Joshua Chan, 31, Damon Lye, 31, and Tan Jun Kiat, 32, started out as classmates back in Singapore Polytechnic and eventually became very good friends.
After graduation, they enlisted in National Service and subsequently attended different universities. Apart from Joshua who studied Information Technology, both Damon and Jun Kiat pursued Business degrees.
With a strong interest in the business world, the duo wanted to start up their own businesses. Damon started up an electronic gadget e-commerce business in 2014, while Joshua launched a skills training business in 2016.
Despite the short-lived ventures — they only ran it for two years respectively — the entrepreneurial duo promptly started another business together, along with Jun Kiat this time round.
The idea for ErgoEdge (now rebranded to EverDesk+) started in 2017 when Damon wanted to buy a standing desk.
“Back then, to buy a standing desk, you had to write in to a website and wait a few days before you eventually receive a quotation of S$2,000 to S$3,000, which we thought was really expensive. So we thought we could try and do better at providing relatively affordable ergonomic work furniture,” said Joshua.
They started out with a pre-order model
The founding trio invested about S$30,000 into the business and it has been “cash flow positive” from the get-go.
Recounting the early days of the business, Damon described themselves as being “relatively conservative and incredibly scrappy.”
Before they even had products to sell, they already launched the website.
“This was because we wanted to test market demand for our products. Once we started receiving orders, we immediately called our first customers, apologised and offered them a 30 per cent discount if they were willing to wait two months for the product — that was how we got some of our initial working capital,” he explained.
Since they were a bootstrapped business, every dollar counted to them. To save a mere S$50, they would rent a manual instead of an automatic van to handle deliveries.
Each one of the co-founders was very hands-on when they first started. They would assemble products on their own and stay as late as 4am in clients’ offices to set them up.
“We did everything ourselves and everyone was a salesperson,” said Jun Kiat, adding that they made many mistakes along the way as they learnt the ropes of the “unglamorous” back-end supply chain and logistics of running an e-commerce business.
“For instance, when we received our first full container of products, we didn’t know that the container would have a bolt on it and had to buy a bolt cutter mid-way … when we went down to receive the container. We severely underestimated the amount of work it would take to remove the products from the container.”
Their neighbours at the container lot helped them find where to buy a bolt cutter and also provided them with manpower and equipment help to move the pallets of chairs.
He optimistically regards such mistakes as learning experiences, which has helped to shape them as entrepreneurs and the growth of their business.
Covid-19 proved to be a huge business opportunity
According to Joshua, their vision is to build the perfect ergonomic chair for consumers’ comfort with premium materials and product innovation.
“The number one reason chairs are uncomfortable is because they don’t fit your body well, as everybody’s body shape is unique. (What’s unique about) ErgoTune is its 11 calibration points allow you to adjust your chair, so it fits like a glove for natural comfort,” he said.
“We offer 90 per cent of the features of a high-end ergonomic chair at just one-third of the price. We don’t believe that a high price means (high) quality, but (we) believe in making ergonomic furniture affordable so more people can enjoy it.”
Sharing further on the benefits of a standing desk next, Damon said that research has highlighted the health risk of inactivity and noted that sitting too much is bad for one’s health.
“However, we want to go a step further than that. We also want to help our users to build a productive desk that empowers and inspires them to perform at their best. With our wide selection of accessories, users can build the ideal desk according to their working habits and requirements. Also, with the addition of our health coach on the EverDesk+ Max, we are now able to help users build healthier desk habits.”
Last year, the founders made the move to rebrand ErgoEdge to EverDesk+.
“At that point, we were trying to relaunch the improved product which we had adjusted based on customer feedback. It also happened at the height of the pandemic, where people saw the increased value of having a standing desk as more people had to work from home,” he added.
In light of the pandemic, the working world has seen the rise of remote and hybrid work, and the co-founders see this shift as a burgeoning business opportunity as they strive to improve people’s workspaces.
In fact, even before the onset of Covid-19, the company has been a big believer in the hybrid work.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen how hybrid working arrangements improve people’s general happiness. Flexibility allows people to have more fulfilling days, while getting their work done. We believe our brands are in the right position to be an advocate for employers to trust their employees and afford them the flexibility they want,” said Jun Kiat.
“We foresee hybrid working arrangements to continue even if the pandemic comes to a close. Many of our peers have cited that a hybrid work arrangement has become the non-negotiable aspect when they are evaluating a job offer. Thus, we strongly urge all companies to rethink their decision to pull people back to the office everyday.”
Moving forward, the co-founders are focused on honing their brands’ value proposition.
“We have always chosen to focus on how we can improve our products, better serve our customers and push for the growth of our brands.”
To date, ErgoTune has been dubbed the “number one rated ergonomic chair in Singapore” and have received many positive reviews from customers and the media alike.
As a testament to this, its hero product, the ErgoTune Supreme, sold nearly 20,000 units in last year alone. As a whole, the brand’s revenue grew 150 per cent in 2021, earning over S$13 million.
Both brands have been acquired in a eight-figure deal
ErgoTune and EverDesk+ was recently acquired by Una Brands in a US$8.8 million (S$11.83 million) deal.
“We had grown to a stage where being bootstrapped no longer meant we could tackle the business challenges we were facing. When Una Brands approached us, we found that their operational expertise and financial resources could help accelerate our growth plan for the brands,” shared Joshua.
Post-acquisition, the ErgoTune and EverDesk+ team are still running and helming the direction of the brands. The main change however, is that Una Brands now work closely with them on various functions including operations and branding to help grow the brands.
“Since acquisition, operationally, the Una Brands team has assisted us in streamlining our order workflow, which will help free up more of our team members’ time and create more fail-safes and certainty on order fulfilment. We have also expanded into the Australian market with a showroom in Sydney and are in the process of listing on Amazon Australia,” said Damon.
This further push into the Australian market comes after the furniture brand’s initial launch contributed over 15 per cent of its overall revenue in the last quarter of 2021.
“We’re (also) exploring the European and US markets, where we’ve seen significant growth in the ergonomic furniture market with the shift towards hybrid work arrangements. We target to expand into at least one of these markets by the end of the year.”
They are currently in the midst of launching a new version of their ErgoTune chair, and hope to become the household name for ergonomic furniture in the region as they double down on global expansion efforts.
Featured Image Credit: ErgoTune