Like a lot of us, Kyle Hoff has had to move around with decent frequency. In fact, at one point, he was moving every year, hitting Great Lakes-area cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Ann Arbor. And as you might expect, handling furniture through all those moves proved to be a huge pain.
"I was [...] disassembling, re-assembling an IKEA Malm bed time and time again, while sadly disposing of most everything else," Hoff says. "It quickly became clear that most furniture was destined for the landfill."
Cue the light bulb
From his experience, Hoff realized that, because people are living very differently and aren't as quick to settle down in one place when compared with just a few decades ago, traditional furniture designs simply don't work anymore. People need city-friendly, low-footprint designs that, while durable and functional, can be packed up quickly and relocated over and over again.
Running with the idea, Hoff partnered with Alex O'Dell in 2013 to found Floyd, a furniture company based in Detroit. To get off the ground, they began a Kickstarter campaign featuring the Floyd Leg, which basically gives you the supports you need to turn boards or other suitable flat surfaces into tables. That campaign gave the duo adequate proof of concept, with people connecting to the idea that your home could move with you.
"Over a period of two months," Hoff says, "we were figuring out how to scale our model 14x what we anticipated and ship thousands of products to over 30 countries. That was the glamorous part. On the backend, we had to ensure we were operating a functioning business as well, from accounting to customer relations -- an extensive undertaking for two people, and we certainly made a few mistakes along the way. That said, the focused nature of that launch helped us learn quickly what mattered to customers and narrow in on the pain point we were really trying to solve. It's certainly part of the DNA of Floyd now."
From Kickstarter to Instagram
As the company grew, Hoff kept consumers in the driver's seat. As his team began work on another project, they turned to Instagram to interact with potential buyers. Through those interactions, the team realized they needed to shift gears from the original concept. They then pulled customers further into the process and crowdsourced design elements from polls on Instagram. Applying their supply chain knowledge, they took the poll results and created a new table in just 10 weeks, a pace that's a rarity for the industry.
"The age of just pushing products on people is over," Hoff asserts. "It seems simple, but since we have a direct connection to the people we're designing for, we want to make sure we're listening and getting their feedback. Our goal is to design for how people are truly living, so making sure they're involved in the process is crucial."
Floyd's story is a good example of how combining old skills (e.g., streamlined supply chain management) with new tools (e.g., social media) can give a company real momentum. But it's also a huge lesson in how design is better off as a two-way process. By interacting with customers from start to finish, the Floyd team not only ensured that their product would have what people wanted, but they also helped them feel heard, involved, and important. Unsurprisingly, what began as a Kickstarter turned into $5.6 million in funding to date.
So don't assume old-school and new-school can't blend. And don't assume the customer can be right only after the fact. Use whatever you've got and your customers will be visionaries right alongside you.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the total amount of funding raised and valuation. Floyd raised $5.6 million.