Start-up check

Furniture systems from Variand

The furniture industry has had two turbulent economic years and will have to organise itself differently in the future in terms of supply chains and scarcity of resources. In addition to small and medium-sized enterprises, this particularly affects young companies in the start-up phase. We spoke with Valentin Quecke, co-founder of the Cologne-based furniture start-up Variand, about founding in pandemic times and sustainable design innovations.

Jun 06 2022

The idea for Variand came out of a study project. What is innovative and special about your product? What makes your furniture system unique compared to other competitors? 

Variand makes it possible to change furnishings quickly and adapt them as desired. Thanks to the special hanging mechanism that we have developed, our furniture can be effortlessly re-hung, extended and moved on the corresponding wall rails. 

This means that the use of rooms can be changed quickly and the system can be used in a wide variety of ways, from offices, coworking spaces, tiny houses or hotels to private homes and much more. In addition to the more functional aspects, the redesign and individual furnishing of rooms is also something that is simply fun. We want to give our customers this freedom of design with Variand. 

With the flexibility and convertibility of the shelving system, the Cologne-based start-up Variand is setting an example for a more sustainable approach to furniture. © Variand Furniture GmbH

You and your team decided to found the company in 2020. What were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome as a young start-up team during the Corona pandemic?   

Like many others, we had to quickly learn to organise ourselves in a decentralised way and set up new structures and tools to be able to work well remotely in a team and with external partners. But the biggest challenges we had were the strongly fluctuating material prices – especially of wood and metal – with our manufacturing partners. Of course, this is a problem that still persists and currently does not make pricing easy, especially for projects with a longer construction process.  

Why did you decide to finance via a crowdfunding campaign and not bring an investor or cooperation partner on board? 

With our crowdfunding campaign, we partly financed the development of our website. Primarily, however, it was not a financing campaign for us, but a market entry and test to see how our products are received in the B2C sector. 

The fact that the campaign was so successful and that we were able to double our funding goal in the end was of course a great sign for us. In addition, we have an early-stage investor who has been supporting us as a strategic partner and business angel for one and a half years. 

The patented hanging mechanism makes it possible to hang the furniture so that it sits firmly and securely on the wall – and yet can be quickly removed or moved if necessary. © Variand Furniture GmbH

The Variand brand stands for sustainability, among other things. However, the furniture system is produced in northern Italy? Why did you decide to take this step? Couldn't you find a supplier in Germany who produces your furniture in the same quality?  

With Variand, we want to enable sustainable use of furniture: with a system that is very adaptable, with high-quality, durable materials. The fact that we have our production site in South Tyrol has to do with our founding history and the fact that one of our co-founders is South Tyrolean. 

Our first big project was to set up a school in South Tyrol with the Variand system. There we quickly found very capable, medium-sized manufacturing companies and built up a network of suppliers. Since the end of 2021, in addition to our German company in Cologne, where design, marketing and sales are done, there is also an Italian company with a warehouse and assembly hall near Bressanone. 

For us, South Tyrol has the great locational advantage that a lot of craftsmanship is concentrated there in a small area. We have learned to appreciate the high quality standards and the tinkerer mentality of the South Tyroleans, which we also live in the team.  

As a start-up, it is always a challenge to establish yourself on the market. What channels do you use to distribute your furniture? What role does the stationary trade play for you? And how strongly are you positioned online and in the area of social media?  

We are driving a multi-channel strategy with Variand in order to test as many sales areas as possible and quickly learn what works best for us. We have a growing network of furniture retailers and see cooperation with the stationary trade as very important. Especially a system like Variand should be experienced on site. That's why we need capable retailers who can explain Variand and plan with the customers. Since the beginning of the year, we have also been selling Variand directly via our website with its own online shop. 

For this purpose, a 3D configurator is also to be developed in the course of the next year, which will simplify planning and can then also be used by our retail partners. In addition, the project business is an important pillar for us. Here, we are working in direct sales and with dealers or property furnishers to place Variand in larger projects such as hotels, offices or shops. 

Valentin Quecke studied architecture at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Alfter near Bonn from 2014 to 2018. There he developed the idea for the Variand system together with his future business partners during a study project. After graduating, he worked independently in the field of construction planning and visualisation and further deepened the Variand product idea with his partners. In 2020, the company was founded.  

© Variand Furniture GmbH

Author: Bernadette Trepte

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