How this former Lehman Brothers banker built a pandemic-proof business

How this former Lehman Brothers banker built a pandemic-proof business

Declan Ee normally knew he wished to operate his individual company. 

But when he graduated from University University London in 2006, he observed his peers making use of for jobs at financial commitment banking companies and decided to give it a consider.

His 1st gig? Lehman Brothers.

“I favored seeing how enterprises labored on a world-wide scale. So that was incredibly interesting.”

But the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers not only roiled world markets, it was a shake-up for Ee as well.

“I was in the subprime home finance loan division. I dodged reporters although strolling to Lehman in Canary Wharf. It manufactured me double down on leaving banking at some level.”

… it really is about making a fantastic basis and a sturdy enterprise that provides value to your goal buyers.

Declan Ee

Co-founder, Castlery

The 39-yr-old Singaporean did depart expenditure banking ultimately in 2016, to develop his household furniture start out-up, Castlery. 

Today, the business enterprise is bringing in hundreds of thousands and its modern day pieces can be uncovered in in excess of 300,000 houses globally, explained Castlery. CNBC Make It finds out how.

Household furniture for urban millennials 

It all started out when Ee arrived back to Singapore 11 years ago and was furnishing his marital household. 

His great buddy and co-founder Fred Ji was also searching for inexpensive fashionable furnishing. 

“We shared a bond in that … [the process was] disheartening. We want to get the pleasant parts but they are so inaccessible.”

That is because of to items like the price point and controlling various lead-occasions of home furnishings, he stated.

That is when they had the idea of promoting reasonably priced, designer home furniture to “urban millennials” concerning 25 to 45 many years aged. 

To add to the shopper procuring knowledge, there is a showroom in Singapore and pop-up stores across U.S. and Australia.


“This age group, you go by means of a ton of improve. You leave faculty, you start developing your career, you get married, you have a child … We add things to our houses,” the president of Castlery instructed CNBC Make It.

Ee wanted to offer choices to younger grown ups who want to have an “inspiring room” and “a thing much more than Ikea,” — without breaking the bank.

In 2013, Ee and Ji went electronic-1st with Castlery, enabling buyers to view a virtual studio and acquire household furniture on line — a disruptor in the standard household furniture sector. 

“When clients started off to shop on the net for furniture, they realized that, ‘I don’t need to have to go to 25 household furniture suppliers any longer.’ The up coming time they will need to acquire some thing, they will do it on-line once again.”

Understanding from ‘blow-ups’ 

Getting no practical experience in the household furniture retail business enterprise, Ee approximated he desired 6 to seven many years to learn the ropes, which is as very long as the “fund everyday living” of VCs. 

“Straightaway, there’s a conflict … that is why stress takes place — you will not have clarity of considered, due to the fact you have to scale at all value.”

Rather, Castlery’s initial investments came from spouse and children users and other business owners who have exited their organizations.

“At the main, it truly is about creating a excellent basis and a sturdy organization that provides price to your goal prospects. That will constantly translate no make a difference what, no matter whether you want to market or record your enterprise,” Ee said. 

Pandemic-accelerated growth 

We ended up escalating so rapid, our faces had been turning eco-friendly.

Declan Ee

Co-founder, Castlery

And as tens of millions of employees ended up shut out of their places of work and demanded to work from household, the “which means of home” also improved, Ee observed. 

“It really is not just a area you arrive again to [after work]. You are carrying out your get the job done, you’re pursuing your passions, you have your little ones. How you furnish your home issues since you happen to be paying much more time there.”

With much more folks searching to upgrade their place, Castlery’s growth “accelerated,” said Ee.

“We had been developing so quickly, our faces ended up turning environmentally friendly.” 

In accordance to Castlery, the corporation grew “six situations” all through the pandemic, making about $100 million in the most the latest monetary 12 months ending March 2022, and became financially rewarding in 2020.

Castlery caters to city millennials who want an “inspiring room” with no breaking the bank, claimed its co-founder Declan Ee.


Even so, with or with no the pandemic, Ee believes that Castlery’s greatest offering issue is the design and performance of its merchandise. 

“I converse to consumers from the U.S. just about every thirty day period and they are like, ‘We appreciate your washable variety of sofas!’ I believed, ‘Okay, it truly is a matter?'”

“I guess staying Asians, we are fairly realistic,” he stated.

Ee included: “They would make clear that in the U.S., you will never have this alternative at this rate issue.” According to him, his home furnishings is “20{ac23b82de22bd478cde2a3afa9e55fd5f696f5668b46466ac4c8be2ee1b69550} to 30{ac23b82de22bd478cde2a3afa9e55fd5f696f5668b46466ac4c8be2ee1b69550}” more affordable than identical parts in the current market.

Each assortment is assigned a buyer, an engineer and a planner — this trio operates a properly-oiled machine to be certain merchandise go to sector in a timely and value-efficient fashion.