Angus Syme and Cameron Leigh talk to Rahul Bhattarai about FlatPack Co, an online business they started after their first year at university.
What does your business do?
Angus: We're an online bed retailer. We offer a range of mattresses and bed frames designed to be comfortable, durable and affordable. We began in the NZ student market selling mattresses and bed frame combinations while guaranteeing they get delivered to the student on the day they move into their flat.
We're now expanding to offer similar products to any Kiwi looking for affordable quality
What was the motivation for starting it?
Cam: After finishing high school I went to the University of Otago to study accounting. But a year into my studies, I realised I didn't want to crunch numbers sitting behind the computer for eight hours a day, five days straight.
So I wanted some sense of freedom and become more adventurous and launching a business was a great idea. Even though I graduated with a degree in accounting.
Like many other students in NZ we needed to organise a bed for our flat. We quickly realised we only had two options. We could either buy a second-hand bed that eight other students have had the pleasure of sleeping on it before us. Or, we had to go down to one of the large bed retailers and spend $1500 on a brand-new mattress and base - which simply was out of our budget.
So we got to work and with the help of a bed manufacturer and designed the perfect student bed. Once we had achieved the product, it was all up to the marketing and boy have we had some fun with that!
The products come in cardboard boxes and take just 15 minutes to assemble.
What's your background?
Cam: I grew up on a dairy farm in Cambridge, Waikato. I went to St Peter's School in Cambridge and loved my time there. After leaving school I went to the University of Otago to study accounting.
Angus: I grew up in North Canterbury before attending St Andrew's College in Christchurch. After high school, I moved to Otago and got a degree in finance from the University of Otago.
My family has always been entrepreneurial and while at high school, my parents helped my younger brother and me start a luxury possum fur business.
We sold products at markets and in shops all over the South Island and this really laid a strong entrepreneurial foundation for me moving forward. So when the opportunity came along to start The FlatPack Company there was no doubt in my mind that we could nail it.
How big is the team today?
Angus: We are two of us and two other part-time students.
How was your business affected by Covid-19?
Cam: Our busiest season is from January and February just before the uni restarts and because of Coivd-19 the global shipment has been delayed. This means we are having to be a lot more organised by ordering our products months in advance.
How long has your business been around?
Angus: We launched the business at the beginning of 2019 at the University of Otago, Canterbury University, Victoria University and Waikato University. We are now selling beds to all universities in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin and Polytechnic. Our biggest move this year is opening the gates to anyone in NZ looking for affordable quality bedroom furniture.
What's your focus for the remainder of the year?
Cam: For the remainder of the year we are hoping to expand to the rest of the country.
What are your long-term plans, and where do you see the brand in five years?
Angus: In five years time, we hope to have beds in mass-market retail throughout New Zealand and Australia. We are also continuing to expand our direct to consumer e-commerce channel.
How does your business stand out in comparison to other businesses in the market?
Cam: We have built a fun and sexy brand within a traditionally stodgy market. We have done this by creating humourous, relatable and engaging content which is pushed out through our social media channels.
How are you marketing it?
Angus: Most of our marketing is done via digital platforms i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube and Google advertising.
What does the competition look like in this market?
Cam: In the New Zealand bed market space most of the products are manufactured in the country, which comes at a higher price point. But, we bring in quality products from overseas, so from a price perspective, we are a lot more affordable than our competitors.
What would you advise someone who is starting a new business?
Cam: Just go for it and take the leap and keep on working towards your goal.