Campaign: Reinventing Furniture

A close up with Kate Leisy (Head of Marketing at Campaign)

By: Joe Laresca

Campaign is one of the most attractive startups I’ve come across— literally. Their furniture is truly gorgeous: practical, modern, and oh, so sleek.

I recently talked with Kate Leisy who’s heading up marketing and growth at Campaign. Both her awesome background and funky personality are testaments to why she’s responsible for helping build the future of furniture.

Here’s the chat I had with Kate.

Kate, you have an awesome background. You graduated Magna Cum Laude from Vanderbilt, are a Venture for America Fellow, worked at companies like Warner and Curalate, and even co-founded your own company. What got you into all of this (entrepreneurship)?

As most would say, it’s been a mix of things. Coming out of college, my choice to join Venture for America stemmed from a desire to simply do something different than most others; to actively choose not to take a job in consulting, banking, or a well-known large company. I liked saying ‘I’m moving to Philadelphia to work with this really neat marketing startup you’ve probably never heard of’ and having everyone question that decision (including myself at many times). But the truth is, after you’ve been in the entrepreneurial/startup world, you get a taste of all the creativity, the flexibility, the responsibility, & the madness that goes with it and it’s tough to imagine working in any other environment. My first taste of it was at Curalate, then later with Bearkat, and now at Campaign. I was sucked in from the beginning and now there’s no turning back!

What brought you to Campaign and how big is the team? What’s your favorite part about working there?

Funny enough, I’d first seen Campaign on AngelList a little over a year ago. After reading what little info they shared and trying to scour the interwebs for more (spoiler: there was none), I was immediately hooked and emailed Brad (the CEO). Half expecting no answer and the other half expecting him to tell me the team was huge and needed no one else on board, I came to find out that it was just the two founders, Brad and Raul. Since then, it’s been a small team of us working away in our warehouse/office/workshop in Oakland, CA (but we’re hiring, so reach out!).

Outside of the very Instagrammable natural light in our shop, I’d say my favorite part is the sheer amount of learning I’m exposed to. I never thought I’d know the difference between types of wood, laminates, machinery, fabrics, etc., but now I find myself being that weird person who judges all of the pieces of furniture I’ve bought in the past like ‘ugh, it’s not even natural wood’ or ‘I probably paid 10x of what it cost to make this’. Furniture shopping was much easier when I was naive…

What does an average day look like for you?

Oh man, hmm. I’ll list a few things that come to mind and perhaps that can paint a decent picture:

  • Lifting hundreds of steel frames out of UPS trucks
  • Scouting and visiting locations for photoshoots
  • Riding around town in a white, non-descript, windowless sprinter van
  • Casting for photo shoots in less than 24 hours
  • Designing a booth for an international furniture conference
  • Working and meeting with some amazing photographers, stylists, and interior designers
  • Creating mood boards like it’s my job (#blessed)
  • Talking with hundreds of customers around our company and products
  • Building a brand & planning for the future of the team/company (we’re hiring!)
  • Spending too much time on Instagram

People are calling you guys the future “Ikea-killer.” Is that the goal/do you feel as if that’s the appropriate term? Who’s your target demographic?

We don’t necessarily like to think of ourselves as the future ‘IKEA-killer’ (we’re not out to kill other furniture brands). The fact is, there’s a reason IKEA is so successful and it’s because of their price points, their DIY assembly, and their accessibility. What we strive to do is offer pieces that are just as comparable in price and convenience, but are over the moon in terms of quality and ease of assembly (our pieces have a lifetime warranty and can be assembled in a few minutes with no tools).

Furniture is one of the last industries that has yet to be brought into the 21st century — people don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a sofa, they don’t want to have to hire someone to deliver it, they don’t want to wait 3–6 months for it to ship to them, and they definitely don’t want to spend hours assembling it themselves. At Campaign, we’re not just making products that solve for these problems, but we’re re-imagining the furniture experience as a whole, making it simpler and more enjoyable.

What are the unique aspects and challenges around building a direct-to-consumer physical product company from the ground up?

Where to start! Everything is a challenge — from designing boxes for shipping within Fedex/UPS standards, to writing copy for the website, to growing the Campaign brand. Most direct to consumer startups are fighting for a spot in industries that have been around for decades. They’re up against companies that have the brand name, the reputation, the capital, the immense product lines; whereas the startups, they have none of that. So the two biggest challenges revolve around 1. creating a product that is better than the current market options and then 2. figuring out how in the world to get people to hear about it.

To sum it up in a sentence, ‘If you build it, they will not come’. I sort of hate this line because it’s true. There are so many brands, particularly DTC consumer brands, popping up everyday. At this point, all of the usual marketing channels and methods are overused and saturated, so you’ve got to get reallll creative. You’ve got to figure out how to reach consumers in new ways, which is a challenge everyday. Aside from having an incredible product, how do you stand out through such an overly saturated world of content? Any brand, direct to consumer or not, is fighting this battle.

What’s it like building a non-tech brand in SF?

San Francisco can get quite a lot of grief for being a nerdy, narrow-minded, tech bubble world, which is fair, because a lot of that world does exist. However, there’s also an amazing creative world here too that I’m slowly getting to know through Campaign. There’s a community of designers, writers, photographers, bakers, you name it, that are welcoming and curious, perhaps even more so here than they would be in any other city, say NYC or LA for example.

In that way, it can be supportive and exciting to be building a non-tech brand in the Bay. It allows you to be a part of the creative world, while still taking advantage of the immense amount of tech/entrepreneurial resources available. Also, it’s kind of nice being a bit of the odd man out.

That said, if anyone reading this is in the Bay Area and would like to meet up, let me know!

Is there anything about Campaign that you’d like the world to know?

Campaign is built on one simple promise — to make furniture for the way we live today.

Get in touch with Joe via email or Twitter.

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