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How to build an affordable luxury brand

Ella Jade and Dominic Peter have created a high-end, yet affordable furniture brand Roobba, and here's how they did it.

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Luxury shouldn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, which is precisely why Ella Jade and Dominic Peter created Roobba, a high-end yet affordable furniture brand.

With a membership model built into their business, they can offer even lower prices and have used this as a way to create repeat custom, becoming the go-to place for all your homely needs.

They have a goal to modify their industry by incorporating AI and AR into their services, and they are even tapping into influencer marketing and collaborations.

In this episode, we explore how to create affordable prices but remain a high quality brand, and we uncover all the logistical and manufacturing challenges a furniture business faces.

Here’s their unfiltered advice below:

Creating luxury designs at an affordable price

Bex Burn-Callander:

I can’t wait to hear this story, because I feel like there’s been quite a few brands that have tried to disrupt and revolutionise the world of online furniture retail, and yet you guys have done something slightly different, and you seem to have cracked it. Can you tell me a bit about why you started the business and what’s so different about your approach?

Ella Jade:

Let’s take it back. My background is really in furniture, interior design, definitely the luxury element of it. I used to have my own brand called Ella Jade, and that was basically almost the 1% of the luxury interior design world, creating really beautiful, almost extravagant designs for a really luxury audience.

And in that scene, you do elevate design. You do empower those people that you are designing for.

We stepped back and we came together and we were like, “Well, why is that not the case in the affordable market? The design concept is not the same.”

I think from that point of view, we really came together, and we were like, “How do we create this beautiful luxury empowering design that you can get in the luxury industry, but somehow manage to create an affordable product?”

And that’s where we came together from our skill sets, and I think our skill sets are the founding measures of the business.

And for me and for Dominic, it’s definitely about the behind the scenes of the affordable luxury market. For us, it’s, “Well, how do we disrupt actually what goes on behind the scenes?” Not necessarily what goes on in front of the scenes in terms of what people see, but what goes on behind the scenes.

And how do we use our expertise in terms of the manufacturing side and the logistics side, that Dom is obviously very, very good at, to really lower the cost price for our consumers so that I can design on a higher level to empower, but really reducing the cost so we can give that affordable price.

Dominic Peter:

Yeah, that’s spot on. I don’t need to say anything more.

Ella Jade:

No, please.

Dominic Peter:

No, that’s it. That’s exactly it. High end designs, being super smart to figure out ways to keep the cost as low as possible for our customers.

Ella Jade:

There you go. That’s the conclusion.

Pricing products on a relative scale to keep them affordable

Bex Burn-Callander:

And how do you define affordable? Because I have to admit, I’ve lost quite a lot of time.

I’m about to move house and I’ve been looking at your looks and looking at everything from your ottomans to your kitchen setups, but I have noticed that a sofa is two and a half grand, so I was wondering, how do you qualify affordable? And who are your customers?

Ella Jade:

The key thing here, and I feel like Dom’s going to jump in in a second, but I’ll jump in real quick, is that we off a members’ price.

So for example, the £2,500 is our regular price. But if you become a member of Roobba, which I think we’ll move onto afterwards in terms of our membership, you can get a sofa for £1300, £1200.

So we’ve definitely worked our way, over the past year especially, to really reduce the price for our members.

And I think affordable is in terms of the value that you get.

For example, sofas in general for us are the comfort, so we put the maximum level of comfort in the padding of the cushions and the backrests, but also in terms of longevity, so it doesn’t, for example, sink after a year, which you don’t want, you want to retain the shape of the sofa.

And also, for example, all of our products, like our dining chairs and bar stools are fully assembled.

Dominic Peter:

And I think affordability comes on a relative scale. When we’re pricing products, when we are launching new products, we’re looking at the market.

There’s years, years, and years of sales data in this industry. It’s not a new industry, so we can look at, “Okay, well, what is the affordable market? What is the top? What is the bottom? What is the middle? What do we want to sit with a particular product based on what’s in the market already?”

The market is driving what is high, what is low, and then we always strive to go as low as possible. That’s always the push, and I think we usually end up with a mid to low level for the product we’re offering.

For the level of quality, for the style, for the size, for example, and for what we think the longevity of it will be, then we kind of put all those metrics together, look at the market and say, “Well, this, we think, is a fair price or a low price for that product.”

Obviously, you can always find a cheaper sofa, but actually, that sofa’s probably not going to last. It’s probably a lot smaller, not made with such good high quality.

That’s one of the things, even though we’re going luxury affordable, it’s not cheap materials and things like that, because that’s counterproductive to what we’re trying to do.

We want to keep the luxury look and feel as much as we can. Obviously, there’s certain materials which are just going to be too expensive, but we don’t want to compromise on the quality.

Ella Jade:

But also counterproductive to the consumer. If you buy a sofa, let’s say that’s £700, and ours is £1100, but that sofa is rubbish after a year and a half, you’re going to have to pay another £700, you’re already paying £1400.

Dominic Peter:

My grandma was very wise, and she said, “Something cheap now is usually expensive in the long run.”

