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Locals Only

Selling locally handcrafted furniture online has helped these furniture entrepreneurs stand out from the crowd.

Description: Online retailer of high-quality, upholstered furniture and accessories handcrafted in
Founders: Darrin King, 34, & Jeff King, 38
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Projected 2005 Sales: Over $5 million

Model Example: When brothers Darrin and Jeff King decided to open an online furniture in 1998, they were so confident in the power of the internet that they established their business in North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world. Previously working at companies, the two had noticed inefficiencies in the and calculated that the internet, if used correctly, could bring down costs and streamline their operations.

Cushy Business: The website offers a full line of fabric and leather furniture handcrafted by nearly 100 North Carolina artisans, but offering their goods solely online initially posed quite a challenge for the brothers. To convince manufacturers to supply them with furniture, the Kings had to pay for the initial product development and . Since then, they have gained customers' trust by mailing them swatches and samples, producing a high-quality catalog biannually and taking advantage of their low overhead costs to keep prices competitive.

Sit Back and Relax: didn't join the statistics as yet another dotcom failure thanks to the Kings' effort to maintain a slow but steady growth pattern and to build a solid infrastructure. In addition, they are able to compete with mass-produced overseas imports by offering customers the opportunity to partially customize their furniture. "We're going for sophisticated consumers who want to have some say in their products," says Jeff. "We compete mainly on quality, style and turnaround [time]."

Dynamic Duo: For the first three years, Darrin and Jeff were a two-man show, which they now recognize as being one of the biggest mistakes they made early on. "As entrepreneurs, we took a lot on ourselves, put a lot of pressure on ourselves and tried to wear too many hats," says Darrin. Now they have eight employees and can step back to see the bigger picture, which will eventually include new furniture lines specifically targeted to kids and teens.

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