Couchelo: Retro furniture and homewares at your fingertips

Couchelo co-founders
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For those seeking to dress up their humble abode with retro and vintage furniture and homewares, Couchelo is at your service. The Sydney-based startup is just about to launch into the iOS marketplace, and bring some pizazz into the interior design scene.

Founded by Si-Si Dai, William Fan and Fei Yao, Couchelo is a curated marketplace where you will find the kind of furniture and homewares that gets people talking.

“We’ve created a beautiful and simple mobile platform, where anyone can browse, buy and sell unique pieces for the home. This will be the go-to marketplace to sell your retro bar stools, or hunt for vintage ceramics,” says Fan.

The idea for creating such an app spawned from personal frustration, when Fan was decorating his new apartment last year. He was going for the ‘Mad Men’ look and feel, but where would he even start looking for Don Draper’s couch? ‘Does cool furniture like this even exist in Sydney?’ Fan wondered.

“I couldn’t get it at a regular furniture retailer. Searching on Gumtree felt like cleaning out an unused shed, and the mass-produced Chinese imports on eBay – well, they speak for themselves,” says Fan.

“I finally bought the perfect retro orange-hued couch from a collector in Redfern, after spending four frustrating weekends driving around to check out boutique stores without a proper website.”

It’s not that Australia doesn’t have a vibrant design scene, it’s just not very easy to find, according to Fan. Couchelo aims to bridge this gap by connecting design amateurs, enthusiasts and businesses alike.

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Cool stuff from Couchelo

The co-founders are well aware that they’re breaking into an $8 billion dollar industry in Australia. But with an expected 18 percent growth in online sales this year, this means more and more consumers will be looking for furniture online.

“However, a good portion of the 4400 furniture and homeware retail stores in Australia don’t have a proper online presence and could really grow their business with Couchelo,” says Fan.

The startup has started signing up established businesses, and expects to reach 200 by the end of the year. This is excluding the potential number of Australian online sellers listing their goods on non-industry specific platforms like eBay, Gumtree and Etsy. Including this online community, Couchelo is targeting 500 sellers by 2015.

From design and development to marketing, the business has been entirely bootstrapped to date. Yao and Fan work in technology consulting and were comfortable designing the functionality, and outsourcing the development work. Dai has managed her own family furniture business in the past and brings extensive industry knowledge onto the table.

“The team has been quite resourceful with our founders’ money jar. There wasn’t much of a bank to break! Close friends and family have offered to pitch in, but we don’t plan to look at funding until later this year,” says Fan.

Why mobile? Aside from the fact that consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to purchase products via ecommerce apps, the Couchelo team wanted to leverage the camera, instant messaging and location services built into today’s smartphones.

The business model hasn’t been set in stone yet. Fan says that working with their on-boarded sellers has only validated that Couchelo has a number of monetisation opportunities.

“They are helping us define the best approach for this industry and as our first customers, what they would actually pay for,” he says.

But aren’t there are other apps where that do the same thing – that is, offer furniture and homewares? Fan responds, “Once you see our stuff, you’ll rid the nightmares of flat-packing and self-assembly. Hex key, be gone!”

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More cool stuff from Couchelo

One thing the founders are proud to talk about is the impact they believe Couchelo will have on sustainable living in Australia.

“This platform will be a tool to help people make environmentally responsible decisions when shopping for the home.  We want to be a business that’s ethical, and not just any other startup,” says Fan.

The biggest challenge for Fan thus far has been finding the time to take his beloved dog out for a walk in the sunshine.

“I used to take him out every day but I barely have time for him anymore, even on the weekends. We’re drafting a ‘Couch for Canine-Walker’ marketing campaign to keep my Jack Russell happy. Any takers?” says Fan.

What’s next for the Couchelo team? They plan on capturing the domestic market beyond Sydney and exploring other industries that could work well their current offering – for instance, the floral and art décor space.

For more information, or to get an alert in the upcoming days when the app launches officially, visit couchelo.com.

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