Eco furniture design – Woman and Home Magazine 2018 Feature – A DIY project inspired a family-run business
TAMERON HARALAMBOUS, 36, and husband PETER, 37, from Claremont, co-own Eco Furniture Design. They have three children. Tameron says:
THE IDEA To save a few bucks, Peter, who worked in textiles, made a baby changing table for me in 2009, using free reclaimed timber from a hardware store. It was beautiful, and eco-friendly, as it was upcycled wood. I was already an entrepreneur, running a team-building biz with my mom, so I recognised the prospect of a start-up in front of me: a furniture company using sustainable materials. Friends and family loved the idea of bespoke eco-friendly furniture, so we used savings to set up.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT In 2010, we created a workspace in our garage, and hired our first employee who we sent for training with a carpenter. When I wasn’t doing flexi-hours at my other company, I was sanding and painting our furniture, while Peter dealt with our sales after finishing up at his day job. I used a free platform to build a basic site, selling our ready-made items from here via e-mail orders, as well as on Gumtree. It wasn’t long until custom requests came in! In 2012, we were accepted to be part of the Furntech incubation programme, a training centre for furniture-making start-ups. That’s when Peter and I took on Eco Furniture Design full-time. We got our first official workspace at Furntech, and use of their machinery. Over the two years we were there, we learnt so much about the manufacturing process, which helped to up our game. We also shared a rented retail space at The Old Biscuit Mill with my dad’s homeware business.
HIGHS In 2016, we received the National Skills Development Award at the South African Small Business Awards. We were thrilled the category was created just for us to recognise our efforts in employing unskilled workers and then training them.
LOWS Exporting wood furniture abroad has been tricky, as there are many new considerations, like how the material will respond in a new climate, and ensuring the wood is kept bug-free without toxic pesticide use. We’re testing the water with a range of smaller items, such as tea trays, created with a team of technicians.
WHERE WE ARE NOW We rent two factory spaces in Ottery to keep up with demand. Most sales come via our site, but we do rent a bigger retail space in Woodstock now, and deliver nationwide. We’re doing well enough to support ourselves and 30 staff. Working with a spouse can be trying, so it’s best to define clear roles. I handle marketing and product lines, while Peter manages staff, runs factory production and does quotes. We make a great team and, with a young family, it’s ideal to have flexibility as entrepreneurs.
BEST ADVICE WE’VE EVER HAD Stick to a company ethos. If you compromise on quality or the ethics behind sourcing materials, your integrity is put at risk.
BUSINESS IN FIGURES
Start-up costs R5 000
Turnover 32,5% up in the last year
Equipment R3 000
Marketing R2 000