ll back up even like,

Jeremy Weisz

just talk to your What? No.

Greg Hayes

So back up even a little bit before that I had always wanted to start a business, I knew, I always knew that I would start a business. And so my career had been pretty institutional. For the first five years, I was at a big fund. And then my older brother, who is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, gave me the advice, knowing that I want to start a business that I should go work for a startup and learn what that’s like. So I went to work for a startup here in New York, called Breather. And so my wife, at the time, fiance, girlfriend, and then fiance was was aware that I had these entrepreneurial aspirations. And so in the summer of starting in late 2017, we got engaged and then in the summer of 2018, when I was really getting going with this idea, privately, we were on vacation in Sweden, we were planning a wedding, we had no money. And I broke it to my fiance that I thought that it was time to quit my job and start this business in the furniture industry, which I had no background in at that time, had no co founder for. And, to her credit, she immediately said look like I you’ve always wanted to start a business. I know the timing is not great. But if you’ve got the idea, and if you think it’s solid, like I will make it work, I’ll cover you know, we’ll do what it takes to cover our lifestyle. And so she gave me the thumbs up. And we got back from that trip. And I went in and left my job. And a month later was getting started on this. So yeah, I mean, I have to give her all the credit in the world, she’s been incredibly supportive.

Jeremy Weisz

Talk about you know what you were seeing a Breather, because it didn’t the the idea didn’t come out of completely left field.

Greg Hayes

Totally so so there were kind of two inspirations for this. The first was that before I went to breather, I had actually been interviewing at this private equity fund in New York, where the, the partners in the fund had launched the fund and started fundraising at the beginning of the 2008 2009 recession. And so they couldn’t fundraise. One of them had a background in architecture. And they started a furniture company. And they actually ended up building that into a fairly sizable furniture company that they then just owned and ran on the side. And it’s a multi million dollar business for them. And so that kind of was the first time where a light bulb went off. There’s a lot of money in furniture, I never really, you know, think about it. But then the second thing was that so I went to work at breather. And, and so I was in the Real Estate Group there and breather was was fairly large. By the time I left, where there was 250 employees, it was really growing incredibly quickly. And so we were, by the time I started there, until the time I left, we went from 200, breather spaces to 500 breather spaces. Imagine how much furniture was, was being procured for that. And so there was an entire design and procurement team. It was just like, interesting to see, you know, they wanted to work with Herman Miller, and they wanted to work with Nolan Steelcase and and Kimball on these really incredible brands. But the price point just didn’t make sense. Like you couldn’t underwrite the spaces if you were paying full price for this furniture. And so they were buying furniture from sometimes IKEA furniture off of Amazon wayfair and ultimately started producing your own furniture overseas. And I just could not believe how difficult it was to get high quality office furniture at an affordable price. And then the other thing that I hadn’t understood before was that it takes 234 months from the time that you place a furniture order with these big brands until the time that it actually has arrived and installed in your space. And so to me, I was like, you know, this is probably like, whatever 510 billion dollar a year industry and then I you know did some research and it was a 40 $45 billion a year industry in the United States. And is just like this is there’s too much opportunity here not to go after. And so yeah, breather was a real inspiration, just seeing these really talented people who had all these connections in the procurement world, were still unable to find a good solution for furniture.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah. And so, and you’re also in commercial real estate, that also, you know, plays a role too. Right?

Greg Hayes

Yeah. Well, that one’s interesting, because so I had spent the first five years my career in traditional fund commercial real estate. And that was just more of an interesting were, the portfolio that I was managing was, it was quite a high end portfolio. And so you had a lot of hedge funds and banks, and, you know, law firms, companies like that moving into the portfolio, and you’d have conversations with these companies, and you’d find out that they were paying, you know, they’re paying 70, or $80, a square foot for for the real estate, and then they’re paying this additional, you know, 50 to $60, a square foot up front, just for their office furniture, and, and I just could not believe that they’re paying that much money just for the stuff that people were sitting in. And even I found out, toward the end of my time at the fun that the chair that I had been sitting in every day, which I’d never thought twice about was nearly a $2,000. Chair, you know, it’s like, it’s like a used Hyundai. And and I didn’t think twice about it. And so that was very much like, wow, office, office furniture is a completely different beast than residential furniture, residential furniture, I can go to IKEA, or I can go on Amazon, and I can get something decent, that’s gonna last for a while office furniture, if I want something good, I’m paying thousands and thousands of dollars for that thing. And so that was the first very first little inkling that there might be something there. But I wouldn’t say that that an idea took hold, then. Yeah. So you and your wife

Jeremy Weisz

Greg, have this conversation or at the time fiance. And funding wise, do you go to your brother and go, Hey, brother, I need because I mean, you’re talking about real physical goods that, you know, you need to produce this isn’t I mean, although if you’re producing software, you still need talent in and work. But these are, you know, this is physical stuff.

