Interview With Rob Royer, Founder, and CEO at Interior Define

Your sofa sits in the center of your home; anchoring your space and influencing the way you interact with friends and family for years. Despite the significance of this purchase decision, we could not find a brand designed specifically around a more comfortable sofa shopping experience.

Interior Define is transforming the way people shop for a sofa. Through a made-to-order production approach and e-commerce focus, Interior Define crafts exceptional, customizable sofas for attainable prices

interior Define

Who are your ideal clients?: Design-oriented individuals who are drawn toward products and brands that allow them to reflect their unique identity. Our customer cares deeply about design and the ability to personalize their most important purchases. They shop with brands that have a unique, human story to tell.

Is this your first business?: This is the first business I have founded, but I have been involved in a couple of other consumer brand startups during my career.

What is the biggest reason for your success so far?: Our team is very grateful for the positive response Interior Define has received since launching in 2014. I fully credit our incredible team for getting us to where we are today. That said, we have big plans and a way to go!

What were the earliest indications that this business could be successful?: When we initially launched, we felt strongly there was a gap in the market for a compelling digital brand offering an elevated sofa shopping experience: with great design and extensive customization for customers shopping the middle of the market. Directly out of the gate customers began requesting customization options that went beyond our initial offerings. It was clear there was a big demand for a brand that could deliver a better sofa and customization experience. Based on this feedback, we expanded our customization offerings quickly.

What position did you hire first?: Initially roles in sales and operations, which are both critical components of Interior Define's brand experience.

The first executive hire was our CFO / COO Jordan Diab, followed by Marta Calle (former President of Crate&Barrel), who is our Creative Director and Chief Merchant. We are incredibly lucky to have them both on our executive team.

What is working best for your marketing right now?: Rather than spending a high percentage of our budget on advertising, we have focused significantly on editorial opportunities and brand partnerships (for instance Maxwell Ryan, the founder of Apartment Therapy and Danielle Moss and Alaina Kaczmarski, co-founders of The Everygirl). Both approaches have been incredibly helpful in getting people familiar with the Interior Define story.

What is your biggest differentiator?: Shopping for a sofa is an important, and often emotional experience. We examined everything about the traditional sofa-shopping experience and designed a process that is built from the ground up to be more comfortable.

We offer high-quality, uniquely customizable sofas and accent chairs at a differentiated price point (made possible through our online focus and made-to-order approach). Every order includes white glove delivery, and our team goes out of the way to make the process as seamless, and fun, as possible.

What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?: We have contemplated opening pop experiences in new markets, but ultimately decided we want to have the consistent, best experience possible - which we believe is only possible (for our brand) through similar retail experiences to our Chicago flagship. We plan to open 3 similar Guideshops in new markets in 2017.

If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?: Don't play it safe, particularly in your 20's.

How did you meet your co-founders or business partners?: Many of our current team members came together organically through common connections. It isn't the most scalable approach to building a team, but it has worked out incredibly so far!

Has content marketing been successful for your business?: Definitely. We've increased our Interior Define journal content (our blog), offering helpful advice on everything from customizing a sofa to home tours with talented individuals working in various industries, i.e. not just designers. This continues to drive great traffic to our brand.

Favorite place to travel to?: I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and do not get back nearly as often as I would like to. It's an incredible, and unique part of the country.

What is the best small business in your neighborhood?: Monica+Andy, the children's clothing brand, just North of Armitage on Halsted. In full disclosure, it is a children's clothing brand that my wife Monica started. That said, they host the coolest activities for kids and parents – and they have a milk and cookie bar!

Do you have a favorite freelancer you have recently worked with?: We've recently started working with a freelance graphic designer to fill in gaps in our design queue. I'd love to give him some recognition by name - but I don't want to lose him!

What is your favorite app or online tool?: A somewhat vanilla answer, but Instagram is such a great tool for design inspiration. I also spend time on Houzz and Pinterest when I have the time.

What inbound marketing strategy has provided the best ROI?: Brand partnerships.


How did you finance your business?: Investors.

What business would you love for someone else to start?: One of the most needed and best consumer product ideas I've recently seen is a coffee maker that freshly grinds and brews each cup. You can adjust the acidity and caffeine levels on an app. I can't wait to get one!

What advice do you have for new founders?: If you are truly passionate about an idea and you can put in the requisite work to get it off the ground - just keep pushing. Like anything in life, there are ups and downs - but the ups are incredibly rewarding.

Twitter: @interiordefine


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