Q&A: Delivering aesthetics and function in home office furniture

This week we talk to Tim May and Chelsea Nabors, co-founders of LOLA Interiors, a retailer of aesthetic, ergonomic chairs and desks. LOLA was launched in 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic, but despite the challenging business climate, as well as the challenge of balancing the venture with their respective jobs, May and Nabors pursued their business dream to fill a gap they perceived in the market for high quality, functional home office furniture.

ISB: What inspired you to get into the home office furniture business with LOLA Interiors?

CN: With Tim having over a decade of experience in the furniture industry combined with my background in building brand experiences and already running a successful SME, we saw an opportunity during COVID to create an office furniture brand that promotes a healthy lifestyle for thousands of Aussies now working from home. Thus LOLA Interiors was born!

ISB: How has your respective experience in the furniture industry and brand building helped shape your approach when it came time to build this new business?

TM: During lockdown, I realised there was an increasing demand for high quality, functional furniture for the home. More importantly, businesses were becoming more willing to invest in employees’ health and wellbeing through home office solutions.

CN: With a bit of market research I saw a gap in the market to build a modern and engaging brand in the home ergonomics space, shifting away from the traditional, sterile commercial approach to attract a wider demographic. We used our shared expertise, resources, and tools to efficiently get the business off the ground which enabled us to swiftly bring our idea to fruition.

ISB: Given that the business was launched in the middle of this global pandemic, how has the business managed to get through this challenging period?

CN: The pandemic is what initially sparked the creation of LOLA as it drove us to think outside of our current job situation. This enabled us to create a business during an uncertain time that could support the evolving demand for flexible working. The pandemic also encouraged us to keep manufacturing and logistics onshore due to the raw material shortage and lead times out of China, which negatively impacted the furniture industry. We also forged relationships with market-leading partners with reliable supply chains to ensure we could continue to deliver unique and quality products.

ISB: You’ve been running the business while also having your respective jobs; how do you manage to find a balance between both roles?

TM: As our respective jobs are our top priority finding the right balance has been the biggest hurdle with launching our business. This means we are often working on LOLA during non-traditional hours such as evenings and weekends. With that said, there’s been a lot of learning and upskilling since launching our new venture, so we feel these pros outweigh the extended hours we work to continue to build a trusted brand and business. 

ISB: What is your vision for LOLA in a couple of years’ time?

CN: Our vision for LOLA is to be known in the industry for creating high quality, functional office furniture and accessories for the home. In the future, we’d like to expand our product offering to other items that promote healthy, ergonomic solutions as well as custom small business office solutions. We also want to be a recommended and preferred partner for top Australian businesses and their employees at home office solutions.

ISB: What do you think is the most important lesson in managing a business that would-be entrepreneurs should always remember?

TM: Your brand is number one and that goes beyond just a logo. It may seem tempting to skip over this primary investment to get to market quickly, however, this initial outlay will be beneficial in the long run. Ensure you do your market research to really understand your target audience so you can create a visual identity and comms plan that builds brand trust with future consumers. It’s also important to seek and take on feedback in a timely manner so you’re always optimising and evolving no matter what industry you specialise in.