Reham Fagiri knows from experience how annoying it can be to sell your used furniture when you’re moving. That’s why she, along with co-founder Kalam Dennis, started AptDeco, a New York City-based startup that takes the pain out of selling pre-owned furniture by handling all of the logistics for you.
The company launched in 2013 after graduating from the prestigious Silicon Valley tech accelerator Y Combinator.
By that time, Fagiri already had years of business experience under her belt. After graduating with an engineering degree from the University of Maryland, she landed a job at Goldman Sachs, where she spent five years working her way up the ranks.
But then Fagiri found herself searching for the next big thing. “Being a manager is one of the hardest things you can do, but I had an itch for more,” she told Business Insider. “But I didn’t know what.” She packed her things and went to Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after, AptDeco was born.
We visited with Fagiri in her recently redecorated home in Harlem, which was completely decked out with items she purchased off of the site she helped build. Let’s take a look inside.
When describing her personal style, Fagiri says, 'I'm a mix of eclectic plus modern -- I like bold colours and clean lines.'
Fagiri moved to the US from Khartoum, Sudan, when she was just 16. 'Leaving anywhere at 16 is intense, but thankfully I had my brother (in the US) and my best friend moved with me, so it was great,' she said.
'My travels inspire me, coming from Sudan, and I've been a lot of different places,' she said. 'I love culture and bringing colours and traditions from different cultures: Kenya, South Africa, and more.' This chess board, for example, was purchased during a recent trip to Kenya.
It was after business school, when she was selling her furniture in Philadelphia for her move back to New York City, that Fagiri had the aha moment that led her to create AptDeco. 'The entire process of (selling your furniture) just sucks,' she said. 'I was waiting for someone who didn't show up, I was negotiating (with buyers), I had to help a woman take down my bed that I sold -- it was just so irritating.'
But the last straw was when a disgruntled man came to purchase Fagiri's TV. 'This is not the model you posted on Craigslist!' he yelled, as Fagiri recounted to Business Insider. Luckily, the situation didn't escalate, but it was traumatic enough that she was motivated to come up with a safer selling alternative to Craigslist.
AptDeco launched in 2013, after going through a round of funding with tech accelerator Y Combinator.
Fagiri completely built AptDeco's site herself. 'I deal with all the engineering and tech side of the business,' she said. She also communicates with various investors and sets long-term strategy with her co-founder, Kalam Dennis.
AptDeco takes care of the entire delivery process, allowing an easier purchase process for both sellers and buyers. In the past year, AptDeco's sales have grown by 300%, according to Fagiri.
Fagiri learned valuable lessons in management during her time at Goldman Sachs, which has been helpful in running her own company. 'It's very important to know how to read people's personalities and adapt your communication style to each person,' she said.
Fagiri found that connecting with her team members about their long-term career goals was essential to both her and their success. 'The most important thing is to focus on what everyone needs, and their career goals,' she said. 'Put together a map to show that (their goals) can happen.'
Though AptDeco currently serves only New York City and Washington, DC, Fagiri is hoping to expand to the entire northeast soon, and eventually nationwide.
Although Fagiri has stopped pushing code on the site herself, she's able to devote time to the bigger picture. 'I focus on the design-related aspects, and the user experience,' she said. 'I love that stuff.'
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