When four engineers (longtime friends and successful serial entrepreneurs) founded the direct-to-consumer brand Article in 2013, their first intention was to eradicate unnecessary supply chain costs, then to make high-quality furniture affordable and ultimately to let people make beautiful spaces easily. In order to do so, this hybrid tech/design company (headquartered in Vancouver) established a warehouse and distribution network across North America. The Article origin story might be one of industry disruption, but none of that would matter if the furniture itself (which includes sofas, tables, beds and more) wasn’t well-designed and carefully produced, and the process with which people receive it wasn’t meticulous.
In advance of this story, our relationship with the brand began when we bought a bed and couch from Article without having seen either in person. This required overcoming hesitation about purchasing furniture online—something that Article’s success hinges upon. Our personal experience motivated outreach to Article’s co-founder and COO, Andy Prochazka. His story informs the values of the brand and helps to explain why, upon delivery, we were satisfied.
“We identified this opportunity, which started out as this concept called ‘fill the container,'” Prochazka tells us. “We saw that there’s this huge price discrepancy between finished goods that are ready to be containerized and the price you pay for a product when you go to a store. It’s a 300% to 400% or more increase in cost. We put our engineering hats on and thought: there’s got to be a better way to do this.”
Prochazka and his brother Sam, as well as their colleague Aamir Baig, met at an IHOP in South Edmonton “over several large pots of coffee” and fleshed out the idea. “That was the beginning of it,” Prochazka says. “We decided that Aamir would run it from Vancouver. Sam and I would contribute. And then Fraser [Hall] came on board a little while after that.” They all provided seed funding and set off to find a vendor that was willing to work with them.
“We thought the big opportunity here was to optimize the supply chain, to remove the waste in shuffling things from here to there,” Prochazka continues. “We focused on the price equation—but in doing so, we learned that quality is extremely important for many reasons. Low-quality products are extremely costly to support. We started to move further into deliberate relationships with manufacturers to ensure high-quality products.”
In addition to quality, the importance of covetable design became clear. “We recognized very early on that we were a bunch of computer engineers who did not know anything about design, or what goes with what or even what looks good,” Prochazka says. “We hired some really talented people who knew how to do that.”
From their onset, they had success with living room furniture designs, so they doubled down on that to iterate and improve items. “Then we listened to our customers who said they were using some of that living room furniture in the bedroom. We began to apply our core philosophies to develop furniture for the bedroom.” With continued success, they gradually moved through the rooms of the house with their designs. On 7 March, they’ll launch their charming 2022 outdoor collection.
“If a customer wants to make their space look beautiful, we bend over backward to make that happen,” Prochazka says. Article employees are referred to as “particles,” and more than half of them are in US now. Though there are a lot of engineers or employees working in data, it’s those in the “final mile service” that add a very evident touch. These individuals carefully orchestrate delivery, and it sets Article apart.
“We are all about easy,” Prochazka says. “If we have an opportunity to make something easier and remove complexity from customers lives, take it onto ourselves and try to simplify it, we will do so. I am always left with, ‘How can we do something even better.'” For instance, at the start of the pandemic, Article introduced tailored contactless delivery to their repertoire to accommodate health and safety needs.
When asked if they’re a tech company first and foremost, Prochazka explains, “We started with the idea of moving bulky items efficiently using powerful technology. We are built upon this technological infrastructure. But, we’re also in the business of our products being beautiful. We focus on the design, aesthetic and quality of the product as well.”
The hurdles to buying furniture online are many: these items are often big, expensive and can be challenging to return if something isn’t quite right. “You have every right to be nervous,” Prochazka says. “That’s why companies like ours have to find increasingly better ways to make what is intangible on the screen more tangible, through the way we demonstrate it, in an honest way, and the way that we reduce risk.” To aid in this, Article offers a 30-day no questions asked return policy. Prochazka and the “particles” spend a lot of time seeking solutions and that matters.
Images courtesy of Article