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INNOVATORS VS COVID 19

Meet the Lloyds Entrepreneur of the Year, Founder of the UK’s First Search and Discovery Website for the £25.5bn Home Furniture Market 

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Deidre Mc Gettrick ufurnish.com

We talked to Deidre Mc Gettrick, CEO & Founder of ufurnish.com, a furniture and furnishings website that’s revolutionizing the way we search and compare products for our home. Here is what he said about it.

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Deidre Mc Gettrick: We are doing well, thank you. I live in London with my husband Ray, who is also my business partner and Chief Revenue Officer of ufurnish.com. With Ray being from Australia and me from Ireland, neither of us has seen our family in recent months. We are hoping to get home once restrictions are lifted as we have a lot of catching up to do! In the meantime, our focus is on developing ufurnish.com, which, as you can appreciate, is keeping us very busy!

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ufurnish.com.

Deidre Mc Gettrick: I learned my love of business and wanting to be my own boss from an early age, as my father owned a general drapery shop in a small village in Ireland. I spent many evenings exploring his customers’ homes or creating mood boards from products I loved in the Argos catalogue, searching coffee tables to cushions to mirrors. The ability to put my love of interiors into practice arose in 2017 when I purchased my first home. Working in London’s investment banking industry on $20bn+ financing deals for FTSE 100 corporates, the last thing I wanted to do after a busy working day was to start the frustrating process of trawling websites to find the right furniture – I realized there was a problem to be solved. I left the world of banking living off my savings, excited to make my mark as a female CEO in a male-dominated tech industry (77%). 

How does ufurnish.com innovate? 

Deidre Mc Gettrick: Our mission to help people search, discover, compare, and shop the perfect items for their home means we are obsessed with how well our website does that. Our technology roadmap is extensive, and we are constantly refining our thinking – we look at our data, listen closely to our team members and our Super User Group – and we constantly look to other search engines/marketplace products to inspire and challenge us to aim higher for our users and retail partners. How we ingest and process data from our retail partners and use it to best serve the right products to our consumers is complex, and we are building proprietary tools to manage this. We also want to ‘inspire’ and help our consumer create their dream home. There are several upcoming product launches this year that do exactly that.

How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?

Deidre Mc Gettrick: I set up ufurnish.com after raising £1.8m in seed investment in January 2020. I think I was fortunate with my timing on closing my seed investment round as just a few weeks the landscape would have been much tougher! I used the investment to hire a team of 16 people, build a proprietary technology search engine, signed 130+ retail partners including John LewisMade.comMarks & SpencerAbigail Ahern and many others – and started to build out a scalable marketing program. So it’s been a busy year, and all the while, the impact of Covid has made accessing customers online more important than ever for retailers, and those customers are shopping for more home furniture products as they spend more times in their homes and have more disposable income from those untaken holidays, meals out and travel costs. As a result, website traffic is doubling month on month, and we have also seen account sign-ups increase over 500% since January. 

One downside of the pandemic was that we leased our first office in London on 1st March 2020, which in hindsight, wasn’t the best timing as we moved to working from home just 2 weeks later. The business adapted by moving to a ‘distributed working model’, whereby everyone works remotely from their own home, meaning we no longer have any office overheads yet feel ever more connected via technology than we would have expected… Of the 16 team members, I am still to meet a number of them in person, so zoom interviews and introductions have become the norm!

Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?

Deidre Mc Gettrick: Not really – finding the right people, onboarding them well and setting them up to succeed is where I have invested a lot of my time and energy. It’s important to have people who share your passion and drive and truly believe in your vision. In a startup, the impact everyone has on growth is significant every day – and as such, my team are critical to our success. 

How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient? 

Deidre Mc Gettrick: Our mission is to help everyone create their dream home, and we are confident we can make this a much simpler and more enjoyable experience. Understanding our customer is critical in our decisions, and listening to them about what makes their experience a delight is our focus. We know consumers want to be inspired and discover new retailers and products. They want to have the maximum choice but the ability to curate it to their needs, not what we define as the right selection of products for them. That is where our category filters play a key part and will be continually refined as we learn more about our consumer’s needs. We also offer the ability to favourite products and, over the next few months, will launch some new exciting developments that further help our consumers make the right decision for them and their home. Ultimately, we want to make it simple for everyone to search, discover, compare and buy the perfect item for their home. So we are continually looking at the onsite journey for opportunities to refine it, which will be an ongoing focus. We constantly communicate with our customers and use Mailchimp as our email platform and all the social media platforms to keep them updated on the latest products, trends and offers in the market.

Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?

Deidre Mc Gettrick: Our business is fully funded by our angel investors, and we recently closed an advanced subscription round ahead of our Series A raise. We have experienced rapid growth since launch in July 2020 and, as such, feel very fortunate to have been solving a real consumer problem in the furniture and furnishing category when the demand online has been so high, and we anticipate it will remain so.

Your final thoughts?

Deidre Mc Gettrick: I am fortunate to have hired such a talented team who share the same passion and drive I do to make a difference to our consumers, retailer partners and build a successful, scalable business. Our investors have been incredibly supportive, and we have a clear vision and innovation roadmap – we have huge ambition and are all really excited about the opportunity ahead.

Your website?

www.ufurnish.com/en-gb

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