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Guido Loeffler and Nick Lee from Innate Furniture (Photo: Supplied)
Guido Loeffler and Nick Lee from Innate Furniture (Photo: Supplied)

BusinessJuly 14, 2020

The backyard furniture business with big plans for NZ’s sustainable building future

Guido Loeffler and Nick Lee from Innate Furniture (Photo: Supplied)
Guido Loeffler and Nick Lee from Innate Furniture (Photo: Supplied)

A success story of the New Zealand Made Products Facebook page, this Christchurch start-up has grown from a backyard workshop to a centre for sustainable architecture and building all in the space of a few months.

Two Christchurch guys needed a table for their flat. So they built one out of scraps of timber in their backyard.

They showed their friends, who thought it was good, and everyone wanted one. So the guys took a few orders, made a few more tables and discovered they had a knack for it.

Over lockdown, they used the time to perfect their craft and give their idea a push on social media. Since then their new business, Innate Furniture, has not stopped growing.

Guido Loeffler and Nick Lee, both in their early 30s, are now dead set on maintaining the momentum and taking their furniture business to big places over the next year, whether there is a pandemic-driven downturn or not.

The two have always had a focus on sustainability and they’ve integrated this into the business by using sustainably grown timber, natural oils and paints, and even shipping their products nationwide in recycled woollen blankets and hemp twine.

Their sustainable ethos proved to be a compelling selling point after they advertised on the New Zealand Made Products Facebook Page and were inundated with interest.

“Within one week we went from a couple of listings on Trade Me to thousands of reactions on Facebook, thousands of followers, hundreds of enquiries, dozens of orders – and it hasn’t stopped,” Loeffler says.

The pair soon moved into a physical workshop so they didn’t have to work out of their backyard, especially important with winter approaching. But with even more orders pouring in, they made the decision to upsize once again.

Their new venue will be up and running from August 1 as they transform an old industrial building into a modern and sustainable furniture workshop and educational facility.

Innate Furniture’s focus is to sell furniture while at the same time teaching other businesses and anyone interested that health and environmentalism begins in the home. Their workshop will have food catered by local plant-based deli Grater Goods and feature a wide range of furniture on display.

Innate Furniture’s outdoor table (Photo: Supplied)

While it has an office, there won’t be a reception desk and there won’t be any printers or conference rooms. Instead, there will be a shared space for architectural teams, joinery students and like-minded passionate people to come and learn about the best ways to build sustainable homes and offices.

Loeffler says they will be working with a wide range of sustainably oriented local businesses to learn and share knowledge for the community.

So what is it about their product that has seen the business booming at a time when so many others are shutting up shop?

Loefller says the consumer trend towards responsible business is inevitable, but it could well be that a global pandemic was the shock to the system that many needed to start reassessing the status quo.

“We’ve bridged the gap between cheap plastic-wrapped imported furniture made from endangered hardwoods, and amazing local joiners creating masterpieces at prices most of us cannot afford,” he says.

Leoffler says he and Lee are currently both working more than 80 hours a week to expand the business and reinvest most of the profits to help its growth.

This is on top of working one day a week in their regular day jobs; Lee is a musician and Loeffler a videographer.

“[We’re] allowing it to grow organically. We don’t have bank loans or even credit with our suppliers. Our approach is simple, use a stack of wood in the backyard and see how far we can take it. Ambitions are big, already brewing plans to lease larger premises next door in 2021,” Loeffler says.

With such a business mission, it’s clear that sustainability is a passion for Loeffler, who says it’s not just about saving polar bears but about everyone’s survival.

“Our current rate of environmental destruction is not sustainable, and we believe that there is no point focusing on much else if we don’t have fresh air or clean water to sustain life on this planet. It should absolutely come first and foremost to everyone; by definition we cannot survive if we do not live sustainably,” he says.

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