Ella Jade:

To be honest, some of our sofas and dining tables, some of the pieces compare with Ikea prices, so affordable. If we can talk about affordability, hopefully that’s the level.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, we’ve had this phrase on the show before, which is “reassuringly expensive,” which is you just want it to be high enough that people think, “Right, that is made well. There’s not some child toiling away in a factory on the other side of the world who’s made this.”

Ella Jade:

Oh my gosh, yeah.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It’s the right price, so that you feel like you’re paying for quality materials, and I feel like that’s been a thread that’s come through a lot of successful businesses that have been on the show, that they found that point.

Ella Jade:

Yeah, I agree. We also moved our entire supply chain from China to Europe, so for us, that’s incredibly important. We can control on a much greater scale, and the level of quality is, for us, much higher, so we’re very proud to manufacture in Europe.

The benefits of creating a membership model for the business and consumers

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I’d love to talk to you a bit more about that in a moment, but I wanted to talk about this membership idea, because when I saw the website, I was like, “This is the game changer,” because you feel like you are in a secret club if you’re a member, and you get these special prices.

But then also, that must be a really great incentive, that if anything breaks and you need to replace it, your first stop will then be Roobba.

Tell me about that membership concept and how powerful it’s been for the business. But also, how does it work?

Ella Jade:

It’s all about community for us.

We started this brand, and I think we always said to ourselves, “We need to be true to us and who we are and what we love and what we’re passionate about,” and for us, it’s definitely about a community and bringing people together, but being proud of a brand. I think that that’s very important.

Having a membership for Roobba, there’s a number of benefits to that. For example, we offer dedicated customer service assistance, so throughout your order, you have one person that you can go to, which is quite rare for an online consumer shopping experience.

As well as, for example, we have design services, so if you want a technical layout, we can do that for you.

We also have sofa recycling. For example, if you wanted to buy a new sofa and you have an old one, we recycle it for you, for a number of reasons, obviously sustainability, and charity wise, as well. We really don’t just want to send it to landfill. We send it to people that have use for it.

As well as that, we have our membership prices, so that’s basically heavily discounted in comparison to the regular ones. And for us, obviously, all we’d say is our promises as a brand is that we will always put the best prices forward to our members.

Whether that’s cost savings, we take a hit ourselves, we’re very honest and open about that, because for us, our members are our most valued consumers, and we very much adore having a membership as Roobba.

For us, I think if you are looking to purchase on Roobba, having that membership, usually it’s £50 a year, sometimes there are free promotions so you could get it for free.

But having that allows you to save a lot of costs, but also allows you to utilize all of our services.

Dominic Peter:

And I suppose from a business perspective, there’s a lot of players in the furniture market who go on cyclical sales throughout the year. Four or five times a year, they go on pretty heavy sales. And I think we didn’t want to do that.

We wanted to try and be affordable all year round. We didn’t want to build up to the Easter holidays, which is a very big selling time, or even Black Friday, which we obviously have to do.

But we wanted to try and say, “Hey, listen, we are not putting heavy margins in our product. We are keeping it as lean as we can. We don’t have showrooms. We’re saving as much cost as we can to give it to you as the consumer. We want to empower you to get the best you can without us skimming loads off of the top of it.” And I think that was a really important thing for us.

And I think the second point was, when we’re setting out looking from a business perspective, rather than just the consumer side, looking from a business side, it was to do with brand stickiness, that a lot of furniture brands are kind of one-off shops. You buy from them once because you liked that specific product, and you feel no connection to them ever again to come back.

And it’s something that is done a lot better in the fashion world. People feel a much closer relationship to the brands they shop from.

They go there straight away, whether it’s Zara or whatever, you think, “Okay, I need some stuff. Let me look there first, let me see what I find.”

Whereas we found in the furniture world, it was more, “Let me search for a product and I’ll buy it from wherever within reason I find it.”

We wanted to turn that on its head and we wanted to create a lifestyle brand that people are connected to so we could give them more, but also from a business perspective, there’s more repeat custom, people are more connected with the brand, and as you said, “Oh, I need something new, let me quickly check on Roobba, what’s new, what’s coming,” rather than shopping the other way around.

And I think that was really important for us to create this brand stickiness, I think I would call it.

Ella Jade:

100%, yeah.

Dominic Peter:

So that people felt really close to the brand, which is, for us, amazing, because we want to create the community, but looking at it from both perspectives, from the business side, as well, obviously, it’s very powerful.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s really interesting how a membership might seem like something quite simple, but actually, the benefits are manifold.

And I love that you guys aren’t dragging people out stuffed with turkey on Boxing Day to get your 50% off, which is what I remember from my youth, the adverts on Boxing Day, like, “Get down here today and get your faux leather sofa for 55% off.”

Becoming co-founders with your partner

Bex Burn-Callander:

And I love how you guys bounce off each other, and you clearly have a lot of rapport between you. Can you tell me a bit about how you came to be co-founders?

Dominic Peter:

We actually met personally first, so that was the first step. It was coming together as partners before the co-founding. We are quite funny. Most people have a tick box of, “The right height, funny,” or whatever. We probably checked each other’s CVs to make sure the potential was there.

