Office furniture is the first thing that people notice when they walk into an office and first impressions are everything in business. It’s probably about time you got rid of that Ikea offering that served the company well when it was in its early days but now is no longer reflective of the business. Bureau helps businesses furnish their offices with its curated and high-quality furniture selection. The direct-to-consumer company manufactures its own modern line at an attractive price point with free delivery, pickup, and assembly. Looking to build a long term relationship with its customers, Bureau offers trade-in credit so that customers are able to adapt their office furniture as their business grows and needs change.
AlleyWatch caught up with the founding team members Greg Hayes, Verity Sylvester, and Sib Mahapatra to discuss all things furniture and how Bureau is changing the office space.
Tell us about the product or service that Bureau offers.
Bureau makes it easy for businesses to furnish office space. We sell a curated set of high-quality furniture—starting with an ergonomic chair, sitting and standing desks, a quad workstation, and a filing cabinet—deliver and assemble for free, and offer free pickup and trade-in credit for used furniture as needs change. You can outfit your team with a desk, chair and filing cabinet from Bureau for the cost of a single chair from a high-end incumbent.
The process of procuring office furniture hasn’t changed in a century. The average office furniture company is 79 years old and falls into one of two categories: high quality, but exorbitantly expensive and slow (Herman Miller, Steelcase), or affordable and fast but low quality with minimal service (IKEA, Office Depot). Most high-end furniture is sold through dealers, which rarely offer transparent prices and mark up furniture by 20-40%.
Bureau manufacturers our own furniture and sells direct online, which lets us charge half the price of Herman Miller while including delivery and assembly, space planning and one-click inventory management. Our standardized inventory helps make us the first office furniture company to offer used furniture trade-in, so you can swap out a conference table for desks as your team grows. We’re the “easy button” for office furniture—a simple, flexible and affordable way for growing companies to furnish their workspace.
What market does Bureau target and how big is it?
Every year, businesses spend $46B on office furniture in the United States. The global market is almost double that size. The top 5 high-end furniture companies each did over a billion dollars of revenue in 2018.
What is the business model?
For the time being, Bureau is focused on the e-commerce opportunity in office furniture—we make money when companies buy our products.
How do you think about lifetime value per customer when office furniture purchases are seldom?
Our typical customer is a 25-75 person business, so our ticket is high for even a single purchase. Because matching existing furniture is an important consideration for facilities managers, and because we offer free pickup of used Bureau furniture and trade-in credit on future purchases with Bureau, we expect to retain many of our customers as they grow their teams, move into larger spaces, and buy more furniture.
What inspired the start of Bureau?
Greg has worked in commercial real estate for nearly a decade, for institutional landlords and startups like Breather, and dealt with the challenge of furnishing office spaces first-hand. Sib made the same observation from the other side of the table while consulting for young startups who resorted to creative methods (strapping IKEA boxes to the rackless top of a rented compact car) to furnish their space.
CEO Greg has worked in commercial real estate for nearly a decade, for institutional landlords and startups like Breather, and dealt with the challenge of furnishing office spaces first-hand. Sib made the same observation from the other side of the table while consulting for young startups who resorted to creative methods (strapping IKEA boxes to the rackless top of a rented compact car) to furnish their space.
Verity brought deep real estate relationships to the table, helping us understand that landlords and companies alike increasingly value flexibility when it comes to office space and furnishings.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
By the fall of 2019, we’ll reach the following milestones:
- Launched our white glove installation service (available now in NYC and Philadelphia, although we deliver throughout the lower 48 plus Ontario) in San Francisco and LA
- Added conference, lounge and reception furniture to our line, and secured best-in-class partners to offer accessories and décor so we can offer a complete furnishing solution
- Launched our asset management web app to help office managers track inventory, request new space plans, and handle maintenance/support/trade-ins in a click
What’s the startup advice you never got?
Everything takes twice as long as you expect, especially when launching an operationally intensive business like ours! Don’t wait for tasks to get done “in order,” be smart about parallel processing across your product and growth strategy to move as fast as possible.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community, who would it be and why?
The CEOs of forward-thinking real estate companies like Brookfield, Related Properties, etc. In the age of WeWork, we’re seeing more and more landlords adapt their offerings, and we’d love to chat with them about flexibility and the future of commercial/office real estate!
Why did you launch in NYC?
New York is the real estate capital of America and the largest domestic market for office furniture. With both a thriving real estate community and early-stage community of companies receptive to our offering, NYC is far and away the best place for Bureau to learn, partner and grow.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
Our team are big fans of Waldy’s Pizza—not only is it right next door to our showroom in NoMad, but they’ve also got some of the most delicious personal pizzas around.