As a cofounder and former chief product officer of Home Chef, Bryon Finke, helped build technology and raise a seed round for one of the fastest growing startups in Chicago and a rising tech player in the grocery industry. It’s a startup that’s getting additional attention after Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, as many are watching the grocery industry as testing ground for the future of e-commerce.
Now Finke is focused on what he believes is the next frontier in e-commerce: Used furniture.
For the past two years, Finke has been building MarketSquare, and end-to-end e-commerce marketplace for buying and selling used luxury furniture. Unlike selling on Craigslist, the items are curated, professionally photographed and hand-delivered. And unlike buying the same fast, cheaper, DIY furniture at places like Ikea and Target, buyers can get curated high end furniture at similar low-end prices.
“We’re bringing high quality furniture back to the market,” Finke said.
Buyers can browse MarketSquare‘s offerings either online or on the MarketSquare app. Most prices range from about 15 to 75 percent off the retail price (a gray midcentury tufted love seat was marked down 50 percent to $350, for example) and brands include West Elm, Todd Oldham and Herman Miller. Once buyers make a purchase, MarketSquare does white glove delivery directly to a home (starting at $29 and free on orders over $299 to certain geographic areas) or buyers can pick up their furniture for free at their Bridgeport warehouse.
Sellers submit photos of their furniture to MarketSquare, and if their item is accepted MarketSquare will pick up the item, photograph it, and list it on the site for up to 120 days. Sellers get 60 percent of the purchase if it sells, and can choose to donate it or pick it up after 120 days.
For revenue, MarketSquare takes a 40 percent cut of the sale (slightly lower than the 50 percent consignment industry standard Finke said). Since launching two years ago, MarketSquare moved into an expanded Bridgeport facility, completed over 1,500 orders and done $600,000 in sales. Next up they’re hoping to raise a seed round, open a second Chicago facility later this year and eventually expand to other markets. Already, Finke said they’ve shipped orders to Milwaukee and as far as California. Currently MarketSquare has three full-time employees, and three part-time employees who work in the warehouse and logistics. The lean team means everyone, Finke included, has chipped in to do deliveries.
Taking the extra step to offer white glove delivery is more than just a customer service ploy to Finke. He believes it will set an industry standard that’s harder for the giants of commerce (read: Amazon) to replicate.
“Anything that is worth its time and effort is not going to be easy, try to do things that are challenging,” Finke said.
“Furniture is the big new frontier for Amazon, and it is for everyone,” he added. “People will start to invest, in a more public way, in the next generation of furniture consumption. MarketSquare is trying to build out that infrastructure as part of our business model.”