This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Efua Akumanyi on…
- Bootstrapping a furniture and home décor shopping discovery site
- The challenges of coding the technical architecture for an affiliate website
- The patience and dedication required to become an “overnight success”
Hello Efua! Tell us a bit about you.
Hi! I’m Efua. I’m the co-founder and CTO of Furnishful, a furniture and home décor shopping discovery site. I love all things tech and studied Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at University. I was born in Ghana and have lived in London since I was two.
To relax I love watching movies and anything sci-fi. I’m a fan of yoga and I also try to practice meditation daily.
And tell us more about Furnishful.
Furnishful’s aim is to make it easier for you to discover and shop for beautiful items of furniture and home décor. We do this by bringing together thousands of items from 40+ retailers and adding helpful product filters such as shop by interior style (e.g. Scandi, Boho). Our users can also create their own Inspiration Boards of items they love which can be kept private or shared publicly.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had been thinking about starting a business for a while, but I was always concerned that I lacked experience. As a contractor, I worked alongside a few founders and soon realised that I didn’t need to wait until I knew everything to start.
After brainstorming with my partner (and co-founder!) we became really interested in the furniture and home décor space. We had heard so many stories about people struggling to find what they were looking for (e.g. spending months searching for the perfect hallway mirror), so we built Furnishful to address those needs. As well as helping people to find the right products for their home, we also wanted it to be inspirational, so we developed our Inspiration Boards functionality.
How has the experience been for you?
It’s been really rewarding, but also very challenging.
Taking something from the initial concept and making it a reality has been amazing. It’s also great to see people using and benefiting from the site. We still get excited when our users create Inspiration Boards.
Can you talk us through some of those challenges?
I built the site myself as I have a background in software development. Coding the site alone has been fulfilling and stressful in equal measure. I get to make most of the decisions regarding our architectural and tech solutions which means we can build functionality very quickly, but that’s also a huge responsibility. If things don’t go to plan, then I’m the one that has to fix it and sometimes find another solution altogether.
It also isn’t easy to go from the guaranteed income of a job to the financial uncertainty of a start-up business.
What has been your best investment to date?
Social media has been great for our business. It’s helped us to reach our audience, really connect with them and get their invaluable feedback. Instagram, in particular, has worked well mainly because what we do is so visual.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share them with us?
Yes, but it’s
Tell us about any mentors or role models you’ve had along the way.
I have found so many inspiring people around me. Growing up as the youngest of three siblings meant I was well practised in observing what works for others and then trying it out for myself. I do the same in business. I have a coach I speak to regularly and I also read a lot of business books. Podcasts have been really helpful too.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
Overnight success can take years! When reading about other startups, you will often get a condensed version of a story which can make it feel like their business had very quick success (especially true of tech ventures). When you dig a bit deeper, you often find that they spent years developing their skill set and honing their offering. As a result, if you compare yourself it’s easy to dwell on what you haven’t done rather than what you have done.
So, celebrate your successes. Even the smallest of achievements should be celebrated – each sale, any new piece of functionality released or new partnership made. All the small things add up.
With that in mind, what does success mean to you?
Business success for me means doing something fulfilling, creative and building a site that people really love to use. Personal success means being healthy, happy and financially independent. For me, business and personal success are very much entwined.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
If you have a business idea, make sure it’s something that you feel very passionately about. You are going to need that passion to carry you through the more challenging times. And remember that all businesses face challenges.
Also, start networking as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have a fully formed idea, network with people who have already started their business and have the same entrepreneurial mindset. Being around that energy and experience can help you refine your ideas, as well as build a community of supportive people.
Finally, just start. Don’t procrastinate and worry yourself out of starting a venture. Everyone has to begin somewhere. Read books, listen to podcasts and network, but make sure you start the business too.
Which books or podcasts do you love that you would recommend?
Lost and Founder – Rand Fishkin
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
How can readers get in touch with you?
Furnishful can be found on the following platforms:
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/furnishful
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.co.uk/furnishful
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/Furnishful
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/Furnishful
Or contact us through our website: www.furnishful.co.uk/contact-us.
Thank you Efua! – Frankie & Lara
About the Author
Lara Sheldrake is an entrepreneur and founder at Found & Flourish. Lara writes and speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, motherhood and social media for business. She also hosts the Bossing It podcast, aimed at empowering the next generation of female founders in the UK. Send Lara an email. You can also find her on Instagram @Lara_Sheldrake or Twitter @Lara_Sheldrake.
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