WHEN THE PANDEMIC first hit, many formerly lonely home patios across the country received face lifts by their newly housebound owners, who were eager to create comfortable environs in which they could enjoy some safe outdoor R&R while waiting for the world to open back up again.
Online outdoor furniture purveyor SunHaven, which just moved its national headquarters from Los Angeles to Houston, was one of the companies that benefited from that initial burst of frenetic outdoor nesting. It's a trend that seems to be holding up, as people who were initially forced to become housebound through strict quarantine policies are starting to realize that it's not so bad holing up (or even entertaining, for the bold!) at home in their newly comfy outdoor habitats.
Founded in 2017 by entrepreneur Michael Hillel, who set out to create a refined collection of outdoor furniture after seeing an opening in the home goods market for comfortable, versatile and fairly priced options, SunHaven has managed to grow from a modest $170,000 in sales in its first year to a projected $20 million in sales this year. Hillel hopes to continue growing those numbers as he and his four full-time employees settle into their new Texas digs.
"L.A. is beautiful, and the weather is fantastic, but it's extremely challenging to run a business there because it's very, very expensive. It's getting tougher and tougher to make it out there," says Hillel of the reasoning behind his company's big move. He settled on a space off 249 and the Beltway. "I love Texas because it is central to the country geographically. We're definitely planning on opening a distribution center here."
One of the things that has helped Hillel's outdoor furniture fly off the shelves — or at least pop into the online shopping carts of his customers — is that all of SunHaven's durable sets are fully modular, meaning that the pieces, which come in a variety of chic frame styles, can be set up in 50 different configurations.
"Everybody's outdoor space kind of looks a little bit different; they're shaped differently," says Hillel. "Customers can mix and match to find the perfect set to fit into their back yard.
"You have to win on your product that you offer. You have to deliver something that looks really great and that differentiates you from the other 20,000 products on the market at a price point that people are actually going to pay," he continues. "I think what we do better than anybody is we offer you the biggest bang for your buck."
Hillel aims to soon further his burgeoning patio-furniture empire's growth by launching a variety of ancillary products, mainly in the décor type of space — items like rugs, pillows and blankets — later this year to keep pace with the shifting demands of his customers. The addition of the décor items, says Hillel, will allow his customers to keep their patio spaces feeling fresh by allowing them to make little updates throughout the year without having to exchange out entire pieces of furniture, which is obviously the more expensive option.
Hillel, who graduated from law school before "falling into" the e-commerce biz, says he's seriously considering eventually opening up a SunHaven retail store in Houston. But before taking that giant leap, he plans on spending some time getting settled into Houston, which won out over Dallas as his company's new Texas-based headquarters.
"I just really enjoyed my time in Houston when I came to visit," says Hillel. "I love how ethnically and culturally diverse it is. The food scene is unbelievable — not to mention the cost of living. It's a very practical but amazing city to live in."