To Combat ‘Fast Furniture’ I Started A $12M/Year Sustainable E-commerce
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Anesley Clarke and I am the founder and CEO of B2C Furniture - an e-commerce furniture retailer, dedicated to providing a positive alternative to ‘fast furniture’ and inspiring how the furniture industry gravitates towards the future.
B2C Furniture delivers the perfect combination of beautiful design and practical functionality, with unwavering attention to detail that offers the friendly warmth of hardwood furniture to the environmentally conscious Australian. Offering an extensive range of carefully-crafted furniture that includes kids’ beds, bunk beds, outdoor furniture, rugs, dining chairs, dining tables,bedroom suites, living room furniture, home starter furniture packages...and more.
Our online offering of affordable yet environmentally conscious design had a spectacular year in FY21 producing a 132% increase in revenue.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before founding B2C Furniture, I was the founder and director of Engagis Pty Ltdwhich is Australia’s leading digital media solutions provider. I hold a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering from Royal Melbourne University of Technology (RMIT) and above everything, I love being a dad.
You will have challenging times that will test you. It is imperative to always remember the bigger picture and not lose your focus.
I entered the furniture space 10 years ago and quickly recognized a fatal flaw in the industry, whereby the majority of retailers exploit what B2C Furniture likes to call “fast furniture” to promote recurring revenue.
I grew up in a time when climate change and its consequences were first starting to be discussed. Fast forward 30 years - I'm now in my forties and we are experiencing its adverse effects.
I became a father around the same time I began my new venture in the furniture industry and I began to see everything, personally and professionally, in a new light. The notion of leaving her a broken planet due to our wasteful, negligent lifestyle cut me to the core. What am I supposed to say when she grows up and asks, “How could you know this was going to happen and not do anything about it?”
It was right then and there that I made a conscious decision to focus on sustainable hardwood timber as the foundation of the B2C Furniture brand.
Take us through the process of designing your first product.
As a fully Australian-owned company, we are in a unique position to understand what the local consumer requires from the pieces they choose to furnish their home with. Two keywords are at the forefront of every design decision we make - substance & style.
Substance being a hard-wearing product, constructed from high-quality materials - namely hardwood, without sacrificing on style.
Being a genuine, direct-from manufacturer business allows us to work directly with our suppliers to create stunning, modern designs that follow stringent QC processes and commonly exceed the expectations of our customers.
You will have challenging times that will test you. It is imperative to always remember the bigger picture and not lose your focus.
Each piece starts as a concept, a vision that embodies form and function. A sketch provides the initial starting point on which the manufacturer will base their sample design. During this process, the design will often change to ensure the product is structurally sound as well as aesthetically beautiful. For some pieces, this process can be repeated three or four times until perfection is achieved in comfort, construction, and charming design.
Our website design process follows the same principles - creating a seamless, attractive user interface is imperative to the business so all implementations and features are carefully thought out and tested, before implementation. The vision is to innovate and engage. We not only exist to sell but inspire and educate. Our content team regularly publishes blogs, which inspire and educate our followers on a wide range of topics such as sustainability and the best practices that we as a business are adopting, home decor trends and styling tips, and how-to guides that provide expert advice and points to consider when furnishing your home.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The business was launched in 2012 and we initially focused on being a wholesaler to the Australian market. We were importing modern furniture and distributing it to existing furniture retailers.
However, as most small businesses will profess “cash flow” is king we discovered that the larger retailers were not sticking to the payment terms, and we were constantly required to keep injecting funds to sustain the business. The business is funded privately via the shareholders of the business and being a small business, this model was not sustainable in the long run.
This led us to focus on selling directly to the end-user and becoming a genuine Business – 2 – Consumer (B2C) business. To pass on significant savings to our customers, we focused on becoming an eCommerce business.
Looking back, this change of direction was crucial to the current success of the business. Not allowing larger retailers to “hold a gun” to your head took courage but in the long run, it was the best decision we made.
Once the decision was made to take charge of our destiny, we wanted to build a brand that was consistent with our values.
At B2C Furniture, we have a deep desire to make furniture with substance and style affordable to the environmentally-conscious consumer.
Unlike most new businesses that use existing marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon, etc. We wanted to build our brand and decided to spend the majority of our marketing budget on Google Paid Ads (shopping and text ads), SEO, email marketing, social media & affiliate marketing. This allowed us to grow our brand and most importantly be true to what we believed in as a business.
The initial five marketing tasks we focused on were;
- Convert our website to be our shop window. The first impression from a consumer is crucial and the emphasis on quality should be evident at the click of a mouse. High-quality imagery showcasing the entire product range, alongside in-depth descriptions are imperative.
- Increased the eCommerce offering and enhanced the online shopping experience for the consumer. Ensuring our website is intuitive, fast, and easy to navigate. Focus on optimizing for mobile-first shopping experiences.
- Provide fast nationwide delivery. Amazon Prime proves how effective this strategy is for converting sales online.
- Maintaining an exceptional level of customer support. In a competitive industry where most retail transactions are emotionless, providing an outstanding consumer experience that inspires strong feedback is a great strategy to build brand loyalty.