Greg Hayes

Yeah. So, uh, No, I did not go to my brother, my brother has been an incredible intellectual support, emotional support. He just kind of always knows what to do. But I did not want to be the guy who went and asked his successful brother for money to start his thing. So no, didn’t do that. So me and my co founders, we, we started kind of knocking on the doors of the who’s who of New York City, pre early stage angel investors. And as you know, you hear the story from from kind of everyone who’s at that stage, it’s very rare that you have an idea that people are just like, that’s a $10 million idea, I’m going to write you a check at a great valuation. But so you know, we probably talked with a couple of dozen people and everyone kind of been hot, no one wants to be the first check. Everyone wants to hear that someone else’s in. And then ultimately, we ended up on the phone with a guy here in New York City named Atlanta, who is a fairly prolific, very early stage investor. And we we pitched him over the phone, we gave him a terrible pitch. I remember looking at one of my co founder said afterwards, and just saying, like, wow, that was bad. What was bad about it?

Jeremy Weisz

Just

Greg Hayes

it was just one of those days, you just, the words weren’t flowing. We weren’t properly articulating the value proposition. But he saw through that, I guess he got it. And he emailed us the next day. And he said, look, I think I think you’ve got something here. And even if you don’t have something here, I think that the two of you that he had talked to can can figure something else out. So I’m in this is kind of the value that I’m in add, take it or leave it, and we took it. And then once we had that once we had him on board, life got a lot easier. So you know, we had a little bit of friends and family money, but we started to see other people, other angel investors in New York, particularly those with a real estate background who understood the problem, saying, Okay, this is interesting. There’s a big opportunity here, this is a big market. Yeah, we’re in and it was kind of, you know, 25,000 to $50,000. at a time, we even took a $5,000 check from someone who we thought could could be valuable in other ways other than the money. And so yeah, you just kind of like built it up over the course of a few months. We ultimately raised $300,000, from angel investors, and that was what got us off the ground. And with that money, we were able to prove that the product was a great product that we could Sell it, that we could deliver and install it that our customers were really, really happy. And then we took that, you know, call it a three or four month case study. And we went out to the actual venture kind of more traditional venture market for for seed round, and pretty quickly raised just over $2 million from from some traditional VCs. Yeah,

Jeremy Weisz

yeah, because anyone who’s in e commerce as well, the more successful you get, it means you need to buy more inventory. So you always need capital, even if you’re growing a lot even more so

Greg Hayes

right? It’s true. It’s true. We have been. So you know, I don’t know if you’ve read s. But this, this is one of my favorite

Jeremy Weisz

books. I love that book. It’s it’s entrepreneurial therapy.

Greg Hayes

It is it is it is kind of Phil Knight’s big issue. He kept running into he couldn’t buy more inventory, because he was growing too quickly. And the bank didn’t trust him. And so I had read that book, in me and Sivan, Verity, my two co founders, we, the three of us all have the exact same attitude to building business, which is, we’re not going to be those founders who go out and we raise a stupid amount of money just because we can, we want to be the founders who raise a responsible amount of money, and we build this business efficiently. And so we have probably sacrificed a little bit of pace of growth, I mean, we’ve still had a very healthy pace of growth, but we probably sacrificed a little bit of that. And we’ve we’ve been very focused on early profitability, on running the business efficiently, on not over hiring, stretching ourselves and in our team, until we really need to add another person. And so just like adding all of those things up, we’ve we’ve left ourselves in a position where we’ve always had money to fund our inventory requirements. And also like, we’re operating in an industry that has enormous margins. And so we’re saving our clients a lot of money by by cutting into those margins. But there’s still a healthy margin left for us at the end of the day to reinvest back into the business. And so again, like, you know, all these things that you don’t know going into it, but sometimes playing your favorite sometimes down, the nature of the furniture industry has played into our favor a little bit in that sense, as much as it’s expensive to to build our inventory. You know, as long as we can continue to sell it at the pace that we are, we’re likely in pretty good shape.

