The story of Simbly goes back 15 years to the launch of my first eco-friendly furniture company Vivavi. I believed then - like I do now - that if environmentally friendly products were beautifully designed and reasonably priced, consumers would gravitate towards them.
Vivavi moved the needle on stylish, sustainable furniture and earned awards along the way (like being named to Inc. Magazine's first-ever Green 50 in 2006 as a pioneer accelerating the green economy). But affordability remained elusive.
A New Approach: Selling Sustainable Furniture Directly To Consumers
Fast-forward to 2017, and I saw a new generation of product companies use a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model to ship their products straight to their customers, cutting out wholesale costs to offer high-quality products at distinctly lower prices.
I knew we could use the direct-to-consumer business model to do something special: make environmentally sustainable products of superior quality and exceptional design that would, at long last, be more affordable.
Above: Our Simbly Coffee Table - $399
[Quick example from our current operations: our Simbly Coffee Table retails for $449. A typical furniture company would, at a minimum, double the retail price to $898 to make sure there was enough margin included for other retailers to sell it too.
We don’t. We give you the best price we possibly can by selling it directly to you through our own website and avoiding wholesale markups altogether.]
Our First Furniture Collection: Reintroducing Timeless Sustainable Designs
Above: the original Knock-Down, Drag-Out Dining Table, today reintroduced as the Simbly Dining Table
When the idea struck me for Simbly that summer, my first email was to award-winning sustainable furniture design veteran Christopher Douglas in Portland, Oregon.
Christopher had built a sustainable furniture company in the mid-2000s called Material Furniture. His Knock-Down, Drag-Out collection was a flat-pack furniture sensation.
So much so, that soon after its launch, the Cooper Hewitt selected Christopher for inclusion in its widely influential National Design Triennial. Time Magazine named him to its annual Style & Design 100. The accolades poured in.
Christopher’s dining table was the signature showpiece of my Brooklyn apartment, which also doubled as Vivavi's furniture showroom. I was a huge fan.
Back to Simbly. My email to Christopher said, “What do you say we dust off those designs and launch a new furniture company that does what we always wanted to do - deliver on design, sustainability, American manufacturing, and affordability?”
I hadn’t spoken to Christopher in ten years. But an hour later he called me. His response: “Hell yeah!”
Next Big To-Do: Finding a US Factory to Partner with Our Young Company
Above: Prototype of Simbly Dining Table at our Western North Carolina Factory
Furniture roots run deep in the region surrounding Asheville, NC - where Simbly is headquartered. Before most of the factory jobs were shipped overseas in search of cheap labor, this region was considered the furniture-making capital of the world. The skilled workforce that made it all possible remains.
Over coffee one afternoon with a local entrepreneur, I learned of a family-owned furniture factory just down the road from Asheville in the seriously charming mountain town of Hendersonville.
Two weeks later I was walking the factory floor with the father-son team that owned and ran the business. They quickly saw the potential in what we were setting out to do. We agreed to work together.
Simbly Furniture: A Great Value with Great Values
Simbly brings together distinctive modern design, sustainability, affordability, and American manufacturing.
The Simbly Dining Table and Bench (pictured together above) and Coffee Table are Christopher’s original designs from that Knock-Down Drag-out Collection, now reintroduced for design fans. The Simbly Desk / Kitchen Table is a new design that adds another versatile piece to our capsule collection. More products are in the works.
We're also aiming to set new sustainability standards for the furniture industry. In fact, we're aiming to move beyond sustainability to generate a positive impact on the environment, restoring more to nature than we take.
We want to be the first climate positive furniture company in the world. We're not there yet, and we know it will be a journey. Here’s what we’re doing so far.
- Josh Dorfman, Founder of Simbly