Success story – Ergonofis, Quebec offices up to scratch!
The co-founder of Ergonofis, Kimberley Pontbriand.
Once upon a time there were two models who fell in love and created a small North American (adjustable) office empire. No, this is not an imaginary fairy tale, but the story of the Quebec company Ergonofis. Interview with co-founder Kimberley Pontbriand who, like her products, has adapted admirably to working from home.
Co-founder of Ergonofis
- Speciality: adjustable desks
- Foundation year: 2015
- Number of employees: 22
- Number of products sold since founding:
10,000 desks and chairs sold
- Annual growth: 120% for five years
- Growth during the pandemic: turnover has doubled
Ergonofis was born from a personal desire to vary positions in the office. Did you have any particular discomforts, a negative experience while sitting or standing?
“The idea came from Sam [his business and life partner], who preferred not to spend his days sitting because of all the studies that say it negatively affects health . He's a health freak in general. Human beings are not made to be fixed. And Sam is intense, even in training. (Laughs.) He set the Guinness record for the most burpees in 12 hours. It hurts all over!
So he decided to put tires under his fixed desk to make it a standing desk, and spent his days on his feet. It was no better. Realizing that there were no desks that made it possible to adjust between sitting and standing work in Canada or none that he could find, we decided to start Ergonofis. Me in marketing, branding, customer experience. Him in operations. It's a bulldozer.”
Were you afraid at first to start a business that only offers offices?
“Not at all. In fact, it's a very common business model in the United States: launch a single product and become the leader of that particular product. Think of Allbirds, for example, which launched a single shoe and gradually expanded its range. Or Casper, the mattress giant who was the very first to launch such a company. They only sold one mattress online!
We wanted to have THE best adjustable desk on the market, and we have since expanded our product line to offer a complete ergonomic workspace. We focused on this product, and it paid off.”
A diversified offer
In addition to adjustable desks, Ergonofis produces ergonomic chairs, storage, cable management systems, power bars, monitor stands as well as mouse and chair mats.
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< strong>The pandemic has arrived. Everyone (or almost) has fallen into telework. Despite all the known consequences, was it a blessing for the company?
“Yes and no.
Yes , because our sales quickly doubled. This is what allowed us to hire a great team and make ourselves known even more. We were already selling online across North America. It only made it worse and we were able to help even more people be comfortable during their working days.
No, because such rapid growth is very challenging, especially with all the supply issues and cost increases. We had to review all our processes, triple the team, manage supply problems, because our local suppliers all closed during the first confinement. It wasn't easy, but it’s been quite an experience and a lot of learning for us.
Before the pandemic, 50% of our sales were in business to furnish offices like those from Shopify, Netflix or Desjardins. Then COVID arrived. It was finished. They closed, canceled the expansion of their workspaces. At least the sales to individuals came to balance it all.”
What is local at Ergonofis?
– Desk surfaces (solid or laminated wood)
– The packaging
– The guides
– Wooden accessories
Adjustable bases were designed in Quebec, but are made in the United States. The power bars also come from our neighbors to the south.
Only the anti-fingerprint and anti-bacterial Shift desk surface is made in China.
Your desks and accessories are relatively expensive. What do you think convinced so many consumers to board?
“Product quality: we don’t compromise on quality. Everything is designed to be durable, with a refined design and made locally. Consumers today prioritize buying a good product once instead of buying a low-end product that will have to be changed every 3 years.
We were also the first to launch an adjustable desk in Canada. Among other things, we stand out with the brand image.
And finally, the customer experience. We would give body and soul to satisfy our customers.”
L company is offering a 30% discount on their “almost perfect” furniture, that is to say, slightly damaged, scratched, but functional. The option is so popular that there is currently a waiting list for discounted items.
How is your customer experience significantly better?
“Because we aim to respond to our customers within a maximum of four hours. And we make sure to respond personally to everyone, both by email and in our showroom. Do you want a lamp or a bookcase that fits with your Ergonofis desk? I recommend this one or that one from such a company, even if we have no business partnership with it.
We also have a gang very human. We even use emoticons in our emails, you know. (Laughs.)”
You are successful young entrepreneurs. How were you able to finance this beautiful project in the beginning?
“We financed the project by injecting all our savings into it. We didn't pay ourselves a salary for the first two years. We prioritized the hiring of an employee on a salary. Otherwise, every profit was immediately reinvested in the business. We must not think that we will make money with a startup.
We were models before. We continued to do a little to support ourselves.”
Now, finished modeling? Do you devote yourself to Ergonofis full-time?
“I still do one shoot a month. It's just because I love the gang. Fashion in Quebec is a small community. We all know each other. Sam stopped. He didn't like it.
We still met on a shoot in the South for Sports Experts. (Laughs.) I had some experience as a marketing consultant, he convinced me with his idea, and I got on board with the project.”
< strong>The killer question: how is your back now that you use Ergonofis on a regular basis?
“(Laughs.) Marvelously well! And the backs of thousands of workers too. I see a big difference when I have to work at a traditional desk. I couldn't go back!”
Your best advice for getting into business:
“Do not wait to know everything in all spheres of entrepreneurship to get started. We often learn along the way, by making mistakes and trying things out. If you have a good idea, that this idea brings value to people and you have strong backbone, go for it! Expect, however, that it will not be rosy, that there will be many difficult moments and pitfalls. It's a 24/7 job!”
An entrepreneur who inspires you:
“It's going to sound cliché, but my friend Samuel, who is also the CEO-founder of 'Ergonofis. He started his first company at 21 and really has an entrepreneurial spirit. He fears nothing. It fascinates me! He always pushed me to get started and believe in myself. He gets things done, a real doer and inspires me to be fearless!”
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