Charlie Marshall is the amazing and very creative Founder of Loaf (www.loaf.com) – a company who describe themselves as providing laid-back furniture and “squishy stuff” for people to kick back and relax on at the end of a hard day!
IDEALIST: So, Charlie, how did you first get into Loaf?
Having lost a whole Saturday trying to buy a bed, I decided to make the shopping experience as hassle free as possible. So two years, 187 mattress factories and some seriously comfy beds later, Loaf (Loaf.com) was born. Customers can come and loaf around on our beds and sofas and see the products up close in our London “Slowrooms” if they want to.
In just eight years we’ve become a one-stop shop meaning that customers can now ‘Loaf’ all their home. Since launching and originally being a bed specialist, we introduced sofas and bedroomy furniture in 2012 and now we cover all rooms including the kitchen, bathroom, hallway, home office and even kids furniture too!
IDEALIST: And what’s unique about Loaf?
First and foremost, we’re a vertically integrated businesses. We design all our own products and believe in providing a simple, uncomplicated shopping experience. From that very first click on our website to delivery of the customer’s goods – we strive to make it as easy as possible. Ultimately, we don’t do stress!
IDEALIST: Who, or what, inspires you?
I head to Fiona McDonald in Fulham for mid-Century Italian antiques, The Cloth Shop on Portobello for fabrics and Paul Smith’s clothes shops for a general mooch. Far from being identikits, each of Paul Smith’s shops feel individual while still having his fingerprint on them. Architecturally, it’s the RIBA building that does it for me.
IDEALIST: What’s important to you as a business?
All our staff are hugely important to us. In fact, we hold a fun, bi-monthly company catch up at Loaf HQ which we call the “Mobble” where we all get together to share our successes, chat about all the great stuff we’ve done and generally catch up with each other. It’s a great event – especially to see such a talented group of people all under one roof with a team that’s more than double the size of what it was a year ago.
IDEALIST: What sort of challenges have you seen and tackled?
I’d say our hardest challenge to date was making the transition from a small to a medium-sized company. It’s a massive thing to do since it affects almost everything – from increasing staff levels, installing new IT systems and ensuring better warehouse and delivery capability. Despite our rapid level of growth we’ve always remained very committed to treating our customers as friends. This is hugely important to us, to not only strengthen the brand as a whole but to essentially keep the magic that we’ve built the business on so far.
IDEALIST: How do you make and source your products?
Most of our designs are handmade in the UK. Our sofas and beds are crafted in Long Eaton (which is now renowned as the centre of excellence for upholstery), our comfy mattresses hail from Wiltshire and our ceramic lamps come from the potteries in Stoke-on-Trent. That said, we also source much further afield. Our beautiful hand carved pieces come from a traditional woodcarving school in Shanghai and our rugs are sourced from the world capital of old-school rug making in Varanasi.
IDEALIST: So you like to trade internationally?
I certainly can’t rule out international expansion at some point in the future – but for now we’re focusing on the UK. Our market here has so much great potential. We know we’ve still got a long way to go, so we’re focusing on our home turf first before thinking about branching out into other countries.
IDEALIST: Sounds promising! So where would you like the business to be in say, 3 years?
Our ultimate aim is to become a £100m business over the next few years. We opened the doors to our first retail destination called the ‘Loaf Shack’ in October 2015 in London’s Battersea to run alongside the online offering. And our second Shack opened its doors in July 2016 in Notting Hill. The plan is to roll out more Shacks across the UK.
IDEALIST: And finally … if you were going to be trapped on a desert island, what ONE item from your range would you take with you?
Our Perfect Mattress! That mattress took me two years and 187 factories to find. And I couldn’t do any of this without a decent night’s sleep.