Eat. Sleep. Drink. Bathe. Repeat. This may sound like your next meme or Instagram post but in the home business, it pretty much sums up living essentials. Thanks to Andrés Modak and his minimalistic home brand, Snowe, you can now host your next house party in style at a price that doesn’t cost a fortune, all while spreading the love for thoughtful design.
Born in New Jersey to an Indian father and a Colombian mother, Andrés Modak grew up in Hong Kong, Australia, India and Indonesia. Besides being a world traveler, Andrés was actively involved with horseback riding, soccer, art and design. His yester years also included many philanthropic initiatives such as leading a team supporting the WHO administer polio vaccinations to kids in the slums of India.
To no surprise, his childhood love for art and design (partly from parental influences as his mother was an architect and an interior designer) translated into the home business, eventually leading to Snowe. A direct-to-consumer brand in the home goods space that provides affordable, high-end design and quality home essentials, Snowe's value resides in its ability to reach the mindful, multi-tasking customer. Let’s just say #homegoals have reached a new level.
The Aha Moment
Andrés grew up in the world of management consulting with his first job at Deloitte in San Francisco. Most of his projects were related to customer market strategy within different industries but a personal penchant for international business led him to help companies with site selection and global expansion strategy. Eventually, he landed a gig in hotel development and private equity at a real estate group in Colombia.
But it wasn’t until he was pursuing his MBA at Wharton, met his partner, Rachel Cohen, and moved in with her when he realized a serious gap in the homewares market. The impetus to entering this space thus came from (1) Andrés' growing up in a family deeply rooted in architecture and design, (2) personal shopping experiences in New York that made the couple realize the unfair markups, sometimes 20, 30 or 40 times the actual making cost and (3) the terrible experience the consumer faced in shopping for the home. Between 2012 and 2013, they traveled far and wide to places such as Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Indonesia and Colombia to source homewares from smaller designers and artisans while building their first e-commerce venture. Voilà, their first baby was born under the name, Dakorum, in early 2014 with the Founders still working full-time jobs; Andrés in consulting and Rachel in investment banking.
Andrés and Rachel, with the help of a few freelancers and collaborators, built the platform themselves. After running Dakorum for six months and offering unique decorative accessories and textiles, the duo realized a few things. According to Andrés, “We saw a paradox. By trying to make these products more accessible to customers, we were stripping away some of the value gained by the creator of the product.” They also noticed issues around standardization, quality control and the specificities of an SKU-driven business.
So, they saw another opportunity – to create product offerings across home categories that would build the foundation of a home for the contemporary consumer. Adapting to this concept, the brand re-strategized and launched Snowe, inspired by the tranquility of beginning with a blank canvas, in 2015 with four functional categories: Eat, Drink, Sleep and Bathe. By using the highest grade materials for greater resilience of product (think dishwashers, towels, etc.), Snowe offers products with functional technology and design features. Today, all manufacturing takes place in Europe and the U.S. with bedding done in Italy and Portugal. Dinnerware, glassware, and flatware are made in Italy or Portugal.
While partnering with ambassadors, bloggers and influencers helped spread the word, one of the challenges the team faced was to figure out what was going to be the right cadence and rhythm for growth. “Investment in growth is difficult because the market is going through significant changes in expectations. We went through a period where investment theses for tech companies were being applied to retail. That was problematic for many companies and somewhat distracting and risky for us in the early days.” Having understood the best trajectory for the brand, Andrés and his team have now raised seed capital from angel and strategic early stage investors.
“We wanted to build a brand that spoke to how our generation is living…better living through design is very important to us.”
Andrés believes that a direct-to-consumer business model is the way to go for them. “We really are building a home with our customers. They will try one thing and they’ll come back again and again. It’s important to create lifetime relationships with them. They are just starting to build their first home, cohabitating and starting new lives. We wanted to be part of that experience.”
From pivoting a business and answering market needs, Andrés has learned a thing or two along the way.
Figure out pricing and positioning early on by constant testing and in-depth analysis.
- Always focus on the product! Consumers are very savvy today and understand quality.
- Invest in your team. Make sure you believe in your people, and they in you and your vision for the company.
- Be resilient. No matter how hard the problem looks, how you solve it is absolutely critical.
Photo courtesy of Snowe.