(Brandon Heng, left, and co-founded Gay Zheng Cai, right)
Brandon Heng (BSc (ISM), 2013) – together with another alumnus Gay Zheng Cai (BBM, 2015) – co-founded Herman Furniture, a company that prides itself as solid wood slabs specialists, producing premium wooden table tops at reasonable prices. Using only a single slab of sustainable wood from the Suar Tree in Indonesia, the result is a centerpiece table that is instantly arresting, dramatic and beautiful. Each table is unique, right down to its shape (due to the natural edges of the log) and 'design' of wood slab. In fact, the gorgeous tables in the meeting room within The Alcove (located at the basement of The Concourse) were designed and created by Herman Furniture, and we at the Office of Alumni Relations could not be prouder of Brandon. We speak to Brandon to learn more about the man and the enterprise he started.
You graduated with a BSc (ISM) from SMU in 2013. How was your SMU experience? Share with us your career journey since graduation.
SMU was definitely one of the best times of my life! After we graduated, my partner and I knew that we wanted to start something of our own and just give it a shot while we were still young.
Tell us more about the company you founded called Herman Furniture. How did the inspiration or passion come about? Was it always your dream to start your own business?
Herman Furniture was co-founded by my partner Zheng Cai and I. We saw an increasing interest in quality beautiful furniture at affordable prices. There were already a few established companies that were selling similar live edge tables like ours but at really absurdly high prices! We figured we could sell better quality and better-looking tables at a much more reasonable price, which we managed to do. Beyond live edge tables, Herman Furniture also carries raw wood pieces ranging from logs, tree stumps, benches and decorative pieces.
It was not really a dream to start our own business; it was just something to try out whilst we were young. If we were not successful in our venture, we could always try again in our next venture!
How did you go about establishing Herman Furniture (funding, finding the right partners, obtaining licenses etc.)?
Our business was self-funded. We learnt the process of purchasing and finishing the wood slabs from this guy named Herman, which was why the company was named after him. The wood slabs we sell are all licensed legal wood from Indonesia, and are obtained from a sustainable source, which is a very important aspect these days.
(Sample of a Live Edge Wood Table from Herman Furniture)
What were some of the challenges faced? How did you overcome them?
The challenges faced are never-ending. Storage was a big issue because our wood slabs are big and heavy, and we needed to build racks to store them. Renting space is really expensive, so we had to use our space efficiently, and that took months for us to find the optimum way to store and display our products.
Other challenges included parts of the business operations which required some expert knowledge like business accounting, government regulations, licensing etc. Getting around these required a lot of reading up and asking around.
(This eye-catching statement piece table by Herman Furniture can be found in the Meeting Room at The ALcove)
What are the highs experienced during your entrepreneurship journey that motivate you to continue down this entrepreneurial path?
As cheesy as it sounds, the highs are always when you see satisfied customers who praise you for a job well done. It validates what you've been working so hard for.
Would you encourage other SMU alumni to set up businesses in the furniture industry? Is there anything they should take note of?
No. The market is already quite saturated.
What advice would you give to students and alumni thinking of taking the entrepreneurship road (such as the types of business to enter into, selection of partners, etc)?
Start young! Your youth is your greatest asset. If you ever thought of starting a business of your own, do not wait until you have worked for a few years before doing it. Chances are that you'll never do it.
Last updated on 14 Dec 2017 .