We were both founders previous to coming together on other businesses. We came together in that sense, and then obviously a while after, that we co-founded Roobba, because we were both so hungry to found something and we both found this idea.

Well, I think I came in, saw Ella’s business, and then had loads of questions and loads of things, and then we came together with Roobba and the changes.

That’s very powerful in its own, obviously, being together. It has its challenges, of course, because it’s 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we’re business partners.

As much as people say, “Oh, I want to work from home, I can’t stop.” Well, if you take it a step further where you’re sitting in bed and at 1:00am in the morning you have an idea, you’re sitting next to your co-founder so you can quickly ask.

Ella Jade:

Personally, I think it’s very efficient. When I have an idea at 1:00am, I can be like, “Okay, let’s just have a quick meeting now,” I personally think it’s very efficient.

Dominic Peter:

I find it less efficient, if I’m honest, because I need to sleep.

Ella Jade:

We’ll agree to disagree on that point, but I think we get a lot done, personally. There’s no work hours. You can literally go all night in terms of ideas and creativity.

Dominic Peter:

There’s nothing getting in the way. I think sometimes if you are founding a business with someone, and then you come home, I know from past experience and from friends and stuff, there can be a bit of a pull in two directions sometimes, your personal life and your business life, which is fine.

Obviously, people need work life balance, but I think we just have work balance.

Ella Jade:

Maybe we just need a little bit more the life balance, but that’s fine.

Dominic Peter:

People’s traditional date nights, ours are just meetings in other locations.

Bex Burn-Callander:

But maybe that will come later, the balance part, because this business is still very young. I think it’s only about three years old.

Ella Jade:

Two and a half, yeah.

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s always the most frenetic point in a business journey.

Dominic Peter:

Of course.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Maybe when Roobba hits sort of five, or you bring in more management, that’s when you get five date nights a week as opposed to no date nights a week.

Dominic Peter:

I think it’s just the kind of people we are, as well.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I think so. Yeah.

Dominic Peter:

We’re so passionate in what we’re doing. I think the old adage is, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” We love what we do.

We want to talk about it, we want to think of the next big idea or whatever. I’m not like, “I need to run away.” You have your moments and you have to run away for a few hours, but in general, it’s not a chore for us. We enjoy it.

Otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. It’s too stressful and too time-consuming to do it if you don’t like it.

Ella Jade:

I think you have to be realistic. It’s not easy, nothing is easy. It’s always whether you’re a co-founder and you’re together or you are a co-founder and you are not together, there’s always going to be challenges, pros and cons to everything.

I think you also just have to, through the hard times, through the good times, you just have to keep going. And I think that’s the most important thing.

We’re trying to achieve something here that is not the norm, and I think sometimes you forget, when you have challenges, that, “Oh, it’s not plain sailing.”

Well no, because if it was, you’d be creating something potentially that was a little more simple or easier.

For us, we have to keep firm in our vision. We have to keep firm on what we’re trying to achieve here, and there’s so many things behind the scenes, like how we bring out new designs and logistics and all of the things that we’re trying to create with our marketing.

And it’s not the normal, and I think that’s what we are proud of, is that we can achieve that together.

When we do go through the hard times and we come out the other side and we’ve achieved it, we can look at each other and it is one of the best feelings. Yeah, I wouldn’t change it. Maybe some things, but I wouldn’t change this.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Well, it seems like this is actually kind of a good business idea. If you were both looking for fellow founders in your personal lives, maybe there’s like an entrepreneur dating site that needs to happen at some point.

Ella Jade:

I think it should happen, yeah.

Dominic Peter:

That’d be really funny. Like a Tinder, but it’s got your CV headlines.

Ella Jade:

Yes.

Dominic Peter:

That’s really funny.

Ella Jade:

But to be fair, I will just say the only good thing, which is…

Dominic Peter:

The only good thing.

Ella Jade:

Not the only good thing, but one of the good things is that we have different skill sets, and I think that’s key in finding a co-founder because, and I think thankfully that was, because yes, we probably did look at the CVs, but thankfully we do have different skill sets.

Dom is very much the manufacturing, logistics, tech, finance. And for me, I’m almost this crazy visionary, the person that thinks outside the box and then Dom goes, “Okay, well, how do we create that?”

And the marketing, the design, all the collaborations, the ideas.

For us, it’s the creative almost. It comes together quite well. And I think you are looking for a co-founder, the different skill sets, for me, is very important, so you don’t clash that. That’s very key.

Dominic Peter:

100%, 100%.

Overcoming design and manufacturing challenges

Bex Burn-Callander:

Yeah, that’s good advice. And Ella, what you said about basically having barriers, and every time you surmount a barrier, it’s good for you guys, but that’s also a barrier to entry for someone else who might be trying to do the same thing.

I love that concept, that it needs to be difficult, it needs to be hard, or it’s not worth doing and everyone else can do it.

Can you talk me through some of the biggest challenges? And they can be across anything.

You mentioned moving your manufacturing, for example, marketing. What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced as a business? And how has dealing with those challenges made Roobba stronger?

