Furnia Home’s Owner Shares Her Entrepreneurship Journey And Inspires Other Women
It’s been approximately one year since Lori Freidlander founded Furnia Home, a consulting business for wholesalers and the retail home and furnishings industry, but her lifestyle-focused approach set her apart from other buyers long before. She focuses on retail, merchandising and design for her clients, all the while keeping in mind the end goal: to have a customer envision that piece in their home. She says some lose sight of that fact and buy simply to buy, while she looks to fill holes.
This approach makes her a popular expert in the home and furnishings industry, which is no surprise with her former clients including Ethan Allen, La-Z-Boy and Bassett Furniture. She’s not one for gate keeping, though. Through her WithIt membership, Lori is committed to empowering other young women into entrepreneurship in the industry, which remains male-dominated.
What makes your approach to buying different from others?
Lori: I approach merchandising as lifestyle merchandising. Every decision should be carefully thought out and curated. I really believe you should not go to market and make “from the seat of your pants” decisions. They should be strategic. Others are buying things and then going to the store saying, ‘We’ll find a spot for it.’ I go to market knowing where I want to put things in the store and then I buy things to fill those spots.
What makes you passionate about your business?
Lori: To me, nothing is more important than home. It’s where we land at the end of the day, it’s our refuge, it’s where our hopes and dreams are made. I love that what we do as an industry is help people create comfortable and beautiful homes. I’d love to help retailers and manufacturers towards lifestyle manufacturing so their customers imagine those items in their home.
What are the lessons you’ve learned through Furnia Home?
Lori: I really thought going into my own business I’d have this great work life balance and I’d have a schedule, but I actually find it hard to have a work life balance and a flexible schedule. It’s kind of nice to go to work from 9 to 5 and if I need time off I request it. Owning your own business is not the dream that you think of. Instead of having a boss, you have customers.
As for advice, I would say you really need to seize opportunities. You always need to be ready; you always need to be prepared; you always need to be looking. And don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself. Look for them and seize them without thinking.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Lori: A typical day for me is one that’s not typical. Typically a day involves speaking with current or potential clients – sometimes I talk with people in India or China, so that gets a little challenging. If I’m not talking to someone, I’m looking for new businesses to work with. And then I always have to stay on top of what’s going on. I have to make time to engage in social media, read trade magazines and find out what the trends are and what the hot news is. I also contribute to blogs, so I might do some writing and some interviews, attending committee meetings, and whatever else the day throws at me.
Are there things you do in your position to support younger women looking to get into furnishings or entrepreneurship?
Lori: Through WithIt I have had the opportunity to do stuff. I’m active on the mentoring and membership committees. On the membership committee I talk with younger members about the industry. I also volunteered as a judge for the scholarship competition. That really is part of why I started Furnia Home: to be a role model for women in the industry.
What’s something people might be surprised to learn about your industry?
Lori: It is completely shocking to me that an industry whose consumers are largely women is run largely by men. That just blows me away. As I said before, I love the idea of establishing myself as a female industry expert and a role model for other women.
When and how did you decide to join WithIt?
Lori: I joined WithIt during Covid. I had talked to lots of people in the industry during my life as a buyer and someone just kind of mentioned it to me. It was actually a man, and he spoke very highly of them. I told him about my aspirations and he said it would be a great stepping stone, and he was absolutely right.
What are some of the things you’ve gotten out of your membership?
Lori: The connections that I’ve been able to make and to have the opportunity to serve on those committees and meet the people you meet on those committees. It’s an honor and an asset. I will never forget my first function I went to with WithIt. It was during Covid, it was their conference and it was remote. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know who the other members were. I went into these roundtables and I was so impressed with the caliber of women on these roundtables. They were CEOs, presidents and entrepreneurs of large companies. They were so openly and generously sharing their expertise with everyone. I remember ending that conference and thinking holy cow, what a treasure trove I’ve found here. I could not believe what an awesome group of people I was now associated with.