Harvard Business School graduate Philippe Cahuzac joined with Dutch-born Hassan Yassine and Italian Raffaello Starace to found Gaia Design,a furniture company that aims to supply Mexico’s growing middle class with quality products at fair prices. The three designers and businessmen sensed a huge opportunity in Mexico when they decided to launch their own company after meeting while working in Latin America for online furniture company Oppa in Brazil.
“We are talking about a huge market – 120 million people,” stated Cahuzac in an interview with the BBC.
With the average age of Mexico’s total population hovering around 25 or 26,that market is poised for massive growth as these consumers mature,join Mexico’s growing middle class and are ready to make substantial furniture purchases. Before Gaia began operations in 2014,its founders felt consumers were faced with limited choices,which typically included lower-end items or furniture that was excessively expensive.
“There’s a huge gap in the middle that is not catered for,people wanting good quality products at fair prices – that’s the problem we are solving,” Cahuzac told the BBC.
Although online retail is still considered to be in its earliest stages in Mexico,the partners decided to launch Gaia online. After the fledgling company made $5,000 during its first month,they knew this decision was the right one. Just over a year in,Gaia is pulling in monthly sales upwards of $500,000.
“Mexican customers are demanding but at the same time if they like their experience,they are very loyal and speak well about you,” Cahuzac revealed. “So it’s a high-risk,high-reward structure.”
Gaia’s success is also an economic boom for Mexico,since 70 percent of the furniture sold by the company is produced locally. Not only does this strategy keep prices low and improve the logistics of moving the product to the consumer,but it also creates jobs and boosts the furniture industry nationwide.
The BBC reported that Gaia Design selected a furniture factory that had been in operation for more than 40 years to create its pieces. Owned by Sergio Aguilar,the factory managed to survive despite a 2001 trade agreement with China that plunged Mexico’s furniture industry into crisis. Since partnering with Gaia,Aguilar says he has tripled his staff.
Gaia Design does its own deliveries,having bought the necessary trucks and hired drivers early on to ensure quality control. In little more than one year,the company has grown from three to 35 employees,and Cahuzac told the BBC they plan to triple that number over the next 12 months. Funding has so far come from silent investors located in both Mexico and the U.S.,as well as family and friends.
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