Ella Jade:

Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. I think we both have key answers to that. I’ll let Dom talk about manufacturing, logistics. For me, it’s definitely the way we bring out designs. That’s number one. And number two is the concept of our marketing.

Number one is designs.

If you were, for example, to buy from China, you do have to buy certain amount of, for example, if you’re buying a table in a certain size, in a certain wood color, in a certain metal base, you are limited by the fact that you have to buy a certain quantity of that.

Therefore, your buying choices are limited, and therefore, your consumer choices are limited. The amount of products you can put on your site is limited.

And that, for me, was a big challenge that I wanted to overcome for us as a business. I don’t believe that should be the case for the consumers, because fundamentally, if you go on the site and you see the table that you like, but they don’t have the size and they don’t have the colour that you want, you won’t buy it, and it also doesn’t give the right choice to the consumer.

We have invested in this for the last year, and it’s been hard, but we are really excited for the next month, actually, where we’ve got a lot launching on the site.

We essentially have invested into technology and 3D. We design basically through 3D, but the way that we have our team operating is that everything is very technical, so the technical team talked to the 3D team, talked to the manufacturing team, so everything goes on behind the scenes.

We do all the work for the consumer prior. We don’t just buy off a shelf, essentially. And then once everything is ticked in all the different boxes, from the design, manufacturing, technical element of it, and price point, we then essentially can just launch to site.

And we launch to site in every single size, in every single colour, because of the way that we operate our manufacturing linked with our design team.

Everything’s designed in-house, and obviously, we manufacture it under our full control, so we basically have full control of what we can offer to the consumer.

As you would buy a table, one size, one colour, one base, and offer that to the consumer, we now can offer that same table in seven different sizes and four different colour tops and two different colour bases, and you can literally pick and choose, almost like you’re customising your own piece.

It’s not been easy, for sure. But I think I’ll let Dom talk about the manufacturing.

Dominic Peter:

Interestingly, just to link back to a previous point, that this whole model links back to the affordability, because by doing this, we don’t have to hold endless amounts of stock.

We don’t have to have big warehouses. We don’t have to have loads of warehouse staff, so we can keep our prices lower. Even though this way of manufacturing, we have yet to find a manufacturer that loves it.

A lot of manufacturers are kind of set in an older way of working, “Order 1000 pieces from me, don’t talk to me again for a bit, come back and do it again, and keep doing it.” And we’ve battled for three years to say, “Well, no, isn’t how the market is dictating.”

A lot of the brands are trying to operate in a leaner way like we do, but the retailers behind don’t want to do it.

That’s been a really, really big challenge, is trying to convince and readjust the way we work. And that was one of the big changes we made when we moved to our factories in Europe and we invested there and we created a really, really strong partnership.

The manufacturing is essentially in-house with us, and we built this model around what the consumer wants, and then translated it all the way through the supply chain, and I would say that now, after about three years, it finally feels really solid and it’s really just running, and that was probably, from my perspective, one of the biggest challenges.

Because a lot of the time people are like, “No, it won’t work like this. It won’t work.” And I’m like, “I know it can,” because it just makes sense, but it’s just trying to adjust people’s way of thinking.

And sometimes when you’re coming into a market and you’re trying to, I’m not going to use the word revolutionise it, but just to change it or just to think slightly differently, people don’t want it.

Especially when the other one does technically work. For the manufacturers, people are buying stock, they’re putting it in their warehouses, so they’re happy.

But for us, when we partnered with our team in Europe and we came together, we sold this vision of how it should be, and they understood it, and we’ve built from there. That was definitely a massive challenge.

The other thing is logistics. I think people underestimate how big the stuff is. Sounds obvious.

But if you start up a clothing brand or a T-shirt brand, I always say this to Ella, “I wish we were just selling T-shirts,” because I could just pack them myself. They could be in another room.

Ella Jade:

Trust me, yeah.

Dominic Peter:

But when you’re shipping big container loads worth of furniture, the logistics company call it uglies. They call big stuff like this uglies, because no one wants to put it through their network. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, it’s hard to move.

Again, finding the best way of moving stuff without paying the Earth, because again, obviously the cost thing keeps coming back, and it was hard.

Finding just really good logistics companies, we’ve been through a lot. We work so hard to get the sale, to work with the customer, to manufacture the product, and then they just break it, and it’s so frustrating, and it took a long time and a lot of changes and fiddling and moving around to figure that side of it out to say, “Okay, which pieces move where? How does it go?”

Because again, it isn’t obvious. Yeah, you’ve got normal couriers and things like that, but everything has to have its own way, and obviously, the really big stuff needs a specific way, having two people move it and things like that.

From the logistics side, that’s obviously been a challenge. And again, I’m happy to report that everything is pretty smooth now.

It takes a long time, because building so many parts at once. Sometimes, if you build a piece of technology or whatever, you sit down, you build a piece of technology.

Ella Jade:

One thing at a time.

Dominic Peter:

You go, “Okay, here’s the beta, let’s launch that, let’s go.”

Whereas we started selling pretty quickly. Obviously, we built some things behind the scenes, the website, the supply chain, to a point, but we started selling pretty quickly, so we’re simultaneously selling to customers, managing the customer experience, managing the customer journey, whilst rebuilding bits of the supply chain in the behind.