Jeremy Weisz

Greg was a point where you were especially not we’ve made it but we’ve got one of those customers that you’re like, wow. Now we’re at a point like we’re attracting these caliber of clients.

Greg Hayes

And that’s not yet I never, I never feel comfortable. And so there is there was one earlier this year where it was the first time we had the first time we had kind of like a approaching a million dollar single transaction. And, and so with that deal, there was a sense in the company of like, Okay, this is this was the hump that we needed to get over in order to attract more companies like this. But I never felt that way. Like even when we did that deal. It was like, okay, that’s done now, what’s next? And so I don’t think it’s possible for me to say that, you know, we’ve had that. Yeah, I don’t know if I’ll ever think that we got there.

Jeremy Weisz

I figured maybe like, oh, even if Google bought one office chair, it’s like just someone from Google. Get getting in the door.

Greg Hayes

Yeah, the cool thing with Google has been with the work from home stuff, where we, we actually found out that some Google employees, when when Google announced their their policy, they had a list internally of companies that Google Google verified that their, their employees should buy from or could could buy from safely. And a number of Google employees had actually suggested that we’d be on that list. And so we were reached out to by Google’s internal I don’t know if it was their procurement team. And they said, Look, we’ve been hearing about you, kind of give us your pitch. And we, we’d love to add you to the list. And so we exchanged a few emails with them. And next thing we knew they were emailing Google employees about buying furniture from us on Google’s dime. So that was pretty great. It was it was just like a real vote of confidence for us.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, totally. How did you meet your co founders?

Greg Hayes

That is a great question. So So Sib, I met through. So there’s kind of a funny thing that happened. I had an original co founder in the business, a guy named Aashay, he had been my intern when I was at breather, incredibly talented guy. He’s actually a VC now, but he was still in school. He was at Harvard. And so we’re working on that. business and he just like couldn’t do focused on school and he just like couldn’t do it. And so he actually said to me, like, Look, I need to be focused on my academics. I can’t put the time that’s required into this right now. But I know a guy who I think would be a perfect replacement for me, you should talk to Sid. And so he introduced me to Sid Civ, and I went out for a beer. And then we went for another beer, and we got to know each other, I think that’s like, the best way to, you know, go out and talk to someone and just like in a casual setting, learn what they’re like. And we were just like, like, super lined on the way that we thought about culture and building business and, and he’s an incredibly smart guy. And so simplest, first and then very quickly after that. So my wife’s one of her best friends was doing her MBA at Columbia, and my wife had been over at her place, telling her about this business that I was being stupid and quitting my job to start, and the friend’s roommate. I’m Canadian, the friend’s roommate is actually also Canadian, also from Toronto. And she was kind of interested in listening in on the conversation, she was just finishing up her MBA at Columbia. And she ended up reaching out to me and she said, look like I’ve been working for these big finance departments. My whole life, the rest of my life looks like I’m going to be kind of in a suit every day. I don’t want to do that. Can I can I come work with you for a few weeks just to see what it’s like to work at a startup. He literally just wanted to like, for free for a few weeks, see what it was like to work at it. And I’m talking about like a week old startup. And so she did. And after like two weeks, and I just looked at each other. We’re like, She’s so good. We need her to be part of this team. And so we had the conversation with her. And she ended up deciding that she was going to sacrifice the crazy job offers that she was getting from the biggest big firms in New York City and come join us and take no salary. And so so yeah, it was I again, luck. Luck is a crazy part of this story. But very lucky to me both Sib and Verity.

Jeremy Weisz

You said, you know, Greg, she’s so good. What did you see in that short period of time.

Greg Hayes

Um, it’s so it’s so hard to remember exactly what it was now, because what she has done for us since is built out our entire operations, the operations side of business, like she has built that from scratch. But at the time, we actually, she actually wasn’t doing that she was actually working on on finance and industry research and some of these kind of like more traditional ibanking type skills, and was just bringing in like, really impressive, like, really impressive material. Everything that she did seemed like everything that she did, the output of it was super high quality. And so it was just like, and she’s just like, you know, like Sib she was just a natural leader. And it just felt like three of us work well together. So yeah, yeah, it felt natural.

Jeremy Weisz

Greg, first of all, thank you. I’ve two last questions. I want to encourage people to go to Branchfurniture.com check out what they have. There. They have some really, you know, not only you know, it’s nice looking but very affordable, as Greg said. Greg, so two last questions. One, I always like to ask some of the challenge points from the low points. One that sticks out. And then the flip side, outside of obviously, that that big deal that you got at the time that we were proud of a proud moment. What’s been a challenge point, low point.

