Swyft was launched in December 2019, just a few months before the pandemic hit ‘ and Keiran reveals how his team scaled the business during difficult times
I had had enough of working for others: I’d had some amazing bosses and mentors but I always knew I needed to go and forge my own way, Keiran Hewkin, co-founder of Swyft, tells me. Surrey-born Keiran wasn’t interested in going to university and pursuing higher education. He was more of a hands-on guy, interested in manufacturing, making products and fixing things. I’ve always worked in manufacturing, not furniture but always had a physical product to make, move, sell or fix, Keiran said. My partner is from the travel industry. I’ve always enjoyed my work but mainly the new and exciting bits. I’m pretty disorganised and bad at following up on things or finishing things. So, I tend to gravitate towards new concepts!
The serial entrepreneur started two businesses before and took all his skills and prior knowledge to the table. Keiran believed there was a ‘better way’ to make furniture. He realised customers were dissatisfied waiting for furniture deliveries that could take weeks on end, and the pieces were too hard to fit through the door and too heavy to carry up flights of stairs. Keiran also noted there wasn’t much transparency between customers and manufacturers, and he knew there was a better way to put buyers first.
I think a few things were missing in the furniture market at the time, Keiran said. Firstly, we need businesses that put customers first. Especially on large ticket items such as sofas. It’s very transactional and because of a long time between purchases, the customer is sometimes in second place. Running a traditional furniture business sucks. Especially upholstery, it’s one big exercise in dissatisfaction management. No one can ever be truly delighted when they wait 12 weeks for a sofa. People seem to Struggle to link value for money over such a long wait. And when or if it doesn’t fit it’s heartbreaking.
Keiran has a ‘passion’ for problem-solving and wanted to revolutionise the furniture business ‘ and he knew just how. The idea for a ‘Sofa in A Box’ was formed, where customers can expect a sofa delivery in 48 hours, through the tightest of entrance ways, that can be assembled within minutes. The boxes are easy to carry and move around ‘ and it doesn’t take a strong man to manoeuvre, unlike traditional furniture. However, Keiran said he had to overcome the ‘naysayers’ who said their idea just wouldn’t work ‘ but he was determined to prove them wrong.
The launch was great fun, and it was a fast launch, Keiran explained. But we did have our initial obstacles. We struggled with everything from proof of concept to sourcing to generally battling against the naysayers that it couldn’t be done or ‘do people really want a sofa that quickly’. But we just keep going. We prioritised the stuff that truly added value and ignore the rest. We only started tasks we could finish in 7 days for the first few months. It keeps you moving quickly and enables you to tackle the next easiest thing to move forward.
In December 2019, the online furniture brand ‘Swyft’ was born, serving customers across the UK and Europe with easy to carry, compact and sustainable furniture for households across the globe. Swyft’s furniture embodies a clean, chic and modern design, embodying class and sophistication down to the finest details. They produce sofas, sofa beds, stools, ottomans and tables. Their furniture is kid and pet friendly with completely stain-resistant fabric. Using industry-leading stain-free technology, each of its linen and fabrics is coasted with stain repellent meaning an accidental coffee spill won’t cost you your entire sofa.
Swyft prides itself in sustainability, using only FSC certified woods which ensure the materials come from well-managed forests or recycled sources. They also use 100% recycled packaging, including the plastic cushions, which is biodegradable. Swyft also cares about its employees and ensures its entire supply chain is covered by the regional national living wage, which means fair working conditions for the entire team down to the suppliers.
Swyft embodies a ‘people-first’ motto, putting its customers and workers at the heart of the business. They believe a positive company culture and good relationships with workers are key to growing the brand while keeping everyone in good spirits. Swyft has a lower than 1% staff turnover and their Net Promoter Score (NPS) score, a customer and loyalty satisfaction measurement, is 65 ‘ which is classed as ‘excellent’. Swyft will have its products displayed in another 7 John Lewis stores in February, and will soon be launching its brand-new Model 06 sofa range.
When asked about his mindset, Keiran said: I’m not sure I’m best placed to answer that! It’s like marking your own homework. I’d like to say I am determined and persistent. With a dose of resilience and I’m sure my team would say dogged attention to the customer experience. You always dream it will work but even now I try not to let myself believe it’s actually working. Once you start focusing on that it’ll all unravel pretty quickly.
In a few words of advice to those who wish to launch a business, Keiran added: Do it. There is never a good or ideal time. Seek counsel from those you trust but do not listen to anyone person exclusively, and remember most advice or criticism is people’s own insecurities. That’s said, be sure to set yourself some clear goals that constitute your idea of success, you can reference these when times are tough and your views change later on. But don’t listen to me either. Go do it!