Heba El Habashy is changing the interiors space one piece of furniture at a time with made-to-order brand Klekktic.
Can you talk us through your career?
My career for the past 10 years has been extremely focused on early-stage startups and tech. I graduated from Harvard in 2011 and started working almost immediately at a startup accelerator in Cairo called Flat6Labs. It was a mind-blowing experience to be exposed to the entrepreneurial energy in Egypt after the revolution. Following that, I moved to Dubai and started working at Uber in its super early days. Again this experience was focused on launching a brand into the UAE market and really educating customers on the value that Uber brings. My next adventure was at the Dubai Design District where I joined the management team right before the district launched. This was an integral part of my career as it really introduced me to the design space in the UAE. My most recent job experience was working at PANGAIA, a materials science brand focused on sustainability. This was one of the most surreal experiences of my
career as I worked on something for a number of years during the inception stage without really having the faintest idea of how big it would later become.
How did you find yourself entering into the interiors space?
I have always been super excited by furniture. When I was at d3 I learned a lot about the main players in this space in the UAE. At that time there were very few brands that produced locally, and so I just assumed that local manufacture was overpriced or not successful.
Fast forward to a few years when I moved houses in March of 2020 a gap in the home goods space in the market became extremely obvious. There was almost no supply of mid-priced furniture that was design forward. I tried to work with random factories that I found through interior groups on Facebook to produce some pieces that I had in mind, but this process was painful. They never replied, and the pricing was very random and not transparent. They also didn’t have the right information from me so the product was a disaster. Following this experience, Klekktic was born!
What was the inspiration behind Klekktic?
The inspiration behind Klekktic came from my own experience moving but also from all of my friends and brother in law who were during that time period also looking to move and build a home that had a slightly more elevated interior aesthetic that was a step up from the common big box furniture retailers. Meanwhile, my husband is a big design and furniture aficionado so together we thought up this concept. This all came together to inspire me to explore the local furniture manufacturing segment and really work out how we can bring well made, special pieces that are easy to customize.
Your concept cuts out the middlemen in the furniture process. How did you discover this gap in the market?
Furniture is a tremendous consumer segment but surprisingly it has not evolved like fashion or beauty have in decades. Furniture retailers in the UAE are usually international brands that manufacture their products in country A, ship it to country B for warehousing and then dispatch the goods to country C (in another warehouse!) and then sell it to customers in specific specs and colours. I found it shocking that for me to get a couch I was basically paying for it to be transported around the world, for a fancy store, salespeople and so on rather than the actual couch itself. It also goes without saying that the CO2 footprint of bringing these items to market through this exhaustive journey is unacceptable given the current state of the planet.
You launched the brand just six months ago – how have things evolved since then?
In the last seven months, we have evolved beyond my wildest dreams! When we first launched, we were working with a handful of customers that reluctantly bought a limited number of items from us and found it hard to understand the concept. We had to handhold almost every early customer through the process and explain everything many times.
Now we have customers from all sorts of different backgrounds ordering directly through our site without interacting with us almost at all. They understand the purpose of ordering their free swatch pack as well as the delivery timeline. We have also seen a large number of repeat business especially coming from interior designers. In the last few months, we noticed that customers are ordering much larger basket sizes and sometimes coming to us to furnish their entire space. We also work with more businesses and real estate companies now that are looking to furnish common areas, restaurants, or apartment rentals.
What is at the core of Klekktic’s brand DNA?
We love giving people a blank canvas that they can customize to make a piece that has a lot of personality which they can really fall in love with. We love the simplicity and focus a lot on materials, and fabrics. Most of our fabrics can be cleaned with soap and water which is super practical especially for our customers who are obsessed with white! We also love to use more sustainable fabrics that have no or almost no plastics (polyester). Lastly at Klekktic, we don’t like to take ourselves too seriously. We try to have fun with our communications and really use social media in the most lighthearted way possible which has been very effective in creating an open dialogue between ourselves and our customers. Can you talk us through the pieces you currently have available under Klekktic’s umbrella? We are slowly building out all the categories you need for a full Klekktic home! The only thing we have not introduced yet is a proper dining collection. Some of our bestselling products are our sofas, especially The Damien and our upholstered beds. People have customized them in every colour under the sun and the feedback on these items is insane. We also have an outdoor collection, a number of accent chairs and coffee and side tables.
Do you plan to expand the offering?
Our ultimate goal is to have everything you would need in your home. From smaller accessories to more essential items that we don’t carry yet. We aim to expand weekly and we are very happy with the new products that will be dropping every month from now until the end of the year!
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What is the start to finish process of a piece of Klekktic furniture?
Once we receive an order the suppliers are notified – we have been able to automate this process, thanks to our very patient and enthusiastic supply partners. After the product is made and upholstered it goes through a quality control process which is very lengthy, and we do that through a team that is now dedicated exclusively to quality control. Finally, the product is delivered to the customer, unpacked and installed if needed. This whole process takes about three weeks from start to finish.
What is your most popular piece?
Our most popular piece is The Damien Sofa and The Damien bed. People love a comfy sofa and we really think we haven’t tried a more comfortable sofa than The Damien. The sofa took months and months to develop though it looks simple. We have worked out the perfect ratio between memory foam and hypoallergenic filling that gives the Damien the right shape and feel. The memory foam we use is one of the most expensive filling options in the market, but we really think that it makes the sofa look and feel heavenly.
As for the Damien bed, it’s the ultimate statement for a modern and minimal bedroom. A lot of customers bundle both together either in the same fabric or in completely different colours. At present, we are expanding the Damien collection due to popular demand to include a day bed, a single-seater and a one and a half seater.
In terms of building your brand and throughout your career, what have been the challenges you’ve experienced?
It’s been very hard for me to balance my personal life with my career. I always feel very passionate about whatever I’m doing which I’m really lucky to experience however, my personal life can at times get the shorter end of the stick as a result. After having my first son I have really had to work on that because I realized that my family needs to take priority. As a result, I have been able to really integrate them into my work life and they are very involved in Klekktic – from factory visits to sampling to ideation they really support me beyond words!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what are the key milestones?
The milestones I experienced are working at some phenomenal brands before they even launched in their respective markets like UBER, Pangaia, Flat-6Labs and d3. Also, I would say the biggest milestone is launching Klekktic and really witnessing it take on a life of its own. I can’t take full credit for this because there was almost a village of people who supported me and encouraged me. My husband really helped appease a lot of the doubt I initially had between leaving a safe and stable job and starting my own business. It’s hard to imagine having done any of this without him.
What’s next for Klekktic?
So many things, where do I begin! We will soon be unveiling a physical space – we shy away from calling it a showroom because it’s a lot more than that – we really want people to experience their potential Klekktic home and have fun in the process. We have taken feedback from about 200 of our past customers and so now we have a clear idea of what our target audience is looking for in a brick and mortar. We are also really looking forward to working with a number of corporates that we have partnered with to allow their new hires to get the full-on Klekktic home. It’s so exciting to see corporates take such a step to improve their employees quality of life and physical space outside of the office, especially that many of them continue to work from home.
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