Architecture & Design, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

From cardboard to . . . furniture?

August 8, 2014
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The Flatgoods ecommerce site will sell furniture made from reinforced cardboard. Courtesy Flatgoods

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Environmentally friendly and custom personalized furniture or display pieces are now available as a new local company enters the market with the launch of an e-commerce website.

Flatgoods recently launched a new website that allows consumers to purchase more than 25 home furniture, storage and tradeshow items.

James Mikrut, developer of Flatgoods, said the venture uses a honeycomb cardboard material that is structured similar to plywood but is lighter and custom printable.

“We can print different stock patterns on the furniture or displays, or we can print custom displays,” said Mikrut. “Right now it is a brand new venture for us and we plan to keep adding to the number of products that we are going to sell.”

The Flatgoods website features assembly instructions, a catalog of products and a blog with event information. With initial development of the website beginning roughly a year ago, Mikrut said small changes have been made to increase efficiency, user friendliness and order capacity.

“We actually launched it about two weeks ago and everything has been going really well. There has been a lot of interest in the product,” said Mikrut.

The products range from chairs and tables for adults and children to combination storage shelves and backdrop signs. Customers can choose a stock pattern or customize the piece with artwork by uploading it in a supplied print template. Most of the pieces are at a starting price of $39.95; however, Mikrut said the prices are still being adjusted.

As owner of Icon Sign, 522 Stocking Ave. NW, Mikrut said the idea for Flatgoods developed after noticing the amount of waste in the traditional sign-making process for such items as large-format graphics, exterior and interior signs and tradeshow booths.

“My main drive came from ‘what can I do that is not bad on the environment,’” said Mikrut. “I have existing equipment. How can we use this equipment to do some cool, great, colorful things without the environmental impact that we are having currently with all of our typical sign products?”

The honeycomb cardboard used in the construction of the products is Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified to reduce environmental impact and products are shipped flat to keep costs low.

SFI Inc. is a nonprofit organization promoting sustainable forestry management and responsible purchasing of forest products, according to its website. SFI-certified products can come from pre-consumer or post-consumer recycled content, or from a certified forest.

Financial support for the marketing, website and product development has come from personal investment by Mikrut. Recently, he used a Kickstarter campaign, and although the venture did not raise the total funds desired, it did expose the company to people interested in the product.

“As far as funding it, all the video work, all the advertising and marketing so far has come from my investment. We didn’t really have the right approach to cater to the Kickstarter audience, but through that effort, we got in touch with a lot of people who were very interested in the product,” said Mikrut. 

“Kickstarter worked in a way that it got us in front of a lot of people who wouldn’t have traditionally seen it.”

Deksia, a Grand Rapids-based marketing firm specializing in brand strategy, marketing and advertising, was hired by Flatgoods to assist in brand development and marketing for the website.

As fall approaches, Flatgoods is focusing on back-to-school items such as kids chairs and tables and dorm room items for college students.

“We’re planning on, once Sept. 1 rolls around, to really start marketing the product and really start pushing people toward the website through different creative means of advertising,” said Mikrut. “People aren’t doing this. … It’s a whole new market, a new way of thinking for what we actually do.”

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