By Vivienne Decker
Nidhi Kapur is the founder of Maiden Home, a direct-to-consumer furniture brand featuring quality, non-toxic, handmade and customizable furniture made in North Carolina. With Maiden Home, Kapur aims to cut out the middle man, offering customers a sofa that would normally cost $6,000 for $2,000. Kapur was inspired to start her own company three years ago when shopping for her first ‘grown up’ home with her new husband proved to be the source of pain-points for the couple.
“When we hit the market, we were incredibly disappointed by the quality of furniture offered by big box retailers, particularly for the price,” Nidhi Kapur said. “Designs were generic–it seemed like everyone had the same sofa!–materials felt cheap and when I asked, even salespeople couldn’t tell me where or how the products were made. The lack of transparency was stunning, especially considering the sky-high prices.”
Kapur said she ended up spending thousands of dollars on products from big-box brands only to watch them break down and wear thin in a matter of months.
“Fabrics pilled, cushions flattened and even the frames wobbled with normal wear!” Kapur said. “I commiserated with friends about how inconvenient the buying process was–between countless showroom visits and insufferable lead times, I couldn’t believe the pain furniture companies forced their customers to endure.”
At the time Kapur was working at Birchbox, where she saw firsthand the waves e-commerce was making in other, traditional retail categories.
“From beauty to fashion to mattresses, upstarts were leveraging technology to disrupt old behemoths and deliver more value to consumers than ever before,” Kapur said. “Brands were talking about quality, transparency, convenience–except in furniture, where the experience felt like ‘running into a brick wall’ as one friend described it. It was clear a makeover was in order, so I decided to dig in and understand where things were broken.”
Kapur said realized that she was looking at an industry that hadn’t evolved in decades, and was completely out of touch with the needs of modern consumers.
“Around 90% of furniture consumers now seek out products online, yet big brands continue to pour billions into the offline experience–bigger stores, more salespeople, heavier catalogs, more warehouses,” Kapur said. “And to pay for it, they strip quality out of product by outsourcing to China and Mexico, using cheaper materials and simplifying designs. They force customers into generic ‘in-stock’ products by tacking ridiculous lead times onto custom orders. All this translates into higher markups, worse value and a poorer experience for consumers than ever before.”
For Kapur, it was clear that everything had to be rethought–product, marketing, logistics, delivery.
“I couldn’t find a single brand delivering a true disruption to the market,” Kapur said. “While other online furniture players existed, none of them were focused on creating their own product, the critical mistake. Without owning your own product, you can’t control quality and you can’t deliver better value; you’re just another middleman. It was from these learning lessons that Maiden Home was born as a product-first company with a vertical business model.”
Kapur started her company with a simple mission: deliver the highest quality furniture with the best possible price.
“It took two years, but we achieved our goal, and built a smarter way,” Kapur said. “We design our products in-house, allowing us to control quality and offer a unique look missing at our price point. Our business is entirely custom-made to order, eliminating warehouse expense and inventory waste. We source all our own raw materials, buying in bulk so we can bring designer-quality fabrics and cushions to an affordable price point. And we work with highly respected American factories, who ship directly to our consumers’ homes–allowing us to connect consumers to the best craftsmen while significantly reducing shipping cost and time. Our pieces are priced at ⅓ of comparable retail (we’re delivering a $6k sofa for $2k) and deliver in six weeks or less, anywhere in the country. Plus, we offer a truly seamless buying experience with modern conveniences like free shipping and easy returns.”
To locate manfucaturers for Maiden Home, Kapur headed to North Carolina, historically known as the world’s premier source for high-end furniture.
“Being a product-first company means we live and die by the quality of our product–so naturally I wanted to partner with the industry’s best,” Kapur said. “A bit of research led me to North Carolina, the small towns north of Charlotte are dotted with small, family-owned factories where the world’s most expert craftsmen have been working for generations. They make beautiful, handcrafted upholstery products–all custom made to order–with time-honored techniques and an unmatched commitment to quality. I remembered North Carolina furniture from my childhood, but didn’t find American-made products readily available when shopping myself. The story had been lost somewhere along the way.”
Kapur met over 25 factories in North Carolina and ultimately chose 3 to partner with at launch.
“We worked together for over a year to craft our first collection of sofas and chairs,” Kapur said. “Every detail was considered–from frame construction and cushion fill to subtle design details–and every piece went through 3 round of prototypes before we deemed it ready. Through this painstaking process I developed an even greater level of respect for our partners and their commitment to quality. Being third- or even fourth-generation family-owned, they take personal pride in creating a quality product that customers will enjoy for years. They don’t cut corners in materials, construction or craftsmanship, and their attention to detail is unparalleled in the industry.”
Kapur launched Maiden Home with funding from angel and strategic investors.
“I’ve been fortunate to find an incredible group of advisors in our initial investors, including my former mentors at Birchbox and Google,” Kapur said. “They bring expertise across the board from brand, customer experience, PR, marketing to technology, and have been instrumental as I built the initial business model. My manufacturers also invested by funding our product development efforts, significantly reducing our capital requirements at launch.”
Prior to launching Maiden Home, Kapur worked at both Google and Birchbox, which she considers to be among the most innovative brands in the world.
“These are brands committed to customer centricity, innovation and a technology-driven approach–all values I want to bring to the furniture industry with Maiden Home,” Kapur said. “Most recently at Birchbox, I was the Head of Business Development and in charge of securing the company’s most high-profile strategic partnerships. Relationship building and deal-making is what I love best, and these skills were critical as I built our network of suppliers, partners and supporters in the early days.”
Kapur has big plans for the future of Maiden Home.
“We are dreaming big for the future,” Kapur said. “We want to extend our mission of top design and quality at an accessible price to every category in the home. We notice that when our customers furnish their homes, they purchase many pieces across just one or two brands–that’s because they’re looking for a consistent look and quality, and want to streamline what is already a stressful process. So we see an opportunity we see to become a ‘one stop shop’ for our customers, with products for every room, around an aesthetic they love and quality standard they trust. As we build our product roadmap we’ll be listening to our customers and developing products that meet their most burning needs. With so many pieces that come together to complete a home, the possibilities are endless.”