We recently chatted with founder Cameron Stewart, founder of d-i-ply, a company offering stylish, affordable furniture kits for crafty people. Cameron completed one of our programmes to help launch his company.
Q. Cameron, what does your company do?
d-i-ply scours the internet for the best and most innovative parametric furniture designs, then makes them in partnership with the designer using highly automated manufacturing techniques. We then send the product to the customer flat-packed, so they get to put together their new furniture themselves. We offer high-quality products for renters and home-owners at very competitive rates.
Q. What can we currently purchase?
We have three products live on the site, which we can manufacture right now (chairs, a small folding table, and a desk), and a fourth which will be up soon (the below bed). I've got some great designs in the 'to-do' list. You can purchase our product from our website.
Q. Wait, what's parametric furniture exactly?
Well, according to Wikipedia it's this: "Parametric design is a paradigm in design where the relationship between elements is used to manipulate and inform the design of complex geometries and structures. It's a process based on algorithmic thinking that enables the expression of parameters and rules that, together, define, encode and clarify the relationship between design intent and design response."
Q. How does your company work for furniture designers?
People can design a piece of parametric furniture and list it on our site. They then get a cut of every item sold. If you aren't a designer but have a great idea, no worries. We can design this with your help and start manufacturing it.
Q. Who are your target customers?
I am targeting a segment of the market that is somewhere between DIY and IKEA.
The products are low cost because they are flat-packed and customer assembled. The product is also not sanded or finished to a fine level, but the quality of the materials is very high.
Unlike DIY, the manufacturing technique used means that most of the hard work that requires power tools and a large working space is done. It is also done far more accurately and faster than any craftsman could produce which gives a very high-value low-cost product.
It's important to make this distinction of where the product sits amongst alternatives because it helps to define the intended target market. They are most likely to be young professionals with some manual capabilities that value unique products and derive pleasure from building/constructing things.
Q. What has your journey been so far?
My entrepreneurial journey started seriously when I moved to Auckland from Australia and was looking to furnish my rental. I was really surprised by the lack of an active second-hand furniture market (there is quite a healthy one in Melbourne).
It was really going to cost a lot of money to buy something that was both portable and good-looking. I felt that I could do better and build something of quality and worth lugging around.
I have been exposed to advanced manufacturing techniques at a commercial level professionally through my work as a civil engineer, and I have been a member of many hacker/maker spaces around the place - HSBNE in Brisbane and most importantly in the Santiago Makerspace in Chile.
I was in Chile for a sabbatical year and had the opportunity to join the Santiago Makerspace and do some exploratory learning. I did some courses in Parametric Design with a Mexican architecture collective called Chido Studio. They use parametric design processes with software like Rhino and Grasshopper to produce incredibly striking and complex forms.
I also gained some exposure to 3D printing and laser cutting which were important tools in the makerspace. This opened up the world of digital manufacturing to which I am still very much a beginner.
More recently I have been inspired by my sister who is a more serious furniture designer currently working for Freedom furniture. We have had some discussions about projects she was working on and it got me thinking about furniture and the interior environment as an interesting place to try and problem-solve.
Q. What made you start the CO.STARTERS programme for your idea?
In Auckland, I had been going to the odd Android conference at GridAKL. I mucked up the date one day and accidentally gate-crashed an event from Mum's Garage. Natalie trapped me in her pipeline tractor beam and I was signed up for a course she was running at the time by the end of it.
At this particular course, I had to define and communicate my business idea, which helped consolidate some of my thoughts and made me really claim the idea as my own. This helped it to become a reality in my head.
6 months or so went by where I was really busy at work but hadn't developed the idea at all. I got an email out of the blue from Natalie (I must have fallen into another list) and she told me about the program. I signed up straight away. CO.STARTERS has really helped me because it has helped me maintain focus and keep working towards the goal even though the time and energy I have for my business idea is scarce.
Q. What are your next steps, and goals for the future?
I want to make some serious sales to really start to refine the product and test the market robustly. The next operational stage is to get a CNC machine. I am flying to Brisbane in late April to inspect a machine to import to New Zealand. This will allow me to drop my unit cost and do more experimentation. I want to set up a proper working space and start to do some events in markets to speak to more customers and make some sales. I am hoping to add more items in the $50-$100 dollar space that people will buy on impulse. Future goals would be to set up workshops in other cities, i.e Wellington and East Coast Australia. I'd also like to make the products customisable from your browser.
Q. How can we help you?
If someone wants something in particular, please hit me up. Also, I'll be looking for more designers to partner with, and I'll need to find a developer in the future to help me set up truly customisable options for the customer.