- Focus a bigger part of your marketing budget on digital advertising platforms. It makes sense that as more people are spending more time working from home and purchasing via online platforms, the most effective marketing to capture sales is via targeted digital adverting methods.
The exact digital marketing strategy we used.
The table below shows exactly what digital marketing platforms we used and the percentage of budget we allocated to each.
Digital Marketing Platform (% of Budget)
Google Paid Ads (50%)
Google - Shopping Ads
Google - Text Ads
Google - Youtube
Google - Display
Google Organic (20%)
Email Marketing (10%)
Social Media (10%)
Affiliate Marketing (10%)
It should be noted that furniture is an aspirational product. We discovered that image-driven campaigns such as Google shopping ads perform better than text drive campaigns such as Google text ads.
However, for services-based businesses, the breakup of the digital marketing campaigns will be different from our business.
Each business must experiment with the various forms of campaigns and choose which ones suit them.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
All global pandemic challenges aside, we’ve had an exponential 12-18 months of growth at B2C Furniture. We’ve seen increases across the board in our teams, locations, product range, and revenue.
From a marketing perspective, B2C Furniture has primarily focused on Google. The marketing mix has been a combination of SEO for organic traffic, Google text, and shopping ads for paid traffic.
As you can see from the graph below via Google analytics, this combination has allowed us to increase our website traffic 6 fold from Jan 2019 (avg 20,000 uses/ month) to Jun 2020 (avg 120,000 uses/ month). All this during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These growth rates are extraordinary by any measure, producing a 132% increase in revenue.
Pre-Covid we would see a pretty even split of in-store sales to online sales in Melbourne as this was our only showroom at the time. During the peak of the pandemic with lockdowns across the country, all sales shifted to online obviously and the trend has continued past restrictions being lifted. In-store sales for November and December of last year (being the peak season for the retail sector) produced 22% of our total revenue, which is a significant decrease. However, online sales continue to increase YoY proving that COVID has forced consumer habits to change in favor of companies that are driven by the e-commerce platform. This is not to discount the need for bricks and mortar stores, particularly with an aspirational product such as furniture there will always be a place for the physical showrooms that customers can ‘touch and feel’, which complements your online presence and brand.
It hasn’t been all roses and butterflies. There have been challenges with supply chains due to COVID-19 lockdowns and an increase in material and logistics costs due to the strain on the industry. The pandemic has posed many unprecedented issues for businesses and their supply chains. We learned very quickly you need to adapt to the ever-changing climate and think on your feet - reach out to local businesses or manufacturers to alleviate the reliance on overseas suppliers, which is in turn also good for the strained local economy. Or why not engage in collaborations with local businesses that compliment your product offering and brand.
We typically only set ourselves up with a 2-year plan because if the past couple of years has taught us anything, there are some things that you just cannot plan for!
We’ve recently achieved a massive milestone for us, in opening our new flagship store in Alexandria, Sydney. We have invested a lot of time and hard work into creating a space that encapsulates our brand and leaves you with a memorable experience, whether you are buying or just browsing. The next long-term milestone is London! Taking our brand over international waters has always been on the cards for us and we are edging closer to it every day!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I learned the hard way that you cannot be everything to everyone. I spent the better part of 5 years, working days and nights on end, and was often too mentally and physically drained to notice pivotal moments of my little girls’ early life.
What I now know is that you don’t know what you don’t know, and it is most definitely ok to leverage and learn from those that do.
Build relationships with trusted teammates and associates. Bringing together a network of experts in their field allows you to learn the ropes firsthand, without burning yourself out trying to figure it out as you go.
I wholeheartedly believe that your team is your greatest asset and it is your people in a business that will make it a success.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We adopt an omnichannel marketing approach, which includes Google, Facebook, email, Instagram, Pinterest, and affiliates to name a few, and rely heavily on Google Analytics as our source for data analysis.
Organically, we work intimately with a strong SEO agency that has helped us achieve success in the seemingly unattainable space.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I enjoy Simon Sinek’s Ted Talks, I believe he captures the essence of what it is to be a great leader perfectly. Recently I read Catch of the Decade which was very inspiring for me to have insight into how the two Leibovich brothers, who started with no funds and no connections ultimately revolutionized the Australian e-commerce retail industry
I’m a strong believer that our lives should be guided by our values. Educating our children with the right values now will solve the most unimaginable problems that we have no answers to presently.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi;
- “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave”
- “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
- “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Perseverance is key. You will have challenging times that will test you. It is imperative to always remember the bigger picture and not lose your focus. Set goals - knock them out of the park. Make mistakes - don't make the same twice.
I have a little saying that I constantly remind myself of - ‘’You don't know, what you don't know’’
It is unrealistic to expect that you can do and know every component to run a successful business. People are your power. Trust your team, play to their strengths. Leverage your networks and employ experts in their field to take the business places you can never do on your own.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We’re always on the hunt to expand our team with talent!
Specifically, now we are looking for bubbly individuals that are inspired by interior design to join our in-store team in our new flagship store in Sydney.
Full-time, part-time or casual positions available.
Please email us at [email protected].
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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