But we can’t obviously let that impact the output.

That’s a challenge we’re constantly iterating, and as an e-commerce business, that’s how it has to be done. We are only valued and looked at on our revenue.

It’s not like, “Okay, well, we’ve spent three years building this thing. Now, I think we’ll do really well, and we’ll sell it.”

Well, no one is interested in that. From a valuation perspective, it’s, “You sell a product, how much are you making?”

You kind of have to do it simultaneously, and that’s difficult. You’re running along but you’re missing one of your legs, and you have to try and build the leg whilst you’re running.

Being an entrepreneur is like jumping out of a plane and building your parachute on the way down

Bex Burn-Callander:

That is the classic definition of the entrepreneur, and I can’t remember who wrote it, but it was that you jump out of a plane, and you have to build a parachute on the way down.

Dominic Peter:

Exactly.

Ella Jade:

I’ve heard that.

Dominic Peter:

And that’s exactly it, and the parachute’s still being built right now behind the scenes somewhere, somewhat.

Ella Jade:

I think everyone who’s ever been an entrepreneur or is an entrepreneur or is founding their own business will say the same thing, that you never quite finish building that parachute.

And I think you shouldn’t. I don’t think you should ever stop building that parachute, because I don’t think then you’ll ever stop trying to revolutionise what you’re trying to achieve.

But also, there’s something about an entrepreneur that if you are happy with being safe, I don’t think you’re an entrepreneur. I don’t.

I think you’ll always have that mindset that you need to push boundaries and you need to almost keep floating on down with a broken parachute, blah, blah, blah, because that’s when you can offer something else to your industry, to your market, to your consumers.

Dominic Peter:

I think it’s an interesting point, as well, because if you look back in history and read books and look at other businesses, the businesses where the co-founders or the founders step away at some point, maybe after IPO, whatever, and it gets handed over, often don’t do that well.

Because that hunger and vision and the building of the parachute kind of goes, and it can go into a slightly more corporate setting.

I think sometimes they lose that passion. Look at Amazon, for example, Jeff Bezos. Okay, I know he’s recently stepped back, but he’s been behind that the whole way with that exact direct vision of what he wanted to create.

Ella Jade:

The driving force.

Dominic Peter:

Exactly, and I think that’s what makes them. Look at Elon Musk. They’re two of the biggest. I think that makes such a difference.

If you hand it over to someone else who didn’t have the blood, sweat and tears, who didn’t have that complete vision of what they wanted to create, I think it has an impact on that perspective.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Then it struggles. Yeah, absolutely.

Dominic Peter:

Yeah, for sure.

How to practically apply AI and AR to a furniture company

Bex Burn-Callander:

I could talk about this parachute idea for ages, but I’ve got to ask, you mentioned marketing and reaching customers as being an interesting challenge, and I did notice that you were being quite forward-thinking in the use of augmented reality, and that artificial intelligence is also something that’s come into play in terms of your concept and delivery.

Can you tell me a bit about that? A lot of people listening to this might just think that AI and AR are just buzzwords, but how are they applied and useful and practical in terms of Roobba?

Dominic Peter:

It’s all about the shopping experience. It’s all about, “How do we give what you used to be able to get in shop when you walked in, online?”

And one of the issues people have is, they don’t know what they want and how to find it.

For example, you want a blue and gold chair, you can search “blue and gold chair,” you’ll see a few options. You’re probably going to choose one.

But what if you’ve just bought a new house, you’ve got a space, and you have absolutely no idea how to create that space. You don’t know what to put in it, you don’t know what’s going to fit you, don’t know how it’s going to go together, what’s going to look nice.

Well, where do you start? What do you search? Room. Kitchen, living room. It’s impossible, so you end up endless scrolling on Instagram or on Pinterest to try and see some inspiration, but then how does that translate into a purchase?

Because maybe that’s just someone’s image from their house. No idea what the products are, they’re not tagged.

For us, it’s about revolutionising that whole experience for the consumers, to allow them to give us various different inputs or whatever it is, and then be able to buy product and find what they want.

When you walk around Ikea, for example, it’s a good example, you look at the little settings, “Oh, that’s nice.” You buy the whole setting. You look at another one, you buy the whole setting. That’s a more difficult experience online to create.

Well, in some settings, it’s easier, because you don’t need endless IKEA warehouses to do it. You can just do it on the screen.

But it’s difficult to give that richness of the experience to the consumer, so from the AI perspective, yeah, it’s a massive buzzword, but it’s about the intelligence of us knowing, if you give us some information, what do we give you back?

Generating personalised interior design ideas for customers through AI and AR

Bex Burn-Callander:

Do you generate a look for the customer? If they show interest in a certain sofa or a chair, does your website then plug that into an engine that spits out, “This is how it could look in a room, and these are some of the nice accents you could put with it,” and that kind of thing?

Dominic Peter:

It hasn’t fully launched yet, but yes.

Bex Burn-Callander:

It will do that.

