Q&A with Saskia Goeres: KickStart 2019 Runner-up
In our latest blog, we catch up with Saskia Goeres of Sofa for Life, to find out what inspired her to go into business and how the company is progressing since winning the KickStart 2019 Runner-up prize.
What inspired you to start Sofa for Life?
This business idea grew while I was in my fifth year of university, studying for a masters in Product Design Engineering from the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow School of Art. The course was the perfect combination of theory, practice and creativity, and taught me to apply my interest in sustainability and circular economy in a creative way.
Walking around Glasgow, I was shocked to see the amount of fly-tipped sofas on the street. This seemed like such a waste, so I decided to talk to recycling centres, second-hand furniture shops and users to understand why sofas are thrown out in the first place and what happens to them after they are discarded.
Users complained about the inability to clean, transport or repair sofas easily, and the lack of flexibility regarding colour, sizing and style. This decreased the sofa’s lifetime and it ended up on the street.
Fly-tipped sofas can’t be sent to a second-hand shop because they have touched the pavement and, thanks to fire resistant chemicals, unrecyclable materials, staples and glues, sofas simply can’t be recycled. Therefore, every single sofa ends up in landfill.
So, I started designing… and the Sofa forLife was born. The Sofa forLife enables the user to replace, update and add components throughout their lifetime. This is cheaper than buying a whole new sofa and reduces waste. Further, the Sofa forLife is washable, portable and only produces a 10th of the CO2 emissions of a conventional sofa.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
The financial strains have definitely been the biggest challenge. It can be difficult to see friends graduating, landing stable jobs and going on holidays, while being an entrepreneur means working hard without an income. But then I remember that I really love what I do and that I learn so much on this journey. Being your own boss forces you to take on a lot of responsibility, to be organised and to learn fast, which can sometimes be a challenge but overall is very rewarding.
Why did you apply for KickStart 2019?
I applied to the Social Enterprise Converge Challenge 2018 and took part in the amazing business training provided to the semi-finalists. The training really helped me to understand how to grow my business, but most of all I enjoyed meeting the other entrepreneurs with their great ideas. It is so important to encourage and learn from each other. Overall, the competition was a great experience and in the end, I even won the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. I therefore decided to try again and applied to KickStart 2019.
What did you get out of the KickStart programme that you didn’t expect?
The business training helped the rest of my team to have a broader business understanding, which helps the whole start-up to grow faster. The financial support provided for being the runner-up prize is currently helping us to execute our first pilot-manufacturing run.
What are you planning to do next and where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We are currently organizing our first pilot-manufacturing run to sell 15 sofas to carefully selected early adopters. Their feedback will be used to implement into the design before entering the market at the end of 2019 via a crowdfunding campaign. We will then concentrate on growing our sales until we reach the sales growth and a loyal customer base to afford in-house manufacturing. This will help us to expand into producing other circular economy products.
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying for one of our challenges?
Definitely apply. Even if you won’t win anything, the business training and the connections you’ll make will help you to accelerate your start-up journey. It’s also just really good fun to get to know so many intelligent, driven entrepreneurs.