Tired Of Ikea Lines? Try This Wharton Startup

Burrow furniture

A sample Burrow couch. Courtesy photo

ALL NIGHT BOX BUILDING

Still, hiccups occurred.

“Everyone warned us, ‘You’re making a physical product, you’re going to run into delays,'” Kuhl explains. “We built some buffer into our plan, but it just ended up being way bigger than anything we could have anticipated. Anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong.”

Once, Kuhl remebers, their box supplier in Mexico cancelled at the last moment before shipping their first round of products. The day the boxes were supposed to show up, which was the day before the products were supposed to ship, Kuhl and Chopra got word of a six-week delay in the box shipment. “But we still had to ship the couches out and we had no idea what to do,” Kuhl says. They found a nearby store that sold sheets of cardboard and bought a “truckload.” The two spent the rest of the day and entire night hand-cutting cardboard and building their own boxes to ship the next day.

“There are just little things like that where brute force is required to move things along and make progress,” explains Kuhl. It also requires contacting customers and letting them know why there might be a delay in the product’s arrival, he says. “People really appreciated us talking to them frequently and they appreciate the hustle,” Kuhl says. “When they figure out it’s two guys in school making this company happen, they are more understanding with a little bit of delay here and there.”

FROM IDEATION TO PRODUCT CREATION TO REVENUE — ALL IN B-SCHOOL

Burrow might be a case study in how to incubate a direct-to-consumer product startup from start to finish at a business school. Kuhl and Chopra formed the idea within the first couple months of school and fully launched a product line on April 4 — a little more than a month before graduating.

“Our entire second year at Wharton was spent working on Burrow, whether it be in our classes or doing independent, outside study projects,” Kuhl says.

An independent study led to the creation of their supply chain, and the advice of a professor led them to sourcing cheaper parts. Another independent marketing study led to their marketing approach and outreach and hiring of a fellow classmate, Alex Kubo, who is heading up their growth. They raised their earliest funds from classmates and Wharton professor David Bell, who also serves as their adviser.

“You’ve got two years to figure out if your business is going to work. And if it doesn’t work, you’ve got this great story to tell and you can go join another startup or get a job,” Kuhl reasons. “The alternative is partying all the time for two years and recruiting. And you can always recruit last-minute and get a job.”

‘I WOULD BE MISERABLE IN THOSE JOBS’

As for the actual product, four sizes and five colors are now available. The couches range in price from $550 for a once-seater to $1,150 for a four-seater. Burrow promises to deliver your product for free within a week and to set it up in 10 minutes. Factories and holding facilities around the country enable the speedy delivery time.

“Without a doubt, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else right now,” Kuhl says of the decision to pursue his own startup instead of taking a more traditional path through B-school. “We have so many classmates that are going to these jobs that I know will pay very, very well, but I know, personally, I would be miserable in those jobs.”

Kuhl points out that he and Chopra were already generating revenue and raising money before graduation.

“I’m not saying the company is absolutely going to be a success — we definitely hope it will — but it’s still a real company,” he adds. “There’s no question about that. And it’s great having that validation now.”

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