Fast fashion has redefined the apparel market and now it has spilled over to the furniture industry. The Inside has reimagined how we do home décor and introduces a line of made-to-order unique furniture shipped directly to your home. So whether you’re a minimalist, a maximalist, a traditionalist, or an anything in between, The Inside has you covered with hundreds of design possibilities that you can get in less than two weeks.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and founder Christiane Lemieux about the startup and how it plans to change the home décor landscape.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We are announcing $1.5M in Seed funding from Forerunner Ventures, the leading commerce and retail venture capital fund that recently exited Dollar Shave Club to Unilever, Jet.com to Walmart, and Bonobos to Walmart.
The Inside is a direct-to-consumer home decor brand creating furniture with personality. All of our products are custom made to order in 6-14 days with hundreds of exclusive and unique designs for inspiring unlimited style possibilities.
What inspired you to start the company?
I founded The Inside this year to re-imagine the home furnishing experience. After starting my first company DwellStudio and spending years in the design industry, I saw an opportunity to leverage technology as a way to really change the way furniture was bought and experienced. The problem with traditional supply chain is that it’s filled with cost-efficient imports that inundate the market, making furniture shopping bland and impersonal. At The Inside, we have created a capital-efficient approach to furniture retail using a made-to-order, zero inventory model. Each piece is custom made in our U.S. factory. We take advantage of technology in a way that changes the design and development cycle completely.
With our Chief Operating Officer Britt Caputo, an entrepreneur, design enthusiast, early employee at One Kings Lane (working in merchandising and analytics) and founder of Hamlet (an ecommerce messaging platform), The Inside was born.
How is it different?
The Inside is different because we offer convenience, accessibility and attainable prices to bring fast design and “of the moment trend” to the furniture category. We wanted to offer something completely different from other home decor brands out there – to give consumers something that’s fashion forward, and that ultimately speaks to each of their individual style preferences. Right now, we’re launching with over 800 SKUs along with exclusive capsule collections from renowned designers like Clare V. and Peter Som in addition to our own core collection, and with more design collaborations in the pipeline. Because of our unique supply chain and back end development, The Inside is offering unlimited design possibilities at amazing price points with furniture that ships right to your door in only two weeks or less.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
The Inside caters to the unique and individual style preferences of today’s consumers who crave style, exclusivity, and adaptability. We’ve noticed a paradigm shift that’s especially prevalent within the millennial age group (but certainly not limited to) around more and more individuals who want to live transient and urban lifestyles. With The Inside, we wanted to make sure we were creating an experience that reflected this cultural shift by offering hundreds of designs, exclusive capsule collections and a made-to-order model with quick shipping and easy assembly. We are turning “social media inspo” into a reality with signature assortments of stylish and eclectic furniture purposefully curated to bring all of the most Instagram-worthy Pinterest boards to life.
What’s your business model?
The Inside has a zero inventory model, which allows us to offer unique designs at attainable prices as a solution to the cost-efficient imports that inundate the market. All products are made to order in 6-14 days through virtual manufacturing, a digital design and printing process that uses 3D models to allow for products to be adaptive, collaborative and flexibly priced.
What makes home decor an industry that is poised to benefit from the concepts of fast fashion?
Furniture is an antiquated industry that can create huge pain points for the consumer when it comes to finding the right piece from a limited assortment, delayed shipping/delivery and unreasonable price points, among other things. The Inside aims to change this mindset and bring the concept of fast design to home decor by eradicating pain points like long wait times. We’re also creating furniture that has personality, we want your living space to reflect your “instagram inspo”, and bring lots of fun designs and color to the market, there’s just too much grey and white mid-century modern furniture out there!
What was the funding process like?
The best word to describe this process is “fate.” Funding The Inside was my first experience dealing with venture capital (I used my own funds to bootstrap DwellStudio previously), so I knew that in order for this to work, I had to find the perfect VC partner who understood my vision and what I was trying to achieve from the backend technology and fashion forward design, to the made-to-order, ecommerce experience. I met Kirsten Green at Forerunner Ventures through a mutual connection in December 2016, she ended up funding The Inside in May 2017 and here we are less than a year later launching The Inside. Kirsten’s knowledge of the consumer space and her vision is the reason I took the investment.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Initially, I was not planning to raise capital. There are pros and cons to both the bootstrap route and the VC road. Kirsten is such a value-add that I decided to give it a try. We have a truly unique relationship of seasoned entrepreneur and best-in-class consumer investor. I was speaking shorthand with Kirsten from the first meeting and had a hunch that working with her as the VC would be a force multiplier.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The deciding factors were that we had the unique and proprietary supply chain set up. We had tested the mode with a b2b offering and it was working. This coupled with a unique approach to marketing was what sealed the deal. I also think that it’s helpful (to any investor) to work with an experienced team that has deep knowledge of the space.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’ve got a lot of collaborations in the pipeline planned out for the next six months! We’ll also be introducing a customizable model later this year, where our customers can customize their furniture to their liking with over 800s SKUs to choose from.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
The same thing that I would say to anybody in business – manage your opex very carefully. That is the difference between a make or break and it applies all of the time. I always advise to keep your runway as long and strong as possible.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’ve got a lot planned for the near future! Lots of designers and influencers in the collaboration pipeline (coming out soon). I’ll also be launching my own line “Christiane x The Inside” collection shortly following launch. On top of that, we will be adding new designs weekly.
Where is your favorite fall destination in the city?
With all of the changing leaves, Central Park is easily my favorite fall destination and one of the highlights of living in this amazing city.