A Q&A with Chairish co-founder and president Eric Grosse. The San Francisco-based startup, which is a person-to-person marketplace for ‘gently used’ home décor, completed a $3.2 million Seed funding round in mid-July from Azure Capital Partners and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures. It was founded in late 2012 by former Levi Strauss & Co. VP of Worldwide Marketing Anna Brockway and serial entrepreneur Gregg Brockway.
SUB: Please describe Chairish and your primary innovation.
Grosse: At Chairish, our mission is to make decorating and redecorating fun, affordable, and easy as pie. Chairish is 100 percent focused on making it easy for folks to buy and sell gently used, amazing decor at a great price.
Chairish is a person-to-person marketplace for real people to sell to real people. This means all items are offered at estate sale prices, and Chairish allows buyers to make offers. Local pick up is also an option.
We also do the weeding for you. Our curators approve every item before it is posted on Chairish. This means that Chairish’s shelves are chock full of important items from schmancy designers like Christian Liaigre and Barbara Barry, as well as great vintage treasures from all eras and styles. What you won’t find are creaky old futons or trashed IKEA stuff.
We can also pick-up and store your items until they sell, and manage the photography for you. Chairish verifies all offers to make sure they are legit, plus Chairish handles payment and orchestrates delivery. Chairish also uniquely offers buyers the option of returning an item.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Grosse: In a sentence? Anyone who appreciates pre-loved designer furniture and accessories. It’s a great resource for people when they are moving and want to sell their unwanted designer wares or find new ones. It’s also a great resource for designers to sell their pieces. The best thing about being online is that our customer isn’t restricted by location either—Chairish gives them the ability to buy and sell on a national scale.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Grosse: No one is really doing what we are doing in the online resale furniture space, which is so exciting. There are sites where you can buy and sell furniture, such as Craigslist and eBay, but they are not targeting the audience that would be interested in buying these pieces, so you might not get what you want for them.
SUB: What differentiates Chairish from the competition?
Grosse: Well, the Chairish site is heavily curated for one, meaning that nothing is listed or sold that we don’t look at carefully and think is a great piece. We offer the highest levels of service in the business, including storage, shipping, offer verification, payment management and return, and Chairish takes the lowest commission rates so the seller makes the most money. We also understand that sometimes you change your mind—and that’s ok—so we allow sellers the option of returning their item if it doesn’t work out.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Grosse: The company was founded in November, 2012, and we launched in February, 2013. As part of establishing ourselves, we sent out a press release to let everyone know Chairish had arrived. We then began meeting with designers to introduce ourselves, as well as reporters across the country to spread the word about Chairish.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Chairish? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Grosse: Chairish started as an idea when two of our co-founders—Chief Curator Anna Brockway and Chairman Gregg Brockway—had four kids in three years, precipitating a series of moves to accommodate their growing family. During each move, they faced the same, simple problem: how could they sell their beautiful, stylish, and well-made furnishings that they still loved, but that just didn’t fit into their new home?
They quickly discovered the problem wasn’t unique. Job changes, moves, renovations and style overhauls all conspired to create loads of great furniture that needed a new home. But there was no easy way for real people to sell their furniture and decor to each other.
On the flip side, they knew there were many design lovers who loved to shop vintage and would be thrilled to buy gently loved pieces at direct-from-the-owner prices.
So, Chairish was born to provide a person-to-person marketplace for gently used and truly stylish home furnishings and decor. Chairish is full service, so it’s super easy to buy and sell; we help with the photography, verify offers, manage payments, and delivery. Chairish can even store items until they sell—available in select markets.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Grosse: The name was the brainchild of Anna Brockway. She and her husband Gregg put so much love and time into decorating their house, picking the perfect furniture and accessories for every room, that when it came time to part with any of it, they wanted the items to go to someone who would love and cherish them. One day the word ‘Chairish’ popped into Anna’s head, and we know it represented everything we were trying to achieve.
SUB: You recently closed a $3.2 million Seed funding round. Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Grosse: We’ve only been active for a brief time, but Chairish already has a great customer base. Seeing customers take such an interest in our site and the products we sell, we knew Chairish would be a success. This drove our desire to expand and to seek funding.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Grosse: Our mission is to help make the world more beautiful, one room at a time, while helping people save money in the process. This capital will help us create an even more delightful experience, expand seller services, and reach more design-loving consumers nationwide. In fact, we recently refreshed our logo and website, and will be expanding our ‘Concierge’ and ‘Concierge Plus’ services.
SUB: Do you have plans to seek additional outside funding in the near future?
Grosse: Yes. Sellers and buyers have flocked to us since launch. Chairish is growing rapidly, and the team has lots of investment ideas to further establish Chairish as the first and best online consignment marketplace for quality pre-owned furniture and décor.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Grosse: Starting a company from scratch is never easy. Challenges include developing a world-class team, attracting top-notch inventory, building an audience of design lovers, and providing our shoppers with a beautiful online experience that helps them build the home of their dreams at affordable price points. Thankfully, we have an experienced team of successful entrepreneurs dedicated to addressing these challenges and anything else that comes our way, and we’re very encouraged by the progress we’ve made to date.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Grosse: We generate revenue by keeping a portion of every sale we facilitate. Sellers keep 80 percent of the sale price of items sold on Chairish.com, with Chairish receiving the remaining 20 percent. Since ‘Concierge’ and ‘Concierge Plus’ services come with so many benefits, we receive up to 50 percent commission.
SUB: What are your goals for Chairish over the next year or so?
Grosse: We plan to expand our ‘Concierge’ and ‘Concierge Plus’ services to new markets, while further expanding our assortment of incredible pieces.
Chairish – www.chairish.com