May 24, 2022
As part of our Entrepreneur Series, this month we had the pleasure of getting to know Rob Bridgman, Founder & CEO of Snug, a company revolutionising the way of buying furniture by delivering sofa’s in a box in days, instead of weeks. We chat to Rob about how Snug came about, how it is evolving, as well as his hopes for the future of the business. Rob also gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to run a business and his top tips for entrepreneurs.
From an early age I wanted to be an inventor and believed that being an entrepreneur is as close as you can get. At the age of 21 I started working for my father who, after qualifying as an accountant, had set up his furniture business, Bridgman, much like my grandfather who owned furniture factories since the 1940’s.
After having studied psychology at university, I embraced my role in marketing and e-commerce and through trial and error, helped transform Bridgman from a manufacturer and wholesaler, to a direct-to-consumer business, growing revenue from £2m to £7m per year and opening offices in the Middle East.
When I joined Bridgman in 2010 my first project was to set up an ecommerce site, migrating from asp.net to Magento. Selling direct to consumers online was a relatively new concept at the time, as the misconception in the industry was people wouldn’t be willing to spend £1,000+ without first seeing the product.
8 years later, after a particularly frustrating experience of buying a sofa for my flat, I realised that I could use my professional experience to solve a personal problem. After waiting 9 weeks for the sofas to arrive, when they eventually did, they didn’t fit through the front door. To make matters worse, the company didn’t accept returns, so I was thousands of pounds out of pocket still without anywhere to sit. Combining my knowledge of the industry with the D2C business model, we launched Snug in 2019.
Getting manufacturers on board with our ‘no tools’ and ‘speedy delivery’ requirements. Over the space of a year, Snug was turned down by 12 manufacturers before one accepted our initial order. We sold 1 sofa in month one and 10 in our first quarter but stayed resolute to the lean ‘start small, scale fast’ mantra.
One of the biggest technical challenges was to reverse engineer a three-seater sofa so that it not only looks good but is comfortable and durable. It caused some serious headaches. In principle the design and ergonomics were relatively straightforward but the engineering to put it together without tools was very challenging (it took nearly 9 months).
For me, this period was also challenging as I essentially had two jobs. I was working at Bridgman as a marketing director and on the side I was trying to get Snug off the ground. We were designing the product, creating a company, and the new ‘sofa in a box’ category, all at the same time.
We’ve disrupted the furniture industry by innovating in 3 areas simultaneously; Product, Brand and Customer Experience.
51% of Londoners have issues with fitting furniture into their property, and 22 million pieces of furniture end up in landfill each year. Our patented Modular assembly system overcomes both of these challenges, and we created a new category around the solution. We also deliver in days, not months, which is key for modern day consumers – we can see that this speed doubles our conversions.
Our Brand stands out from the competition. We’ve developed a Challenger brand which has disrupted the status quo, with a cheeky and irreverent personality. This has resulted in us growing a community of over 250k people on social platforms with an engagement rate of 5.5% which is more than double the industry average.
We’ve also pioneered in social commerce, which we define as blurring the lines between community, content and commerce. Through live streaming events we’ve collaborated with celebrities like Kathryn Ryan to virtually fill Wembley Arena and sell hundreds of sofas with relatively little spend.
We’re constantly looking to innovate and challenge the status quo. Our ambition is to be a global consumer brand, and to create new furniture categories for the Digital Age.
I spotted an opportunity in the market to solve a problem and to create a brand and community around it. The goal is to scale as quickly as possible to extend our market lead, and to create new markets in the UK and overseas. Snug’s business model and unique positioning has global application, and with the right investment could become one of the next unicorns.
Whilst there are many different traits needed to be a good business leader, the two that stand out for me are integrity and the ability to adapt.
Whilst I am more of an evening person, my alarm usually goes off around 5.30am, I’ve recently started running again so I try to get out at least a few times a week. On the mornings where I head straight into the office, I grab a coffee enroute and catch up on any urgent emails, read the latest articles in The Economist or listen to a podcast on Shopify. My current favourite being Secret Leaders. Arriving at the office around 7.30am, I’ll spend the first half hour of the day getting up to speed with my EA, ready to start the day with either a catch up with the senior management team or deep diving into the latest customer insights which underpin our strategy.
There are so many opportunities out there, but you should always ask yourself these 2 questions:
If you can answer these 2 questions, the key is to test and learn so you can continuously improve and outpace your competition.
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We challenged Bluebox with finding the right strategic buyer and thereafter negotiating a deal that met our requirements. In helping initially to identify and to secure the deal with Mountville Mills they accomplished just that. Communication throughout was excellent and professional, managing each stage of the process. I would have no hesitation in recommending Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest their business.”
Richard Millward, Former Client
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox were challenged with finding us the right strategic investor and, thereafter, negotiating a deal that met our complex requirements. In identifying and securing the deal with LGC they have done exactly that. The process itself was efficient and smooth, largely due to the excellent communication from the Bluebox team, who also demonstrated excellent experience at managing a very engaging auction process. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest a business.”
Helen Dickinson, Former Client
It has been a real privilege working with the team at Bluebox over this last year or so. Bluebox’s attention to detail ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and the sale process itself was managed expertly. Starting the process, I had no idea exactly what this would entail and the volume of work that has been produced by everyone and the result reached today is nothing short of brilliant.