Dominic Peter:

It will do something like that. There’s going to be various different ways of inputting to us, whether it be text, whether it be photo, a style, whatever it is, and some sizing information, if that’s something you want to give, and then we’ll be able to output the information in the way that you need it. Whether you are looking for a whole space or just a mood board of product or whatever it is.

It’s that customer journey we are looking to kind of revolutionise with AI. AR is augmented reality, so it’s being able to look at product in a space. It’s not something we’re going to use massively, but it is a cool tool to be able to say, “Okay, well, how will this look in that corner?”

And it’s a nice feature on a product page to be able to add. But the main core of it is this artificial designer, call it an artificial Ella, basically, so that we can create spaces for people.

Because most people don’t know what they want. I wouldn’t know what I wanted. I’m not a designer. I’m very lucky that I have a very good designer. But it is about that experience that kind of revolutionises the way you shop for stuff.

Ella Jade:

Yeah. For example, now, we have an almost static concept of what Dom just explained. We’re very excited about, to be honest, the tech that we’re going to bring out, and it’s something that we’re doing in-house, and we’re very much looking to pinpoint the exact pain point from the consumer and then obviously find the solution through tech.

Well, personally, I think the concept of shopping needs to revolutionised, and especially for the home, because it’s so long-winded and it takes ages, and for me, it’s a pain point as a consumer, let alone as a business owner.

That is something that I’m very passionate about, I know Dom is very passionate about that, so definitely watch that space in the next year. We’re definitely very, very, very focused on that.

But for now, we have that version but in a static form. For example, we create the 3D room lifestyles with our team, so showing how, for example, dining table, dining chairs, bar stools, sofa, could go all together. You like the room. You can also change the colour for example, not necessarily in the image, but you can change the colour that you want to buy.

We have a bundle discount for our members, as well. And then you can literally shop out of that image, click “add to cart,” check out. Ease of shopping.

For us, that’s very, very important, something we’re very passionate about, and something we really look to expand in the next year or so.

Bex Burn-Callander:

And this is quite crucial, isn’t it, that it’s not artificial intelligence, it’s artificial Ella. I love that, that you are bringing this interior designer element, personalised shopping, to someone who isn’t a celebrity, isn’t sitting on £1 million, so this sounds like a natural progression for the brand, which is amazing.

Brining furniture marketing up-to-date

Bex Burn-Callander:

And then I wanted to talk a bit about social media, because I can see that you’ve got loads of fans on social media, and I imagine with something so visual, that is crucial for selling.

How powerful has that been? Which particular social media platforms? Presumably Instagram, I don’t know. Is describing what you do on Twitter also very powerful? You can tell me if it is.

Talk to me about the social strategy and what that’s done for the business.

Ella Jade:

Yes, definitely Instagram. That is our main platform for pretty much everything. We are definitely moving into TikTok. I think that’s very important as a brand, as a consumer.

More so, we are creating our own Roobba Studio, so we are going to have a lot more video content that’s coming out, and really exciting concepts coming out from that.

But from my point of view, social media for other brands has, I think taken off in… Not other brands, other brands in different industries.

For example, fashion. You look at fashion, even makeup, accessories, on social media, and the concept of what they’re creating through this little tiny image picture concept is very different to the furniture world.

One of the main reasons we created, and we founded Roobba was because I was tired of the fact that the furniture industry in itself was a little bit traditional, old-fashioned, a little bit outdated with the social media marketing concept that comes out in the industry.

That is one of the main things that we are looking to build, that we’ve now launched, if we’re in August, a collaboration with Belle Lucia on Instagram. She’s a beautiful, amazing influencer, model, and we have created a collection in collaboration with her for an entire house.

Her entire house is Roobba and is designed by Roobba for Belle, very much in collaboration with her, because she gave so much insight into what she wanted, and we created an entire collection that truly represents her.

It’s like what you’d see in fashion brands. Fundamentally, it’s her collection, but it is now brought into a much more exciting marketing campaign, and obviously hopefully you can check out Instagram, where it would all have launched.

There’s lots of content that we’ve really spent a lot of time and effort going into. I don’t want to give the visual element away, because I want you guys to see it, but essentially, it’s really representing her in this collection.

It’s not just someone sitting on a chair and going, “Hey, this is a chair.”

Dominic Peter:

It’s not just about the product.

Ella Jade:

It’s not just about the furniture. It’s about the fact that this collection truly represents her.

It truly elevates and empowers her in her home, and that, for me, is the most important thing of what we’re trying to create at Roobba and what we’re trying to create with these collaborations.

Dominic Peter:

It’s putting the people first.

Ella Jade:

Definitely.

A high follower count can act as a form of SEO

Dominic Peter:

Because furniture, clothing, whatever it is, it makes you feel a certain way. It’s such a key part of your life. It’s not just a thing, and it’s about, “Well, how do we put the people at the front of it?”

And I think social media and those platforms give you such a positive way of doing that.

I think for me, also from an interesting side, from how I look at social media now, any e-commerce brand in the past would spend a lot of money with SEO, optimising for Google and search, so that when you come, you come at the top.

Whereas the way I look at it now is that I think your following on Instagram, and that organic side of definitely your socials, is the SEO now.

