“It’s an easier place to start,” says Coghlan, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “If we went straight to direct-to-consumer e-commerce, we wouldn’t have stood a chance. Because we didn’t know what we were doing!”
The Kickstarter campaign raised $45,000—three times the goal—and provided proof of demand.
More importantly, this first set of customers was willing to be patient with the company’s growing pains, of which there were many. “We’re really good at making very complex things, so we said, ‘This is going to be a piece of cake,’” Coghlan says. “But when you have to do it 200 times, efficiently, it’s not a piece of cake. We learned that the hard way.”
Their first $15,000 order of recycled plastic, for example, arrived slightly wider than they had expected. After the team cut hundreds of legs, they discovered the appendages didn’t click snugly into the table top joints. “I had a frickin’ meltdown,” Coghlan says.
They also learned the value of customer feedback. Upon receiving their orders, many customers inserted the legs facing inward rather than outward, resulting in wobbly desks and tables. The Hoek team redesigned the joints so that the proper assembly method was more obvious.
Having worked out the production kinks, the company released its latest line of furniture this year. Now the new challenge is to refine its marketing strategy. “We were doing great sales, and we weren’t really trying very hard. Now it’s way, way, way harder,” Coghlan says.
The main problem? The rising cost of Google and Facebook ads has persuaded the company to shift its marketing strategy. Hoek is now leaning more on social media influencers who can explain the line’s unique features. The company collaborated with a high-profile designer, Shantell Martin, to produce a limited-edition line of furniture and accessories. The move won Hoek a lot of design world press, exposing it to a new audience.
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