Chloe Macintosh, Co-Founder, MADE.com: Zero-100 Employees in 3 Years!

The NextWomen Fashion & Retail Theme. 

Chloe Macintosh is the Co-Founder & Creative Director at MADE.com.

Launched in 2010, MADE.com offers customers original furniture at up to 70% off high street prices. Aimed at an influential yet bargain loving London crowd, MADE.com works with up-and-coming designers and skilled craftsmen to create their collections.

Made.com was awarded the Young Startup of the Year at the ‘Startups 2012’  awards.

Chloe currently directs all collections and product development at MADE.com, as well as directing and styling all the distinctive interiors shots for both online and offline marketing campaigns. 

Her career in design and product development spurred from her early training in architecture. For 10 years she worked as an Associate Partner in Norman Foster's London practice developing projects with a highly influential client list.

In 2007, Chloe joined LastMinute.com Co-Founder Brent Hoberman to develop the design tools for his new home project mydeco. She was also leading the mydeco Design Board and she collaborated with Philippe Starck, Marc Newson and Terence Conran on design projects.

Chloe was born in Paris but has lived in London for the past 16 years.

We spoke to Chloe about her investment tips for entrepreneurs; what she learns from the junior members of her team; and the benefits of having a very high profile board member!

TNW: Could you tell us a little bit of background about how the company was born and the formation of the founding team?

CM: MADE.COM is founded on the belief that you shouldn’t need deep pockets to enjoy great design. That’s why myself and co-founders Ning Li and Julien Callede and Brent Hoberman got together in London three years ago and launched MADE.COM in March 2010.

We believe that everyone should be able to access the furniture they love, at prices they can afford. With this belief, we took a costly and complicated process and streamlined it.

No physical stores, no middlemen taking their cut and no big brand mark-ups. From a small office in London’s vibrant Notting Hill, the team set out with a single-minded belief that great design could be made accessible to all.

The staff team, which now numbers 100, quickly grew and occupies two floors, with the team working on the fifth, and the ninth is the Showroom which is open to the public.

TNW: A common question is how to find a co-founder and what is important, to bring similar or complementary skills?

CM: I co-founded the business with Ning Li and Julien Callede. The three of us are very complementary. We have opinions about each other's areas but ultimately, we do very different things for the business which means that we can focus on our own remits.

TNW: What makes MADE.com different from all its competitors?

CM: Our mission is to make great design accessible to everyone. There hasn’t been a new project in furniture that addressed affordability since Ikea, a long time ago. Our goal is to design products that people want to buy and connect with our customers to find out what they really need. 

Today's customers are keen to understand who makes what they buy, and they want to get involved with the process.

MADE is a personable brand, which empowers customers to get involved in the product selection and feedback. Since we launched, our strongest catalyst has been word of mouth.

TNW: Briefly describe the history in raising investment for MADE.com.  Do you consider it fortunate that Brent Hoberman was involved at such an early stage.  What do you suggest to those that perhaps weren’t quite so fortunate?

CM: I have known Brent for years and his involvement in the project has been instrumental. He is very inspiring and constantly challenging us to move faster and innovate in all aspects of the business.

So having Brent and other influential entrepreneurs on the board has been incredibly valuable of course but ultimately, it just makes it harder and more challenging for us as they are extremely demanding and knowledgeable.

My advice would be to pitch your idea to as many people as possible and learn from the feedback. If your idea is convincing and has commercial potential, then it will attract investors.


TNW: You launched in 2010, did you envision an exit, how and when and are you on track?


We’re really happy with the way we are headed and so talking about an exit wouldn’t be right for us at this time.

TNW: Out of the three founders, with you being the only female do you feel there are advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?  How would you comment generally on this based on your own experience?

CM: I don't think for me, there have been any advantages to being a woman in a start-up environment. I'm a bit older than my co-founders, have a career as an architect behind me and a family, so I feel very close to our target market and understand them.

Being a mixed gender founding team brings a good balance to decision making and with the buying power moving more and more into the hands of women, it is useful to be able to represent them.

TNW: Do you have a role model/mentor currently? 

CM: I have two and they are both men and investors in MADE; Brent Hoberman and John Hunt. Both have inspired me on many levels both professionally and personally.

When I was working for Norman Foster as an architect, it was very inspiring to learn from someone with such experience and charisma. Changing career completely meant that I had to find new role model to get inspiration from.

TNW: What is one lesson about leadership you learned from them or indeed anyone else?

CM:

I don't believe that leadership can just happen, it must be earned through the approval of your peers at all levels.

I still find that the most enjoyable part of my job is learning from those around me, in particular the more junior members of the team who have an instinctive understanding of the digital world and whose intuition is very different from the world I come from.

TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?

CM: Because our business model is so unconventional [connecting the customer directly with the factory and designers, cutting out the middlemen] I think one of the biggest challenges was initially getting suppliers to believe in us and want to work with us. We were an unknown business and it might have seemed like a risk for them as we planned to shake-up an established industry.  But thankfully, we were able to get the support we needed and now have suppliers all around the world including here in the UK.

TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company which you remember as the highlight so far?

CM: So many moments come to mind, but opening our showroom space on the Ninth Floor of our office building was certainly a great moment last year. For the first couple of years, I was often the only person seeing each and every of our products before their launch. With such a great space to display our products, the whole team has been getting so close to the products, we have set up training sessions with our customer service team and make sure that when talking to customers, they can test the products here and there before advising them.

This is also a social environment for our customers to see and experience the products and meet the team.

TNW: What’s next for MADE.com?

We just launched France a couple of months ago which is going incredibly well, and we continue to investigate other overseas markets.

We are also passionate about meeting our mission-  to make great design accessible to everyone – so we will continue to look out for the hottest talent to collaborate with and expanding our product lines.

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