Before, you’d search sofa, whoever came up in the top page, “They’re all good brands, I’ll shop in one of those.” Whereas now if you’ve got a million followers, it’s the same.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t come up on the top page, because people go on your page and go, “Ah, they’re verified. They have a million followers. They’re obviously a good brand.”

Bex Burn-Callander:

That’s interesting.

Dominic Peter:

I have adjusted the way we think in terms of SEO or however you want to call it, I call it organic optimisation, and harnessing the social media platforms, which people use so much, especially because people are speculative when they’re shopping for us.

They’re kind of, “Oh, ideas, creative,” rather than, “I know exactly what I want,” which we discussed earlier.

From that perspective, I think the social channels are huge from the organic side. Obviously, there’s the paid side and the ads and all this stuff, but the organic side, which we’re trying to harness with these partnerships, trying to create powerful messaging and this theme of empowerment.

We feel like that is what’s going to give us that organic edge, which hopefully translates into the new SEO, as I like to call it.

How to choose authentic influencers

Bex Burn-Callander:

I need to know, though, how did you choose Belle? Because there are so many influencers out there and this is such an all-in partnership where basically the blend is absolute between this personality and your brand.

What questions did you ask? How did you interrogate all the options? Because I can imagine a lot of people listening might be interested in influencer marketing in a general sense, but will be fascinated to know how you choose this one person.

Ella Jade:

To be honest, it was very organic, and I know this is a non-scientific way of looking at influencer marketing, but my advice, honestly, it has to be organic.

Because then you will vibe off each other, because fundamentally, the brand is you as a founder, and the best collaborations and the best partnerships I’ve ever worked on is when you’re both on the same page and you’re both able to agree.

Not necessarily agree, but you are on the same page in terms of what the vision is and what you’re trying to create, and you’re going to put the same amount of effort and energy into it.

Dominic Peter:

I’ll just throw one word in there. It’s authentic.

Ella Jade:

Yeah.

Dominic Peter:

It’s authenticity. Because influencer marketing has come such a long way, it’s not the same as it was a few years ago where they just posted it and it did well.

People now see through it, in the same way now people know they’re getting advertised to from an ad popping up. It’s not like, “Oh wow, look.”

People know the ad’s there. And it’s the same with influencer marketing now. People know it’s a paid ad, and they have to write #paid or whatever.

Again, it’s about going a step further and creating something, like I said, which is super authentic. We wanted to partner with Belle because all our core values, they kind of aligned. We knew she wanted a new space.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Was she already a fan? Or did she buy something? Or did she get in touch and say, “Hey, I love what you are doing.”

How did the kernel of a relationship start?

Ella Jade:

Well, really, her agent at the time got in touch, and Belle said that she really loved the products and really loved the style.

I think, honestly, there’s two folds to this, as Dom was saying. It is authentic because the fact that she really liked the brand, but also the style, in terms of what we create, it represents her.

Again, it’s like fashion. You choose a brand because of the style.

Bex Burn-Callander:

The shoe fits.

Ella Jade:

Yeah, exactly. But also because, look, she is beautiful soul, inside and out. She’s very family orientated, really lovely, kind person. And obviously, for us, that’s in itself an amazing fit, because she represents what we want to represent as a brand.

But also because she was passionate, as well, about what we wanted to try and create, and I think that it goes along with that authentic concept, where you’re not just doing a collaboration where we are pushing forcefully onto the influencer something that the influencer’s not either passionate about or bothered about or wants to really get involved in, and therefore, it just won’t work in that situation.

We are collaborating, so it’s not just, “Hey, I’m dictating what you need to do as a brand and you need to do that as an influencer,” almost like a sale.

It was very much a, as the word says, partnership, collaboration, where we both came together and we both created something that we’re very passionate about, and that’s why it was authentic and that’s why it was organic.

And I think if you can, for anyone listening who’s doing influencer marketing or was wanting to collaborate with a certain influencer, for me, it’s not just the first person.

And I will say that because I think it’s quite easy. Almost as a brand, you want to be like, “Well, I want to get going really quickly and I need to push out my brand and influencer marketing and whoever I can get, I will go for.”

But actually take a minute, and maybe it’s not the right person at the start, because you do spend a lot of investment as a brand with the influencer marketing, and absolutely, that’s our passion and our joy, but it has to be right, so if it’s not the right person, the right person will come along for the brand, and don’t worry about that.

Dominic Peter:

And bear in mind, that person is going to be the face of your brand. You may not be the face of it.

We are not super in the spotlight yet, so if you choose the wrong person or it doesn’t resonate with the consumer, and especially if you spent so much time building this network of consumers or an audience, and then suddenly you throw out something which is really wrong, that can be super detrimental.

So just be careful who you choose.

Bex Burn-Callander:

Avoid the knee-jerk reaction when it comes to consumer marketing.

Dominic Peter:

100%.

How being on The Apprentice compares with building your own business

Bex Burn-Callander:

And guys, Ella especially, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about something, and I hope you’re willing to talk a little bit about it, which is that you were on The Apprentice.

I would like to know what you took away from that experience that has proved useful in building this business.

