Cayke’s Creative Director on Her Vision for the Future of Furniture

If you like focusing on what’s next in our industry, I promise you’re in the right kitchen.

By Abby Leopold

When I was first asked to write a blog for Cayke, my immediate response was, “Can I draw a picture instead?”

Like so many of us in this industry, I am nearly 100% right brained. I learn visually, I explain visually, and the very thought of sitting down to type this brought back the memory of a huge red “C-“ at the top of most of my papers in college, where I studied Interior Design.

99.9% of the time in design school, I could illustrate concepts using beautiful colors rather than words. So, what’s my point? I’m stepping outside my comfort zone to write this. But my hope is that I’m not the only one who gets uncomfortable with this topic – because when we get uncomfortable, we are most likely to grow.

So, let’s take an uncomfortable journey together into the land of my origins in the furniture industry, poorly written explanations, self-deprecation, and obviously some humor.

Like everyone else in our industry, as a little girl in Ohio I told everyone how one day, I aspired to sell 8’ x 8’ veneer workstations at a respectable margin… Wink. We all stumbled into this business, and are here to this day trying to leave it better than we found it.

My first role at a dealership was in San Francisco. Although I had an interior design degree, the concept of commercial furniture was foreign to me. At the dealership, I started as a coordinator. My manager won almost every Stanford University project, and it was my job to manage “Day 2” orders – which usually meant ancillary products that match a single line or a few line items on a much larger original order. Easy enough right? Although I couldn’t write, my 22-year-old brain surely could figure out how to RE-ORDER something a client was standardized on.

So I was handed a three inch binder that was bursting at the seams. It was filled with hundreds of pages of spec sheets, floorplans, and quotes. That binder led to a hallway lined with file cabinets. These were filled with you guessed it, more binders. I was told I needed the binders to do almost every aspect of the job. So, up and down the hills of San Francisco, to my meetings, and post work “meetings” the binder(s) came along.

I learned more than I could have ever bargained for during this period of my life:

– Do you know that the average piece of contract furniture has over 300,000 variations?

– Did you know that Stanford University has millions of versions of the Source International Tier chair?

– Did you know the hardest way to meet friends (romantic or otherwise) in a foreign city is to carry a 3” binder with you everywhere?

Well here we are in 2022 and when I get to be a part of a team that solves all the archaic problems of our industry with technology. Although my dream of selling 8×8 panels at respectable margins never came true, perhaps I could see through my dream of eliminating the work that nearly drove me crazy all those years ago.
That’s right, questions that used to be a pipe dream while I was lugging binders around the Bay Area can now be addressed by the Cayke platform:

– Can orders be placed instantly by a verified buyer?

– Can a platform navigate the complicated set of payment terms that customers require?

– Can products be rendered to match for visual clarity?

– Can you make warranty claims with a simple click?

– Can you track your order around the clock, not just during business hours?

– Can you search your spending history or purchase trends?

– Can you extend this level of visibility directly to the client with password protected access?

– Can the system you manage refer to how your customers use the product instead of some convoluted SKU number that no one understands?

– What if that chair was titled “Dr. Bill’s Guest Chair Room 424 in Gunn” rather than binder page 124, CH-04t RM 424?

We could keep going on the benefits, but I hope you understand some more of the background. I find myself energized by what we’re doing at Cayke because the platform is solving real problems that I and many of my peers wrestled with for the better part of two decades. We have a chance to shape the future of this industry, and I believe Cayke is going to be a huge part of that.

Our industry made it through this pandemic. People are going back to work. They need contract-grade furniture, but our processes of serving the customer have to change. The last thing any of us want after what we survived is for Amazon to take over the buying experience of office furniture because they are quick and easy- selling cheaply made furniture with no project management or solution for install.

Cayke was not made to be the Amazon of contract grade furniture. Cayke was made to ensure we, the contract interiors industry, could evolve to compete with traditional e-commerce by helping to digitize processes that we know are essential.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was an extremely edited version of Abby’s first blog. We edited it for brevity, sanity, and because there is an outside chance a kid stumbles across this post – so we had to make it more “PG.”