Nov. 24, 2020

Michael Barlow (Fernish) - The Advantage of Not Knowing, His Approach to Building a Rental Furniture Supply Chain, and The Biggest Hurdle When Fundraising

Michael Barlow (Fernish) - The Advantage of Not Knowing, His Approach to Building a Rental Furniture Supply Chain, and The Biggest Hurdle When Fundraising

Thank you Anna Barber for the intro to today's guest, Michael Barlow, founder and CEO of Fernish. Fernish offers premium furniture rentals that feel like home, delivered and assembled in a week. We discuss how Michael approached validating his idea of furniture rental, figuring out the supply chain, and how they adjusted to shifts in demand for certain products during COVID.


A book that inspired Michael is Against The Gods by Peter L. Bernstein.


I highly recommend following Michael on Twitter @mleebarlow. You can also follow your host, Mike, on Twitter @mikegelb. You can also follow for episode announcements @consumervc.


Here are a few questions that I ask Michael -

  1. You originally came from a finance background, what attracted you to innovation and entrepreneurship in general?
  2. Tell me about the aha moment that you had for Fernish and how were you able to validate your idea?
  3. It seems like on the supply chain side of things, renting/transporting furniture would be very complex since the pieces are typically large, you have to store them. How did you manage to get around that in the early days? Also, under the hood, how does your supply chain function?
  4. When I speak with founders, we talk about how when testing ideas, they focus on demand over the supply. And if that idea gets validated (i.e. there is a demand for it) then they go and build it. Was this part of your approach? If so, what were some of your early tactics?
  5. What were some of your early growth levers?
  6. What were some of the challenges regarding COVID?
  7. Has their been a shift in demand towards certain products i.e. office desks, and chairs?
  8. Did you have to make any pivots - whether that's with your supply chain or product offerings?
  9. How did you approach raising capital?
  10. Why did you choose to go through Techstars/an accelerator instead of trying to raise your own round off the bat?
  11. We used to be in the age of optimizing for growth no matter what, now we've shifted as profitability has become what companies want to achieve. How do you think about that balance?
  12. What's one thing you would change about the fundraising process?
  13. Was there an early mistake that you made while building Fernish that changed the way you thought about business strategy or business in general?
  14. What's one piece of advice that you have for founders?