ICFF show 1: Ethnicraft Founder and ICFF
On this episode of The Lounge, Nick joins us from ICFF New York! He speaks with Heather Wood, the marketing manager for ICFF, and Ethnicraft CEO and founder Benoit Loos. Nick welcomes back Benjamin Moore as our sponsor. He has almost exclusively used their paints for his painting businesses since the 90s. Also joining the team as one of our sponsors is Benchmade Modern! Edgar Blazona joins us to tell about his efficient, online, custom furniture company…that’s affordable too!
Marketing ICFF with Heather Wood
This year ICFF NYC is over 155 square feet filled with international exhibitors (750+) from Spain, the Philippines, Scandinavia, to Austrailia and Belgium. It is their 29th year in New York and 2nd year in Miami. ICFF Miami runs from October 3rd to October 4th at the Miami Beach Convention Center, and is currently 200 exhibitors and growing.
There are many challenges that Heather faces running an international furniture and design show. International shipping and setting up exhibition spaces are among the most difficult, most problems and questions have to do with logistics. There is a LOT to take care of in making sure everything runs smoothly for each exhibitor, such as managing press and media, shipping policies, language barriers, and networking. A large role Heather also plays is managing the attendee database, ensuring that all the high profile designers, architectures, manufacturers, and buyers attend. Being in marketing can be a catch-all position but Heather’s primary focus is to deliver rich content to the attendees. ICFF is a huge investment so she needs to make sure everything runs smoothly for both the exhibitors and the attendees, and that they all get everything they need/want out of the event.
New York has approximately 40-55,000 interior designers residing in the city, making it the largest concentration of designers in the world, so the main attendee market for the show is New York designers. Heather’s main marketing focus is print, digital, advertising, and social media (which is #1). This day in age (in the millennial era), Instagram is a very popular marketing source -everyone uses it- so it’s a great way for ICFF to receive gratification and respect. They can do sneak peaks and Instagram takeovers like they’ve done with Dorothy Mack and Jefferey Johnson. Check out their mix of contemporary meets classic at their handle @icff_nyc.
Getting to know Edgar Blazona and Benchmade Modern
Edgar joins us from his Mission District showroom in San Fransisco. He got started in the furniture business right out of high school, growing his own company. Edgar didn’t have enough money to buy furniture so he decided he would make it himself. A woman at a local gallery like a piece he made and wanted to sell it for him so he dropped it off on Friday… and voilá! It was sold by Monday. Edgar realized that it would be a long road ahead of him making furniture at a small scale so he stopped to work for The Pottery Barn. Here he learned about manufacturing on a much larger scale which helped kickstart his brand and his career.
Edgar then started his company True Modern which grew to its current size today and is sold through brick and mortar and online retailers. Then 3 years ago, he decided he was tired of hearing stories about how it took 15 weeks for customers to get furniture and by the time it arrived, they didn’t even like it. Thus, Benchmade Modern was born! Made to order, custom furniture in every shape and size that arrives in 7-10 days with 75 styles, including limited run fabrics at a great value. They make everything from 35 inches to 10 feet and you can use a sliding scale on their website to pick your size and see the price. And it’s all made right in California. Their aesthetic is no more modern than a boutique like Design Within Reach but they also want a mass appeal similar Crate and Barrel. So they meet somewhere in the middle.
Benchmade modern makes buying furniture easy. Edgar calls them the Warby Parker of online furniture except that delivering a sofa is a much bigger challenge and process. So, his goal is to take away the hangups of ordering furniture online, by sending out swatches, photos, and samples. You can even receive a printed out life size, full-scale version of your sofa to layout on the floor and sit on, in order to ensure it fits the room and amount of people you want on it. This experience shows you that they offer a good quality product and reflects the experience the customer will have with they actually decide to buy.
Edgar also claims they have the #1 best sofa bed ever made EVER so check it out on their website here.
Benchmade Modern offers a 20% off code to the trade and a discount to customers who order in large quantities. They support the interior design community by creating a product that can be designed and modified with ease of buying online AND it’s 30-50% cheaper than having custom made furniture built for you. At the bottom of the page, there is a Trade Program button. Fill out your info and then you will get the discount code and swatches to use to take to your clients!
Learn more at their website www.benchmademodern.com
Ethnicraft is a company out of Belgium and joins us from their 2nd time at ICFF NYC. Their goal at the event is to connect with and see the reactions of the designers and architects (to their products). Even though they are based in Belgium they manufacture three different wood species in Indonesia (Teak), Europe (Oak), and the U.S (Black Walnut). Ethnicraft might buy wood in the States, ship it to Vietnam or Serbia to be manufactured and then ship it back to the states to be sold. A huge operation!
Benoit started the company 20 years ago with his copartner Philippe Delaisse. They were an accountant and an IT tech who’d been traveling and collecting various ethnic decorations from Bali as well as old Japanese cupboards. At the same time in Italy, they saw the clean contemporary style happening and had the idea to combine it with the authentic materials and wood they had bought. Two years later they began designing and making products. Today, they do their own distribution and recently set up a warehouse in High Point (and showed at the Spring Market for the first time). It hasn’t been difficult to sell to the U.S as Americans who visit Paris fell in love with them there.
Ethnicraft is in the middle of doing 50 shows all over the world in places like Paris, Stockholm, Mulan, Singapore, the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, High Point, and NY. At these shows, they evaluate competitors and customer responses. Benoit says that they see sales go up immediately from these events but they also help down the road and in the long run too. Customers have told him that they found out about Ethnicraft from a show they did two years prior. Benoit tells us how important it is to reach the right customer and make a mark on them.
Their natural, contemporary, high-quality wood is priced at a great value with 2-meter pieces (roughly 6.5 feet) priced at $3,000. Ethnicraft targets hospitality and only does customization for large products. Their residential sales are directed to retailers and not sold online. You can locate a store on their website using the Store Locator page. In new york find them at ABC showroom.
- Upcoming Events
Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 1
BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13
KBIS – Jan 9 – 11
ICFF Miami– Oct 3 – 4
- Wrap Up
If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com. Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!