Odenigbo Grant ’19 Winning Entry: Spaces & Surfaces

The following essay by Ebuka Igbokwe won the N150,000 grant money in November of 2019

BUSINESS IDEA PRESENTATION

OVERVIEW

Spaces and Surfaces, a young furniture business built on an old family tradition, is seeking funds to boost itself into success. Navigating changing styles, a tough local economy and an evolving marketplace

, we choose to go social, go adaptable, and go stylish. We hope to take advantage of the prime sales opportunity the Ember months present to position ourselves better in the market and make sales and vital business connections.

BACKGROUND

Spaces & Surfaces is a second-generation offshoot of a 43-year old furniture family tradition. The parent company, Sambros Furniture Company, was established by my father in 1975, and had been known for quality furniture and for pushing the envelope in design. With my father in retirement, my brother and I will be building on the family tradition while taking the new business in a fresh direction.

The furniture industry has changed drastically in 40 years and for our company to thrive, we must adapt to the new environment. For that, we have taken a direction that considers modern realities and sensibilities. Our defining traits are affordability, resourcefulness and being stylish. We target young, urban professionals with a sense of style and personality and the upper middle class homeowner with a sense of sophistication who has a sense of adventure and self-expression in decoration.

The business is run by brothers, Ebenezer and Ebuka Igbokwe. While Ebenezer runs the manufacturing and artisanal aspect of the business, Ebuka handles brand image, advertising and other managerial tasks.

MARKET ASSESSMENT

Changing Styles

An evolving sense of style marks current interior design trends. Like on the social scene, the friction between new and old is creating novel implications in design. Factors such as the meeting of cultures (social media and the universality of pop culture is introducing global styles and perspectives into local tastes); considerations of space (apartments nowadays are generally smaller and explore novelties in dimensions different from older buildings) and materials for design (curtains are going out, blinds are coming in, and engineered wood is taking the place of timber as staple in wood furniture).

Tough Economy

The current economic crunch has impacted the market in significant ways. Because homeowners have less disposable income available for decoration, they must be more calculated in making design choices. A lot of furniture makers have responded to this by making shoddy products to cut down on cost, thereby undermining consumer trust. Also, Chinese imports, relatively cheaper than other imports, but more expensive than its local counterparts, is another option available to wealthier customers, but these often lacks durability when compared to well-made local pieces.

Evolving Marketplace

Most contracts come through referrals, direct advertising or active marketing. In the past, a showroom in a strategic location was the preferred mode of adverting. However, social media has provided a much affordable and versatile alternative, if used well. Direct marketing is almost indispensable when angling for building site contracts, one of the most lucrative opportunities in the market, and its effectiveness is increased by attractive brand presentation (using print and social media).

BRAND STRATEGY

HOW WE STAND

Challenge

Given our father’s retirement, the furniture business had only maintained minimal activity. Only since last year, when we began Spaces and Surfaces, did a resurgence occur. As it is, we lack the resources to give it the oomph it needs to attain profitability and a competitive place in the local furniture market.

Assets:

An operational workshop. Reputation borne from association with an established name. Expertise and experience linked to the family tradition. Graphic design know-how (vital in crafting a visual brand expression that captures attention and makes us unique). Furniture making materials such as wood, fabric, etc. Energy, drive and creativity.

Achievements:

In our second year, we have handled two sites jobs (making and installing doors and building cabinets and furnishing the home furniture) and several individual jobs, which include making a collapsible sofa, beds, wardrobes and sets of chairs.

PLAN

We will create a strong brand identity, comprising a unifying visual theme and a recognizable voice. This will set us apart from the pack and, combined with a vibrant social media presence (platform of choice is Instagram), will increase both visibility and appeal. Our branding goal is to establish ourselves as, beyond just a furniture provider, an interior design partner. Not exactly BHG standards, but enough to help a customer create a personalized, stylish and harmonious space that fits their needs and space requirements, and is attractive, too.

We use production techniques that maximize the use of resources without sacrificing quality, by incorporating recycled materials in furniture and utilizing materials in an efficient manner, and will eliminate the need of having a physical showroom by investing in an online one. We incorporate non-traditional materials or materials in a different way to create not minimizing cost, but also making distinctive products.

We will create build a few furniture pieces that serve to advertise our distinctive style and unique outlook, and thus capture the attention of our desired audience.

The Ember months (September to December) comprise a period of high volume sales for most businesses, furniture included, and we want to seize this opportunity to boost our profile, reputation and visibility. We will roll out a targeted and energetic social media campaign, including a 20-day a project a day challenge, where we would attempt to complete a furniture project within a day and put it up for a discount sale. This should present us as driven, determined and capable, and will likely bring us customers who will buy our products, or clients who will contract us for fresh jobs.

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