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Bowr Founder Rumi Guho on Breaking Down Barriers in the Furniture Industry

Introduction

The furniture industry is arguably one of the few industries that is still thriving in a brick-and-mortar setting, as consumers still love to see, feel, and shop for furniture in person. But COVID-19 forced many furniture stores to close. This became the turning point for furniture brands to move the experience online.

Bowr is an online furniture platform that connects customers directly with sustainable designers and manufacturers across the globe. The company aims to reduce costs by removing middlemen and to bring attention to underrepresented designers and manufacturers. We reached out to founder and CEO Rumi Guho to hear about how the company plans to disrupt the furniture industry and how the team found business contacts on the road. 

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Zee Zhong

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

Rumi Guho

We are building the next-generation supply chain for the global furnishing industry. We are changing how furniture is designed, made, sold, and experienced.

Zee Zhong

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

Rumi Guho

I experienced first-hand how broken and highly barriered the furnishing industry is and how furniture creators and designers have to depend on middlemen and have no access to the market. The supply chain is not sustainable for the environment, does not give consumers control, and is not fair or ethical. Giving consumers more control over their product, a sustainable supply chain, and eliminating all intermediaries is what inspired us to take the leap.

Zee Zhong

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

Rumi Guho

We have reached this level with only a team of three: me; my co-founder, Kc; and our first employee, Nongluk. My co-founder and I came together because we saw how broken the furnishing industry was. The mission to create sustainable, fair, and ethical furnishing really resonates with everyone, and that is how Nongluk joined our team.

Zee Zhong

How is Bowr transforming the furniture industry?

Rumi Guho

We believe in creating a democratic supply chain where consumers have true control over how their products look and feel, manufacturers can access the market without any middlemen, and designers can easily get their designs manufactured and put in front of customers with ease. With Bowr, we are building the next-generation supply chain that is sustainable, democratic, and ethical.

Zee Zhong

How did you figure out a way to partner with third party logistics companies?

Rumi Guho

We just went out and drove around, talking to independent logistics partners. We called and pitched to the company of every truck we saw on the road with a decal. This has led us to our own on-demand, last mile solution for manufacturers. These logistics partners in turn referred us to other companies who wanted to be part of our network.

Zee Zhong

When and how are you planning to generate revenue?

Rumi Guho

We have three channels of revenue generation: annual memberships for business-to-consumer (B2C) customers, monthly subscriptions for business-to-business (B2B) customers, and future offerings, such as a furniture subscription.

Zee Zhong

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Rumi Guho

The competitive landscape is ready for disruption. With COVID, the cracks in the supply chain are more obvious than ever. Manufacturers have realized the downfall of bulk production and are looking for a new way of doing business. The proof of that is in 12 months we had 150 manufacturers join our platform. What differentiates us and makes us winners:

  1. We are the only platform that offers full customization to customers.
  2. We have completely eliminated all middlemen. That made the costs low and manufacturers happy.
  3. We are the only platform that empowers furniture designers to get their design made and sold to customers with no barriers.
Zee Zhong

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Rumi Guho

We will use the money to firstly build up our team. Secondly, we will launch 500 unique products from 200 independent designers globally, add more features and solutions for B2B buyers, and push to increase market share for B2C.

Zee Zhong

What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?

Rumi Guho

They are part of a revolution in the furnishing industry that is disrupting and redefining how furniture is made and sold. We are at the beginning of an industry revolution where they will suddenly see a flourish of products from undiscovered designers at a scale that is presently near impossible. Shopify empowered every independent creator, and we have the same impact on the furnishing landscape.

Zee Zhong

As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? Have you set any future goals for the company?

Rumi Guho

In five to 10 years, we see ourselves as the disruptor in the furnishing industry. With our supply chain and democratic platform, we will make mid- to high-end brands obsolete and create a new way of furnishing where independent furnishing designers can get their designs made and in front of customers. With manufacturers having direct access to the market and supply chain, Bowr will forever change how furniture is designed, made, sold, and experienced.

Zee Zhong

As a minority founder, what difficulties have you encountered working on your company? What advice would you give to other minority founders?

Rumi Guho

As a minority founder, the biggest challenge has been fundraising. What I would tell other minority founders would be to keep making what you believe in and give everything you have. A good product will get attention.

We look forward to seeing where Rumi and his team take the company. Bowr is currently raising on Republic.

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