Tell us about yourself?
I am originally from Ireland but have been in the UK now for many years, and London is my home.
I was previously an Investment Banker for HSBC and prior to that BNP Paribas. I left my banking career to set up ufurnish.com with my co-founder and husband, Ray Wright 3 years ago and we have been experiencing rapid growth ever since.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
How much I have to learn ….every conversation I have with a mentor, an investor, a team member, or a consumer….I learn more.
Whether it’s what it takes to build an amazing product that people trust and want to use, how to build a highly engaged team and importantly how to be a better leader myself.
I know I will never stop learning and I try and treat every interaction with people as an opportunity to learn and do my job a little bit better.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Be prepared for everything to take a little longer than you anticipate.
I am a very driven, action orientated person, and when it’s your own business and you can see the potential so clearly it’s hard when things do not move as fast as you do. Patience and tenacity are the new skills I am honing daily.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
Initially it was hard as your own business is all consuming, and in my case my co-founder is also my husband and we both work from our apartment in London.
However, whilst we are very different leaders in terms of style, we complement each other in terms of skills sets.
We have always been very honest with each other and have found a way to keep work at work so to speak.
I personally love to get home to Ireland, get out on the beach with friends and family, whilst Ray loves sport, so keeping these passions alive for us each individually is also important.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
It all started as a young child in my family’s drapery shop in Ireland. I was fascinated by the homes of our customers, and it was a real treat when my Dad let me join him to hang curtains as part of their interiors projects.
I was so inspired I was soon spending time on the floor in our family home, cutting up the Argos catalogue and creating my version of my dream home.
Fast forward 20 years and the time had come to buy my first home in London with my husband. It was then that I realised how hard it is to find the perfect furniture and furnishings to make our dream home a reality. I was clear on my style….sorry “our style” 😉 but I also wanted to be inspired.
I was clear on our budget, but how could I be sure I was finding the best prices when I only knew a few retailers.
How could I be confident I had seen the entire market and had truly found the perfect items for us. I spent hours trawling websites and social media, sharing images with friends and family, only to forget where I had seen that perfect item.
With a full time job I quickly became frustrated with the time it was taking to ‘create my home’ rather than what I wanted for us both, to be ‘living in our dream home’. Surely there was a simpler way…
Fast forward 4 years and I now proudly lead a team who share my mission to transform the way we all shop for our homes.
We believe it should be simple for everyone to create their dream home, which is why we bring together over 180 of the UK’s most exciting retailers, from John Lewis, Wayfair and Dunelm to Eva Sonaike, Habitat and French Bedroom all on one website.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
As the UK’s leading search and discovery website for furniture and furnishings, we are first to market as a category disruptor.
However we know we can never afford to be complacent, and as such I am relentless in seeking feedback from our users, our retailers and our investors – in fact anyone I can – to ensure we are building the best product possible.
I also talk regularly to other CEO’s who are on the journey we are on, or have already succeeded in building sustained businesses with similar attributes and challenges to ours, ie Autotrader, Skyscanner, Rightmove, GoCompare
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
Our business model has multiple revenue streams which is very important to us. Along with my leadership team I have worked hard to define our path to profitability so that we balance our rapid growth with building a commercially sustainable business.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
People – finding the right people to join you on the journey is hard.
You have everything, all your skin in the game, and you want people that share your belief and passion – but you have to recognise that for them , whilst the businesses success is very important, it needs to work alongside their life outside of work.
Also accepting people can be part of the journey but at some points may move on and still have added huge value is crucial.
What do you find are the advantages of operating your business in London?
We are a fully remote team but for myself and Ray (my Co-founder), being based in London helps us connect more readily with our investors, our retail partners and network to ensure we are always learning.
Are there any issues with having a London based business? Have you experienced these?
Not for us at this stage.
How has the higher than UK average cost of living impacted your ability to work and live in London and how has this also impacted your ability as an employer?
We are a fully remote team, so the impact to date and as we foresee it will be minimal. However we constantly monitor it and remain open to changes we may need to make.
If you had to relocate your business to another city in the UK, which one would it be and why?
My husband is Australian and I am Irish, so our CMO often jokes we should have an office somewhere warm like Melbourne. For now we are happily building our business and team from London.
How has BREXIT impacted your business (if at all)?
We have seen it impact our retailers, however this has meant we have been able to help them accelerate their digital transformation journeys and really partner with them to serve their consumers better.
What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?
To be the world’s leading search and discovery website for home furniture and furnishings.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
We are always looking for great people, new retail partners and future investors. They can contact me direct via my LinkedIn profile. Even if it is to give me some feedback on our website 🙂