During our adapt and thrive series, we have interviewed some of Britain’s brightest independent businesses to hear how they’ve adapted and thrived through lockdown and beyond.
This week we met, Helen White, Founder & CEO of houseof.
Hi Helen, can you tell us a bit about your business?
We founded houseof as a lighting brand that educates people on how to light their home better, all while reducing the environmental impact of doing so. We’re a climate positive workforce: we offset all our production emissions by working with carbon reduction projects across the world, and we also provide opportunities to our customers to offset the usage of their light. As a result, houseof lighting is more eco-conscious than our competitors. And that’s not all – the lights aren’t just good for the environment; they also look great. Our bold colours are quickly becoming our unique selling point, alongside creative engineering that places practicality at the heart of the design.
Who is your business aimed at?
Houseof is aimed at eco-conscious consumers – they have a passion for design and aren’t afraid to take risks with home design. A majority of houseof lighting is also chosen by interior designers, who champion daring design.
Can you talk us through some of your biggest milestones to date?
Launching houseof.com was a significant leap for us. Michael, my Co-Founder, and I started the business after being made redundant from high street retailer BHS. We wanted to take charge of our destiny as well as starting something we were proud of and believed in fully. Our concept was received well by customers and brought to great collaborations such as the one with H&M last year. In June, we launched a capsule collection with H&M that was a real success. We loved working with H&M because as a conscious retailer, they share our same values.
How has PayPal helped you reach these milestones?
PayPal has been with us since day one and has helped us to grow our business significantly. Having PayPal listed at checkout really appeals to our customer as it’s a trusted and recognised payment partner. As a result, it aids our conversion rate, with about 30% of our transactions going through PayPal. We have also used PayPal to scale up our business by using the Working Capital Scheme. The loan has enabled us to pay for items we need immediately like stock, but also allows us to look ahead to the future and invest in the outlook of our business.
The application process was straightforward and we quickly had access to the working capital we needed. The great thing about the working capital loan is that you can pay it off in line with your sales revenue and it also scales with you. We are on our second funding round with PayPal and would use it again in the future.
How was your business impacted when the UK went into lockdown?
Luckily, the homewares industry has been sheltered from the storm of lockdowns in the UK. We witnessed an increase in sales across all of our platforms. As people spend more time at home, they have been able to complete DIY tasks and home interior design projects have increased. The only adverse effect of Covid-19 we experienced is the lengthening of our supply lead times amid halted production.
What changes did you make to continue trading during this time?
Due to the delays in production, the whole homeware industry had to manage ‘out of stock’ scenarios. To offer a better service to our customers, we enabled them to pre-order goods, and this has been successful for us. We have decided to implement this into our long-term strategy for the business.
How did PayPal support you?
PayPal helped us by including us on Forever Local, their new website connecting communities and small businesses around them. Being on the website allowed us to connect with potential customers to tell them our story and present our services.
What does the future look like for your business?
We have an exciting year ahead with new product launches and partnerships. We are also expanding internationally into Germany and Sweden, which will grow our business further.