Female Disruptors: Meganne Wecker is shaking up the textile and home furnishing industries

It can be easy to second guess decisions, especially in challenging situations. I’ve learned how important it is to trust that experience and knowledge will guide my instinct, and to trust in my ability to work hard to achieve my goals.

I had the pleasure to interview Meganne Wecker President of Skyline Furniture. Meganne is the fourth generation to take over as president of Skyline Furniture. After graduating she joined her father and grandfather in the family business. Since then, Meganne has led the design team to focus on fashion-forward furniture with unique styles and bold trend driven fabrics. She also spearheaded Skyline’s move to online furniture sales managing key relationships with Skyline’s biggest e-commerce customers, including Target, One Kings Lane, and Wayfair. In 2016, Meganne expanded her resume when she founded Cloth & Company, a Chicago based furnishing and home décor company that brings the fast fashion concept to home. The country’s first print-on-demand, tech focused home brand, Cloth & Company harnesses digital design to bring collections to market with unprecedented speed without ever making a sample. Praised for revolutionizing the supply chain, Cloth & Company utilizes digital printing technology and traditional craftsmanship to ship customized product to the consumer in under 3 weeks.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

MW: I am the third generation of my family’s furniture manufacturing company, Skyline Furniture. Skyline was founded in 1946 by my grandfather in the suburbs of Chicago where it thrives today in its original location. After college, I moved back to Chicago and joined the company where I began working on the import side of the business, helping to source products from around the globe. Sourcing textiles quickly became the part of my job I loved the most. I was given an opportunity to design a capsule collection of upholstered furniture for one of our upcoming trade shows. I naturally gravitated towards creating furniture my friends and I would want to purchase for our first apartments in the city. The fashion focused capsule collection caught the attention of some of the country’s largest retailers, which ultimately led me to pursue a more significant role on the design side of the business. Around the same time I began to develop my creative voice, retailers were starting to launch their e-commerce sites. I saw an opportunity, given Skyline’s made-to- order and direct-to-consumer fulfillment model, to sell our furniture via this new channel. The result of combining fashionable upholstery with our sophisticated fulfillment model proved to be a winning one.

Why did you found your company?

MW: I founded Cloth & Company because I saw an opportunity to change the way furniture was being made. The home industry was ripe for disruption. The traditional inventory heavy business model meant brands couldn’t take risks on designs which left the market stuck in a rut, ignoring fashion trends that would appeal to a younger shopper. We also saw an opportunity with customization. We knew it was growing in popularity but the only options were expensive and take 6–12 weeks to produce, a lead time that wouldn’t satisfy the millennial shopper used to fast delivery times.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

MW: Being disruptive in the furniture industry is not new to me- I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry, and spearheaded our company’s strategy to pursue an online retailer strategy before it was fashionable to sell e-commerce.

The launch of Cloth & Company is also disruptive to both the textile and home furnishing industry. Traditionally, textiles for the home are limited to colors/patterns that a mill has in stock. To create an exclusive print, manufacturers are faced with long lead times (4–6 weeks), and heavy inventory commitments (2000 yard minimum order quantities). Cloth & Company is now able to design and digitally print fabrics in the matter of hours with no-inventory commitment. The collections, collaboration, and customization options we are able to offer are infinite, and completely exclusive to us. Our printer is in-line on our factory floor which dramatically speeds up our manufacturing capabilities and we are able to produce a completely customized piece of furniture in under two weeks.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

My father and my grandfather are my biggest mentors. Growing up in a family business I was fortunate to be guided by over 70 years of experience in the business, while at the same time being encouraged to make my own path.

How are you going to shake things up next?

MW: I still see an opportunity for fashionable textiles, coupled with our manufacturing speed and no inventory model, in several other home related categories. I also think that our ability to allow end consumers to fully customize their textile and furniture hasn’t been realized yet. We are ready to go on the manufacturing wise and are working with our partners to perfect the technology and user experience on the consumer facing side

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

- Don’t give up-

Its hard to fail, but it makes you stop and think about things in a different light. If you take the time to analyze what went wrong, it can be a powerful tool in making you better.

-Don’t take it personally-

Im incredibly passionate about my company, and I attribute a lot of my success to having that drive. That said, I have grown to understand the importance of taking the emotion out of the equation and not letting it cloud my judgement when making decisions.

-Trust in yourself.

It can be easy to second guess decisions, especially in challenging situations. I’ve learned how important it is to trust that experience and knowledge will guide my instinct, and to trust in my ability to work hard to achieve my goals.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

MW: I listen to a lot of podcasts, and documentaries that profile founders, and artists, etc. I am currently loving the podcast “How I Built This”, and the documentary “Chef’s Table”. While the stories are all different, there is a common thread that I am most inspired by — they celebrate their craft and are constantly thinking outside the box to solve problems and improve.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

MW: It is a powerful time to be a woman in our country. I would love the opportunity to meet with any of the women (or men) who have been instrumental in helping the advancement of women in their respective industry.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@theclothandco, @skylinefurniture, @megannewecker

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!