Hugh Morris, Former Client
We are delighted with the services that Bluebox was able to offer. They showed an intimate knowledge of a deal cycle, managed a tight auction process and were highly communicative from the start. I would happily recommend Paul and his team to business owners contemplating a sale of their business in the next 24 months. Experience is key and this has paid off for us.
Laurence Seward, Former Client
Aligning ourselves early with Bluebox, and entrusting the team to guide us through their process proved to be a highly rewarding investment from all viewpoints. Bluebox’s support significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years. The earlier the engagement the better so far as I am concerned.
Mike Minett, Former Client
We began working with Bluebox in early 2015 through their Blue Diamond Programme, as we were contemplating an exit. We found that the process focussed our minds on the key areas of growth in the business, and prepared us well for the inevitable rigours of due diligence. During the sale process itself, the advice offered by the Bluebox team was invaluable. We found them to be helpful, straightforward and honest.
David Stokes, Former Client
When selecting our adviser, it was extremely important that they had access to international buyers and were experienced in cross-border M&A. The team at Bluebox proved to be invaluable by identifying a strategic acquirer from America who was not known to us and by negotiating an excellent deal for all parties. I was also impressed with the process management from Bluebox, which ensured that the deal was closed in a timely fashion.
Jeff Weinstein, Former Client
When I first engaged with Bluebox, I was hesitant as to the benefits of using an advisor to firstly, find a buyer for my business and secondly, to get a deal over the line. However, now that the deal has completed with KPM, I can honestly say that the finer negotiation points handled by Bluebox and their overall management of this process has been nothing short of first class. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox’s services to any entrepreneur contemplating the sale of their business.
Bill Ballard, Former Client
Bluebox worked closely with us over the following six months and helped us to implement some key initiatives which made InferMed a more attractive acquisition target. Once we decided to sell the business, the Bluebox team were very diligent in ensuring that no stone was left unturned. They negotiated expertly on our behalf to ensure we got the best deal possible.
Alan Montgomery, Former Client
The pre-sale planning programme that we signed up for with Bluebox made us develop our strategies and focus on the bigger picture. It proved to be a very rewarding investment from all viewpoints and significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years.
Nigel Parsons, Former Client
I have experienced first hand the value that can be created through highly structured pre-sale planning. It amazes me that it is not something that everyone does. It is so disappointing to see around 90% of transactions collapse before they complete and pre-sale planning will not only enhance your price, but also significantly enhance your chance of a closed deal.
James Caan, Investor
We worked incredibly closely with our advisers who provided expert knowledge of the sale process with which we were not familiar. We were truly delighted with the results.
Marten Nielson, Former Client
We appointed advisers to manage the sales process after we had received a number of unsolicited approaches for the business. I was incredibly impressed by the immense value that could be created by expertly negotiating with a group of already interested parties.
Paul Duckworth, Former Client
I was delighted with the service that the team offered and their real attention to detail. The deal was not without its complexities and it was reassuring to have such experienced advisers assisting me throughout the negotiations.
Peter Bennett, Former Client
Truly delighted with the way my sale process was managed. The fact that the team I worked with achieved such a great multiple is testament to their experience and their ability to create some true competitive tension.
James Averdieck, Gü, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided invaluable support in negotiating this complex transaction. Their access to international purchasers, and exceptional knowledge of cross border M&A ensured that the deal was concluded efficiently, achieving a highly successful outcome for us all.
Jon Parslow, Former Client
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Simon English, Former Client
Bluebox provided invaluable advice in managing the negotiations with incoming investors. Their skills in handling these discussions were evident from the outset and the vital interface that they provided between the incumbent team and the incoming investors was truly beneficial.
Henry Braham, Former Client
Bluebox have a professional, dynamic and experienced team that is greatly assisting me with my focus on my exit within the next 24 months. Their structured approach is very refreshing and their ‘Blue Diamond’ programme is adding immense value.
Matt Evans, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided me with a seamless service from the start of the engagement until our deal was completed. Attention to detail was commendable and their understanding of corporate M&A very impressive. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Victor Lewis, Former client
Having tried to sell my business previously – and failed – I was only too aware of the importance of pre-sale planning. This is a talented team offering a service that most people find out about, but too late.
Simon Hulme, Former Client
Bluebox are a quality outfit. Their access to International acquirers and relationships with the highest quality domestic investors was impressive. My shareholders and I received excellent service from start to finish and it was refreshing to be dealing with a senior team throughout the sale exercise.
Michael Clapper, Former Client
I cannot recommend the team at Bluebox highly enough. Their expert guidance throughout the entire sale exercise resulted in my shareholders securing an excellent deal with which the entire team was delighted.
Mark Rodol, Former Client
I’m really pleased with the service Bluebox provided. The team demonstrated excellent knowledge of the process to follow and led negotiations for the hospital in a way that allowed us to ensure we received appropriate value whilst focusing on reputational risk. Communication and service were of a very high standard.
Steven Davies, Former Client
With Bluebox’s expert advice we were able to find the right buyer that will benefit our business strategically. We’re delighted with the outcome and look forward to starting our new chapter
Clive Hillier, Former Client
The advice offered by the Bluebox team throughout the process was invaluable to the shareholders. We strongly believe that participating in Bluebox’s pre-sale planning programme was a significant driver behind the success of the deal. Their project management and negotiation skills throughout the sale process itself resulted in an exceptional deal being delivered to all parties involved.
Harpal Singh, Former Client