Was there anything that you learned on that show or in the way that you were tested that then helped you become a more productive, efficient, good problem solver as a founder?

Ella Jade:

Oh. Grit, determination. I think what you see on the TV is different to what you see behind the scenes. You are literally sleep-deprived beyond measure. Maybe you do see that on TV, and my bags were very obvious.

It is very much on the go, you’re woken up at 4:30am having slept two hours with a camera in your face, and you are told to get ready in 20 minutes and be downstairs, and then plonked a brief in front of you. Imagine doing that on a day-to-day basis.

Pressure is probably the number one word that comes to mind. And how do you handle pressure without panicking, without stressing?

I think for me, that was the biggest takeaway of that, because fundamentally, every episode, every challenge that you’re given is different, and that is quite similar to what you do as an entrepreneur.

Dominic Peter:

That’s what we do in business, every day there’s a new challenge, and you have to think differently.

Ella Jade:

There’s a new challenge.

Dominic Peter:

Thankfully, there’s less politics between us than in the Apprentice.

Ella Jade:

Well, sometimes. Yeah, the politics is a whole other level, but to be honest, you have to deal with politics in business, and the people that you deal with in business.

Dominic Peter:

For sure.

Ella Jade:

You definitely have to deal with politics, so I think that’s definitely a takeaway of that. But I think pressure. I think you’re always under pressure in business.

You always have to handle something, and that was definitely the biggest skill, I would say, that you have to learn to have. If you don’t already have it, you have to learn to have it.

And if you do have it, you have to keep on having it, in terms of how to handle pressure.

Dominic Peter:

Not that I was on it, I think it’s like a sink or swim kind of mentality. And on that program, you will sink hard and fast or you swim. And it’s the same in business.

You could easily end up under the water, but if you keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself, which you have to do that every day, when you think it’s impossible, when you think it’s too hard, it’s too much, you carry on.

And I think that’s the main thing that comes out of that kind of program, is that resilience and persistence. That’s really, really key.

The people that keep going reach the finish line

Ella Jade:

I always speak to my friend about this, she’s amazing founder as well, and we always have phone conversations, and there’s one line that we always say to each other, and I always think about it, “It’s the people that keep going. It’s the people that don’t stop.”

And I will say that as my one single piece of advice, if I have one advice to give right now.

It’s very easy to stop, it is, because if something happens, a challenge happens and you’re just like, “Okay, well, you know what? It’s not working.” Or, “I’ll do something else.”

And sometimes, to be honest, maybe those are the clever and intelligent people that do that, because they have probably a less stressful life.

Dominic Peter:

Yeah, a more relaxing life.

Ella Jade:

But for me, the one line that we keep going and keeps on in my mind is, “The people that keep going will reach the finish line.”

And for me, I think for us, we will always never give up and we will always keep going and stay firm to our vision and stay firm to our dream, because 100%, we believe in it.

Dominic Peter:

Yeah, 100%. I think that’s very, very good advice. My only add on to that is just to always question yourself, because you can easily become a busy fool.

You can easily end up, “I’m working super hard, this is the right way, this is the right way.” And then you look back and you think, “What did we really achieve in six months? That wasn’t the right route,” or whatever.

You have to keep going, but keep questioning, so make sure that you’re going in always as close to the right direction.

It will never be the perfectly right direction. It’s always snakes and ladders, that’s how I describe it. You go up a bit, down two, up a bit more, down two, but keeping going and keeping the vision in mind.

Ella Jade:

And be proud of what you’re achieving. I think that’s incredibly important, because I think, especially for us, we are very harsh on ourselves, for good reason, because I think you always push yourself.

We always want to push ourselves constantly. But there are sometimes where you can be your biggest critic, and that can be sometimes hard on yourselves.

We always tend to go, “Oh, what about this?” Whereas actually, we’re like, “Well, actually, look what we’ve achieved in the last six months and the year and two years.” And be very proud of that.

 And sometimes you have to give that positivity, as well as that criticism, to yourself, too, in order to keep pushing yourselves to the best that you can be, because your mind needs that.

Your mind needs positive reinforcement. I think it’s always important to be proud of what you’re achieving.

Why is it called Roobba?

Bex Burn-Callander:

Amazing. And just last question, why is it called Roobba?

Ella Jade:

It’s a very personal reason.

My dad was my biggest inspiration. He was the most incredible businessman I’ve ever met. He created his own empire, and I was very lucky to have been taught everything, almost, from him. He passed away very suddenly, and he still remains my biggest inspiration, and there are days that I wish I could ask him questions.

Roobba basically means spirit of father, so for us, it’s a very poignant and special name, and it represents exactly what we’re trying to create with the brand.

And he was someone who was very visionary and would always want to give the consumer the best in terms of what he could offer, and I think it really represents us as founders, but also what Roobba represents, so that’s exactly what it means.

Bex Burn-Callander:

I’m so sorry that you lost your dad, but how amazing to see that word every day and to have that be the thing that picks you up on a bad day, and as you say, feeds that drive and persistence that you say is so crucial to making it in this crazy world called entrepreneurship.

Dominic Peter:

For sure.

Ella Jade:

100%, 100%. Yeah, definitely.

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