We talked to Dapo Kolawole of roomii about the impact of COVID-19 on the second-hand furniture industry.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dapo Kolawole: We’re doing well, thanks for asking. I’m working from home, learning from home, and practicing social distancing, and of course, wearing our masks in public spaces. I would say we’re good. Sheltering in place has allowed us to continue to fine-tune our business model. Nothing in 2020 has been simple or easy, but in the uncertainty of COVID-19, one thing is certain, we need to keep building and adjust to the new reality.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded roomii.
Dapo Kolawole: I spent over 15 years in the commercial furniture industry as a product design engineer working for companies such as Allsteel, Knoll, and Teknion. In 2020, I founded roomii. It came out of the personal need to furnish my home office. Being used to working in and around nice furniture, I wanted to replicate my office workspace in my home workspace, but the cost of new furniture was cost-prohibitive. Enter roomii. It’s an online marketplace that lets you lease out your furniture to people that don’t want to own it.
How does your roomii innovate?
Dapo Kolawole: Roomii creates a peer-to-peer marketplace for premium furniture that people who live a transient lifestyle can get the furniture pieces they need from a unique selection for a short period at an affordable monthly price. And on the flip side, If you own furniture, you can earn a return on investment on your nice furniture by leasing it out instead of negotiating endless sales on other marketplace platforms, contemplating putting it up in storage or worse, doing a roadside sofa drop off! We leverage technology to create demand for furniture pieces listed on our site as well as target motivated furniture owners with furniture listings that have not been sold on other online marketplaces.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dapo Kolawole: We launched roomii, March 2020, and March was when the coronavirus lockdown started. At roomii, we are actively monitoring the COVID-19 crisis. The second-hand furniture industry has been thriving during the Pandemic, but necessary steps need to be taken to protect furniture lessees and lessors.
That being said, in these unprecedented times, our primary goal is the safety of our customers and the communities we serve. With that in mind, we have taken the following steps and now offer free curbside pickup and delivery and furniture cleaning per CDC standards.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dapo Kolawole: Not really. We’re an online platform and not a brick and mortar store. This allows us to scale and continue to move the business forward with no restrictions.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and roomii in the future?
Dapo Kolawole: Stress and anxiety? What’s that? I take it day by day and adjust accordingly. As an entrepreneur, the journey is filled with ups and downs, and the best you can do is have a bearish plan, a bullish plan, and a base plan for yourself and your business. The new reality has opened up opportunities and provided us new ways to innovate. Meaning, the future has tons of possibilities for us.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dapo Kolawole: Our direct and indirect competitors include Letgo, Offer Up, CASSONE, Feather, and Fernish. But what differentiates us? We don’t own any furniture; hence we have zero inventory. Because the furniture is coming from a broad number of owners, lessors have a broad selection to pick from. And finally, furniture lessees can post once across multiple marketplaces.
Do I plan to stay in the game? Absolutely! Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am super passionate about roomii and its value to people who live a transient lifestyle and just need great furniture without the headache of ownership, moving, and cost. It’s a win-win.
Your final thoughts?
Dapo Kolawole: There is no better time to start a business. Opportunities are created every day, and starting and sticking with your business positions you to seize the moment. Keep building!
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