Furniture firm Castlery's growth surprising: Co-founder Declan Ee

Mr Ee, co-founder at Castlery, said the firm aims to bring furniture to people directly from the makers.
Mr Ee, co-founder at Castlery, said the firm aims to bring furniture to people directly from the makers.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

When the co-founders of local furniture firm Castlery realised the sofa they were delivering to a customer in a HDB flat could not fit through the door, they used their initiative and quickly removed the metal grilles: Problem solved.

Mr Declan Ee told The Straits Times: "The uncle in the flat told us we were very dedicated and should get a raise from the boss."

But the incident also brought home to Mr Ee, 33, that he and co-founder Fred Ji were taking on too much. He said: "Fred and I had been doing everything, from designing to delivery. That was when we decided to scale properly."

That was in April 2014, after Castlery started selling furniture online in 2013 out of a 900 sq ft basement office in Ubi.

The co-founders bit the bullet in mid-2014 and put in over $1 million of their own money to scale operations. They also began to search for supply chain partners, visiting over 500 factories in nine months in areas such as South-east Asia, China and Turkey. Castlery has a factory in Guangdong, China, and works with more than 30 factories in furniture production.

It has a 40,000 sq ft warehouse here and last year moved into a 7,000 sq ft showroom in Alexandra Road, which will be expanded to 10,000 sq ft by the end of this month.

Mr Ee said the idea for the business came about after he and Mr Ji managed to furnish their homes at reasonable costs.

Mr Ee bought furniture from Britain, where he lived for 10 years, and shipped it to Singapore, while Mr Ji sourced his directly from factories.

"Furniture here is either Ikea or really expensive," Mr Ee said. "There's a lot of wastage in furniture retail - middleman mark-ups, storage and rental costs... We want to bring furniture to people directly from the makers."

About 80 per cent of Castlery's furniture is designed in-house. The firm has added more people to its team, hiring designers and quality control staff from other furniture companies.

The firm declined to reveal revenue figures, but Mr Ee said Castlery's rapid growth - "300 to 400 per cent from 2014 to 2015" - has been surprising and he hopes its furniture will continue to "contribute to home or office environments that inspire creativity".

Castlery's products will furnish the ST Reading Room at the Singapore Coffee Festival from Thursday to Sunday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Castlery's growth surprising: Co-founder'. Print Edition | Subscribe