We’re trying to build a new kind of company: there are no exact blueprints to follow or case studies to light the way - which means it’s a real challenge! When we started Opendesk we had the motivation to build something truly innovative - to provide a real alternative to mass production.
In doing this we were simply not interested or excited by reverting to ‘Business as Usual’ if there was a way we could think would deliver more value to our Customers, Designers and Makers.
Business as usual in the furniture industry often implies opaque supply chains and business models leading to huge retail mark-ups, race-to-the-bottom production costs and their associated employment burden, and little or no traceability of materials and their sustainability.
A design is typically outsourced for mass manufacturing wherever the cost of materials and production is lowest (often to countries where land and labour is cheapest). Parts are sourced from factories and delivered to a centralised assembly-line for production, after which goods are often shipped halfway around the world in containers. Items are stored in large regional warehouses, before finally being delivered to customers or retail locations to be sold on the high street. It’s a process that squeezes makers and designers, generating significant profits for the middlemen and even more significant carbon footprints.
A New Approach
Opendesk is challenging the traditional mass-production model to build a 21st Century alternative: one that is distributed, ethical, sustainable and celebrates distributed, local production.
That’s why you “Request Quotes” from local makers on our website instead of buying directly from us; it’s why we’re building a global network of local makers instead of single centralised factory and it’s ultimately the reason we’re developing a digital platform to make it fair, equitable and empowering for a whole supply chain of small independent businesses to offer locally-made goods to people in their area.
A Model to Match
We’re offering a new business model for a traditional industry. Our transparent, layered quoting replaces single opaque pricing that often includes significant ‘hidden’ markups. We make sure designers are fairly paid for their work at a percentage per product that far outweighs the industry average, and our model is specifically built to empower smaller, independent manufacturers.
When you select designs through Opendesk and request a quote from local makers to have your order fulfilled, the quote you receive back will show a full breakdown of the cost so you know exactly where every penny goes.
Let’s say you spend £300 on your new desk:
- Manufacturing cost of £217 goes to the local maker
- Designer Fee of £18 goes to the designer (8% of manufacturing cost)
- Channel Fee of £39 goes to management & marketing of the site (18% of manufacturing cost)
- Platform Fee of £26 goes to building & supporting the technical infrastructure (12% of manufacturing cost)
How does our model compare?
Independent makers are at the heart of our model, and paying a fair price to the people making Opendesk furniture is very important to us.
This generally means a greater amount of the sale price goes to the maker compared with traditional factory production, which can rely on huge volumes of stock made for low or minimum wages.
Our model saves on shipping, storage & showrooms - because everything is made local and on-demand we have almost no need for shipping or warehousing. Because you’re buying direct from the maker we don’t need to pay for a high street showroom either.
Our model saves on shipping, storage & showrooms - because everything is made local and on-demand we have almost no need for shipping or warehousing.
Because you’re buying direct from the maker we don’t need to pay for a high street showroom either.
Instead, this money goes to the makers - and to building, managing and marketing the technical infrastructure needed to create a global furniture marketplace.
Finally, we make sure designers are fairly compensated every time their designs are made commercially, by ensuring they receive 8% of the manufacturing cost for each piece - significantly higher than the industry average of 2-3%.
In buying your furniture from the Opendesk marketplace, you’re supporting local makers, empowering emerging designers and making a future of distributed manufacturing possible.
We love to talk to our community about our model and why we work this way. If you have any questions, thoughts or ideas we’d love to hear from you!