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Priyanka Rao, Evolvex founder

A local father-daughter team are changing the way consumers buy flat-pack furniture with their innovative design-it-yourself online tool, delivering some competition to the global furniture empire that is IKEA.

Priyanka Rao is the driving force behind Sydney-based business Evolvex, the consumer arm of Australian manufacturer Luxmy Furniture which was established in 1997 by Rao’s father.

The idea for Evolvex came about after Rao had a disastrous shopping experience, in which some flat-pack furniture she’d bought broke on the trip home from the store.

Rao took the damaged flat-packed furniture to her father’s factory to be altered, which was where her lightbulb moment happened.

“We made some alterations and thought it would be cool if we could design our own flat packs rather than going to a store and buying something that isn’t quite right,” Rao told Dynamic Business.

“From there it was all about deciding to start the business and having the bravery to go ‘yes, I’m going to do this and it’s going to work,’” she added.

Rao believes what sets Evolex apart from other furniture retailers is that it’s products are locally made with eco-certified materials and also because it offers customers a level of flexibility other manufacturers can’t.

“As someone moves from house-to-house, our furniture can be adapted to suit these life changes. For example, just by purchasing additional modular parts from us, a bench can be turned into a desk. This means that rather than throwing furniture onto the streets, it can be recycled and modified to suit your new home,” she added.

Online challenges

Although Rao and her father knew the furniture business well, when it came to setting up a website, their experience was limited.

“We needed to custom-make a tool to allow people to design their own furniture. I had no experience in this area so getting the idea out of my head onto a website was a bit of a challenge, but it helped to get a web developer involved,” she said.

Rao said raising awareness and gaining consumer and supplier trust was another challenge. To overcome this hurdle, Rao introduced physical demonstrations to the sales pitch.

“A lot of what drove sales was a physical look and feel, so we decided to create a pop-up shop on launch to give people access to the products,” she said.

“You have to touch the consumer a few times before they’re convinced about a product. It’s hard for customers to get an idea about a product from a website, so we have tried very hard to make it easy for them to visualise our products – which has mean giving them the opportunity to experience them,” she added.

Making a father-daughter partnership work

Rao admits running a family business can be challenging, especially when it comes to maintaining a professional relationship with her Father. She said the lines do become blurred at times.

“Its always going to be a challenge working with someone that you’re that emotionally connected to, but we overcome it by establishing a professional relationship,” she said.

It can also be a beautiful experience though, Rao said, pointing to the impact that having inherent trust in someone has on a business relationship.

“It’s such a benefit to knowing in advance what kind of decisions they’ll make. By working with someone you know so well, you’re better able to work autonomously,” she added.

Evolvex has partnered with Dynamic Business to give one lucky reader the chance to win a $500 voucher to design their own Australian made high quality desk, underdesk storage unit, bookcase or stack of storage cubes. Click here for more details

Ashley Calabria

Ashley Calabria

Ashley recently graduated from the University of Canberra with a degree in Journalism and is currently studying Public Policy at the University of Sydney. She enjoys travelling and hanging out with friends, and is interning with Dynamic Business.

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