Furniture and furnishings search and discovery platform, ufurnish.com, has raised £3.4m in seed funding following on from a £1.8m pre-seed in 2020. This brings the total funding to over £5.2m since the platform launched.
The announcement is made on International Women’s Day where Deirdre Mc Gettrick, the founder of ufurnish.com comments, “it feels really important to draw attention to female founders but also to female investors. I am particularly proud that 30% of my investors are females and includes experienced businesswomen who have a strong record in building and growing businesses from whom I can draw down on advice when required.”
Deirdre has attracted an impressive list of investors, both male and female who have a varied background and bring different insights and value add to ufurnish.com. They include:
- Amanda Burton – Portfolio non-executive director
- Camelia Robu – Head of Leveraged Finance EMEA at Macquarie Capital
- Caroline Worboys – Founder of data company HDM Worboys which she sold to News International and founder of data company Outra
- Ciara McElligott – Investor in the human capital space and female-founded businesses and Principal at Tetrarch Capital, an Irish real estate business
- Jenn Engelhardt – Corporate Partner at Latham & Watkins
- Michele Connolly – Partner at KPMG and Board Member and Honorary Treasurer of the National Maternity Hospital
- Rosaleen Blair – founder and Chair of Alexander Mann Solutions, Entrepreneur & Investor
- Sara Sullivan – former banker and member of Angel Academe, an angel network investing in female founded tech businesses and introducing more women to angel investing.
Deirdre comments “It is invaluable to be able to reach out and share challenges and opportunities from my business with my investors. Often given their experience, they have insights over and above what I might have considered”.
Of course, being a tech company, Deirdre is very cognisant that most tech investors are male, making up over 70% of her cap table but that doesn’t mean you can’t attract a balanced investor profile.
Among her male backers are Darren Ryemill who sold Opus Talent Solutions to Graphite Capital, Tony Smurfit, CEO of paper and packaging giant Smurfit Kappa Group and Pat McCann, former CEO of Jury’s Hotel Group, founder of Dalata Hotel Group and who is the Chairman of ufurnish.com.
The government Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) has been a big driver in being able to attract investors. Deirdre notes, “it reduces the risk of investing in early stage companies for investors. As many of my investors are first time investors, being able to explain the tax benefits of EIS investments was key to securing their investment”.
If you do not have a readily available network of individuals who could become investors, Deirdre recommends that founders look at their employment history and track down colleagues who you have previously worked with. Having worked with you, they will recognise all the qualities that you have that will make you succeed. Even if they don’t have funds themselves, they are likely to have 1-2 connections in their network they could introduce you to. A warm introduction is the most valuable thing you can get.
Despite women making up nearly a third of business founders (32% of British entrepreneurs are women), the share of capital going to female founders is particularly dismal and has actually decreased in recent years, making up just 1% for female founded companies.
Deirdre is keen to share with other female founders that if your product or service is directed towards women, it makes complete sense to have female investors who would be users and therefore advocates for your business. With women making up 50% of the population, female needs shouldn’t be ignored by investors.
Indeed, the inspiration for ufurnish.com came from Deirdre’s personal struggle to find the furniture she wanted for her apartment. As Deirdre recalls: ‘I found the experience very frustrating and disconnected. Working long hours, the last thing I wanted to do in the evenings was trawl websites to find the right sofa or bedside cabinet, especially as I kept having to repeatedly input the same search criteria on every website. It was frustrating that the same retailers kept appearing in searches, but I wanted to search all furniture retailers.’
Deirdre also found it hard to keep track of products she liked and found herself stuck in a rut of lists, URL links, spreadsheets, and screenshots. She came to the conclusion that there had to be a better way to search, discover, compare and shop furniture, which is where the idea for ufurnish.com was born.
Since launching ufurnish.com has achieved some incredible business successes including:
- Building their retailer partnerships to 100+ furniture retailers including John Lewis, Bensons for Beds, SCS, Dunelm, Wayfair and Heal’s
- Driving over 8m website visits
- Growing the team to 18 team people
- Launching a strategic partnership with Santander to help their mortgage customers furnish their homes
- Graduating from the London & Partners, Mayor’s International Business Programme and Beyond HERizons programme which is specifically targeted to supporting female founders. The London & Partner programmes run in conjunction with the London Mayors’ Office helping businesses based in London on their growth journey. Former Alumni include Revolut, Monzo and Farfetch.
For Deirdre, the latest funding will be used to grow awareness of ufurnish.com as a solution to furniture consumers across the whole of the UK market and expanding the retail partnerships. One recent partnership is with a company called Industville whose female founder Mara Miller was inspired to set up the company after moving into an apartment in an industrial style building. Mara wanted lights that would fit in with the architecture of the building. After struggling to find what she was looking for, she set up Industville to cater to that gap in the market. Coincidentally, Mara and Deirdre live in the same development in London. “It’s crazy to think both our businesses have arisen within 100m of each other after facing challenges furnishing our homes” says Deirdre.