Photo credit: Kevin Millet
Vincent Gagnon, co-founder of Meuble2Go, an online furniture store based in Montreal, QC, has a long family history with entrepreneurship. Although he didn’t expect to fall into the family business, this young entrepreneur found a way to take a traditional market and give it an innovative twist.
After graduating with a B.B.A in entrepreneurship from Bishop’s University, Vincent is offered the opportunity to join his father, who is himself an entrepreneur and business owner in the furniture industry for 35 years, in a new business idea he’s looking to launch independently from his current business. Vincent’s father was seeing the winds of change coming in his industry; profits were getting harder to come by, even despite record sales. Many of his colleagues in the Quebecois and Ontarian markets had also closed their doors in recent years. He wasn’t looking to head in the same direction.
Based out of the same building where his father is operating his main business, they launch what Vincent describes as “version 1.0” of Meuble2Go. There, Vincent holds the position of Director of Marketing and Procurement. The journey lasts a year before his father receives a purchase offer for the building where they are operating. He makes the decision to sell, withdraw from the market and explore new business opportunities.
For his part, Vincent thinks it’s a shame to loss everything they’ve invested in the company. Sales are there, and Meuble2Go’s brand recognition is already establish in the market. He asks his father to sell his the brand name and began writing a business plan. Vincent knows what limits him: he doesn’t have the capital for a warehouse or inventory. He therefore tried to find a business model that would work in this situation.
His launch strategy is simple: “My idea wasn’t to have a start-up with a made up valuation and to be running left and right for funding all the time. I wanted a profitable business.” With a small personal investment, some love money from his father, a small business bank loan and one from Futurpreneur, he goes from business idea to fully operational business within three months, even passing on an interesting job offer from another start-up. “I couldn’t let go on my idea”, he explains.
From there was born “version 2.0”, Meuble2Go.com, which didn’t have much in common with his father’s initial concept. The company sells furniture and decor accessories, as well as affordable mattresses, all online. It also has a brick and mortar location in the Mile End neighbourhood in Montreal, which serve as a service hub to receive on sale items and returns and to host events and workshops to build its relationship to the community. Contrary to most businesses in the industry, Meuble2Go doesn’t have a warehouse; products leave the supplier’s warehouse to be shipped directly to the customer. The majority of products are made in Canada; imports are exclusively distributed by Canadian suppliers.
Selling furniture online can be seen as risky business (after all, not everyone is ready to purchase furniture without seeing it first). To counteract this, Vincent has rolled out a few advantages to make consumers more comfortable. All items seen on the website are in stock, which limits frustrations and unpleasant surprises. Delivery is free in Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The website also includes a live chat option, where trained stylists are available for decorating tips 7 days a week.
With Meuble2Go, Vincent looks to fill a void for online furniture purchasing options in Canada, between traditional or hybrid players, such as IKEA or Leon’s, who don’t sell their whole product line online, and big online players like Wayfair, an American giant of online furniture sale.
It’s then no surprise what Vincent wants to focus on the Canadian market before venturing on the international market: “For me, it’s not all about a commercial project, but a little bit of a nationalist one. Why, in Canada, could we not do as they do in United States? Why could we not have a simple option to buy furniture online?” Indeed, Canadian businesses are dragging their feet when it comes to e-commerce. Although Canadians have spent more than US$18 billion online in 2016, the vast majority were international purchases, coming mostly from the United States, which Vincent considers a great waste for our country’s economy.
It seems Meuble2Go’s bargain has paid off. The business became profitable less than a year after its launch, and its product line grew from 1,000 to 3,000 online products. Vincent is now looking to open more service centres for his customers, and hopes to have 10 to 15 points of service across Canada within the next decade.
Written by: Véronic Tremblay, Bilingual Marketing Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada