Efficiency can bring back local furniture manufacturing, entrepreneur says

Vybe manufactures solid wood furniture exclusively from the forests of Quebec and Ontario, entirely designed here.

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When Barry O’Sullivan immigrated to Montreal from Dublin, he never thought he would start a furniture manufacturing business.

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But when he started furnishing his new home in 2017, he got creative and built his own coffee table from two pallets of waste for his own home.

Four years later, he is now the owner of Vybe, a furniture maker in Montreal that exclusively uses wood from the forests of Quebec and Ontario and is designed entirely here.

“It started out as a necessity more than anything else,” said O’Sullivan, founder of Vybe.

“My visiting friends really liked the coffee table and bought one. Then I put a picture of it on Kijiji and it sold out in a day. He just grew and grew from there.

With a business degree and training in construction, O’Sullivan was used to construction and by early 2018 Vybe went from being a side business to being a full time business after continued success on platforms like Kijiji and Etsy. .

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When O’Sullivan saw the success of his business, he began asking customers what attracted them to his furniture when he hand delivered their orders.

“They were like, ‘It’s handmade, it’s made here and not imported and it’s real wood,’” he said. “I started to realize that this could be a real business because there is a need for it.”

After gaining insight from local customers, O’Sullivan began researching the furniture manufacturing industry and why it is so rare in North America.

“Furniture making is mostly done in Asia now because of the lower costs and manufacturers here couldn’t compete. But they were ineffective, and we’re changing that by being much more efficient and selling directly to consumers. We are making manufacturing here viable, ”he said. “Our job goes far beyond the simple manufacture of furniture. We innovate in the manufacture of furniture by developing highly efficient production processes.

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“It's not easy to make furniture here and survive as a business,” says Vybe founder Barry O'Sullivan.  “We managed to change that.  We have developed processes to change the mindset of furniture making.
“It’s not easy to make furniture here and survive as a business,” says Vybe founder Barry O’Sullivan. “We managed to change that. We have developed processes to change the mindset of furniture making. Photo by Allen McInnis /Montreal Gazette

According to O’Sullivan, the majority of imported furniture is not solid wood, but bonded wood fibers and chips which are then covered with a thin layer of wood veneer or melamine, an artificial wood. The bonding process then uses formaldehyde, a toxic substance.

“Our furniture is solid wood constructed with wood directly sourced from sustainable forests,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s much more environmentally friendly and our process has a much lower carbon footprint because we don’t import and avoid all of these transcontinental shipments and warehouses. Our furniture goes from the forest to the mill, to us, then directly to the consumer.

O’Sullivan says his entire business model is based on efficiency and respect for the environment for the viability of the business.

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“It’s not easy to make furniture here and survive as a business,” he said. “We managed to change that. We have developed processes to change the mindset of furniture making, so you don’t need to outsource it overseas; we’ve developed a process to do it here effectively.

O’Sullivan describes his customizable furniture as mid-century modern, Scandinavian, simple and elegant and with his growth doubling each year and attracting clients from other countries, he is constantly looking for new ways to make his business more viable.

“It’s a bit like disrupting the manufacture of furniture,” he said. “We look at the big picture, the business is very viable and scalable because of the processes that we have worked very hard to put in place, so that our business can continue to grow and grow. “

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Meanwhile, O’Sullivan says he’s happy he chose to immigrate to Montreal because he says it’s the perfect place for entrepreneurs and immigrants to start their own businesses.

“I found Montreal to be a great city to start a business and live,” he said. “It has an educated and skilled workforce, lower business and living costs than most countries in North America, and there is a vibrant and innovative start-up ecosystem, so that anyone who is willing to work very hard and has an innovative idea has a good chance of success here. “

“The current government is very entrepreneurial, promoting business and entrepreneurship to stimulate the economy. It is a great place for an immigrant or any entrepreneur.

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