May 19, 2024


Technology and Age

How this former Lehman Brothers banker built a pandemic-proof business

Declan Ee normally knew he required to operate his possess business. 

But when he graduated from College School London in 2006, he observed his friends making use of for positions at investment financial institutions and determined to give it a try out.

His initially gig? Lehman Brothers.

“I appreciated observing how businesses worked on a world wide scale. So that was very intriguing.”

But the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers not only roiled world-wide markets, it was a shake-up for Ee as well.

“I was in the subprime house loan division. I dodged reporters though walking to Lehman in Canary Wharf. It built me double down on leaving banking at some level.”

… it’s about developing a superior basis and a powerful organization that gives benefit to your focus on customers.

Declan Ee

Co-founder, Castlery

The 39-year-previous Singaporean did depart expense banking at some point in 2016, to develop his furnishings commence-up, Castlery. 

Right now, the small business is bringing in millions and its present day items can be identified in more than 300,000 homes globally, explained Castlery. CNBC Make It finds out how.

Home furniture for city millennials 

It all started off when Ee arrived back again to Singapore 11 several years ago and was furnishing his marital property. 

His great close friend and co-founder Fred Ji was also searching for economical modern furnishing. 

“We shared a bond in that … [the process was] annoying. We want to get the nice pieces but they are so inaccessible.”

That is because of to factors like the price point and managing numerous guide-occasions of furniture, he discussed.

That’s when they experienced the idea of promoting affordable, designer household furniture to “city millennials” among 25 to 45 several years aged. 

To add to the shopper searching experience, there is a showroom in Singapore and pop-up retailers across U.S. and Australia.


“This age team, you go via a good deal of transform. You go away university, you start off building your job, you get married, you have a kid … We include stuff to our properties,” the president of Castlery instructed CNBC Make It.

Ee needed to give solutions to young older people who want to have an “inspiring space” and “something a lot more than Ikea,” — without breaking the financial institution.

In 2013, Ee and Ji went digital-initially with Castlery, letting consumers to see a virtual studio and order home furnishings online — a disruptor in the common home furnishings industry. 

“When prospects started off to store on the web for home furnishings, they recognized that, ‘I don’t want to go to 25 furniture shops any longer.’ The up coming time they will need to obtain something, they will do it on line all over again.”

Finding out from ‘blow-ups’ 

Getting no experience in the furniture retail small business, Ee approximated he wanted 6 to 7 a long time to learn the ropes, which is as long as the “fund daily life” of VCs. 

“Straightaway, you will find a conflict … that is why tension happens — you really don’t have clarity of thought, due to the fact you have to scale at all expense.”

In its place, Castlery’s preliminary investments came from family members associates and other business people who have exited their businesses.

“At the main, it is really about setting up a excellent foundation and a potent small business that presents worth to your concentrate on buyers. That will usually translate no subject what, irrespective of whether you want to sell or checklist your company,” Ee reported. 

Pandemic-accelerated growth 

We were being increasing so rapidly, our faces had been turning inexperienced.

Declan Ee

Co-founder, Castlery

And as tens of millions of personnel had been shut out of their places of work and expected to function from dwelling, the “indicating of dwelling” also altered, Ee noticed. 

“It is not just a place you occur again to [after work]. You are accomplishing your do the job, you are pursuing your passions, you have your kids. How you furnish your home issues for the reason that you’re spending considerably more time there.”

With extra people today searching to improve their place, Castlery’s growth “accelerated,” explained Ee.

“We were expanding so rapidly, our faces were being turning environmentally friendly.” 

According to Castlery, the organization grew “6 instances” throughout the pandemic, making around $100 million in the most recent monetary yr ending March 2022, and was financially rewarding in 2020.

Castlery caters to urban millennials who want an “inspiring place” with out breaking the financial institution, reported its co-founder Declan Ee.


Nonetheless, with or without having the pandemic, Ee thinks that Castlery’s largest selling place is the style and design and features of its products and solutions. 

“I speak to shoppers from the U.S. every month and they are like, ‘We really like your washable vary of sofas!’ I imagined, ‘Okay, it is really a issue?'”

“I guess remaining Asians, we are very simple,” he stated.

Ee additional: “They would explain that in the U.S., you would not have this solution at this rate issue.” In accordance to him, his household furniture is “20% to 30%” less costly than comparable items in the market place.

Every single selection is assigned a buyer, an engineer and a planner — this trio operates a properly-oiled equipment to guarantee merchandise go to current market in a timely and value-efficient manner.