Greg Hayes

So the ultimate low point for me was Thanksgiving of 2018. We had raised basically no money. We had committed to this shipment coming in of our first run of inventory from a factory. We had just signed our first customer who, which was a fairly substantial at the time seemed like a fairly substantial deal. And over Thanksgiving weekend, we found out that there was going to be a delay on production of our of our inventory run. And so I was coming out of that weekend was going to have to tell our only customer that we we couldn’t service them anymore. I thought that I knew what stress was for my career. You don’t you don’t know what stresses until you’re in a situation where you’ve left your job and you’re a month and a half into starting a company and you’re already about to fail and in their mind that convinced two other people that they should not move forward with their careers to join you. And something that is now going to be a failure. And so I had an actual physical manifestation of that stress I, I couldn’t move my neck for about a week I was, you know, I couldn’t even drive stuff like this. So that was, to me the low point. And look, there have been stressful moments since but you kind of learn to compartmentalize them and deal with them. And, and, and frankly, you just have to take an attitude of, of, I’m going to figure this out, there’s no option but to fix this and figure this out. And that’s actually what we ended up doing. With that situation, we were able to find another shipping company who could get it from the factory earlier, we shifted to the west coast instead of into the Port of New York shifted to LA put it on a train from LA to New Jersey, and we got it there in time. So you know, you just kind of figure these things out. And then sorry, was the second part of the question.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah. So that’s Yeah, that’s amazing. I remember I had one of the founders of yes to Yes to Carrots. And I think they got a got a order from Walgreens or something. And they couldn’t ship it. So they paid to put it on a plane or something that they were they lost money on it. But they just figured out a way to get it,

Greg Hayes

you know, do all sorts of crazy stuff. One of another one of our first customers was in Chicago. And so we had hired a, we didn’t have our logistics figured out yet. We had hired a local company in Chicago to install stuff. And I was actually on a trip fundraising. And I was about to walk into a VCs office and my phone rings, and it’s this assembly guy, and he’s like, can’t figure out how to put all this furniture, we can’t figure out how to put all this furniture together for this company. And so he FaceTime me, and he facetimes me and I see that the warehouse had sent them all of the wrong stuff. And so I walked into the meeting pitch to DC, went straight to the airport, hopped on a flight to New York, rented a car, went to our warehouse, packed up all of the right stuff that we needed into a series of hockey bags and things like that, drove to the airport, bought a ticket in a in the ability to travel with freight to Chicago, and didn’t sleep, arrived at 6am at the building and was in there assembling the stuff myself. And then of course, the CEO of the company walks in, and he is like, Who are you? And I kind of explained the situation to him. And he was like, Do you happen to be raising money right now? And I was like, Yeah, actually we are. And he was like, I will write you a check right now. Wow. If you are willing to take this, if you’re willing to do this to make it right. Like this is a company that I want to be a part of. So you know, you just there are a million stories like that, from the early days, that we don’t knock on wood we don’t experience anymore, but like, it’s just part of the that’s part of the journey, I think. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz

Thanks for sharing that. That’s amazing. Um, my No, the question, the last question was just a proud moment for you in this journey.

Greg Hayes

Yeah. Okay. So for me, it’s all about the team and the culture that we built here. You know, you hear all these crazy stories about startups and toxic cultures and things like that. And so, I mean, the, the proudest moments, I would say, are not about are not about like, specific business success or specific deal that we’ve done. It’s things like when the pandemic it, and we lost almost all of our enterprise business, and it looked like, you know, if we can’t figure this out, it could be lights out, like it has been for a lot of businesses. And the team just said, you know, what we’re gonna get through this. We, we had a big two hour meeting we talked through, we were really transparent with the team, we said, you know, this is the situation, those are the financial situation. This is what’s happened to our pipeline, we think that we can save the business by doing this transition to direct consumer. We have no idea how to do that. But we’re all going to work together and we’re going to get it done. And every single person on the team was like, we’re gonna get it done. And through the back half of march into late April, early May, everyone worked seven days a week, no one complained. No one asked for more money or time off or anything, everyone just said, like, we’re gonna get this done. We’re gonna make it work. And we did. And so that is easily just seeing the team work like that is the thing that I’m the most proud of.

Jeremy Weisz

Greg, I want to be the first one to thank you everyone, check out Branchfurniture.com. And thank you.

Greg Hayes

Thank you, Jeremy.