Corona kills sustainable furniture maker Cartoni, office market collapsed

Cartoni was founded in 2016 by entrepreneur Marijn Muller. The company initially designed cardboard furniture, but later focused mainly on sustainable furniture made from recycled materials.

old doors

For example, Cartoni used residual wood from construction sites of contractor BAM and old doors from homes. The growing interest in sustainability has generated a lot of media attention for the company in recent years.

The company, which operated from the Circl circular pavilion of ABN Amro on the Zuidas, also attended the Salone del Mobile design fair in Milan several times.

Sales slumped

According to Muller, the company achieved a turnover of around 250,000 euros in 2019. But that turnover fell by seventy percent in the first corona year of 2020. “That turnover did not return either. We are mainly active in the office market, which completely collapsed due to the advice to work from home.”

The entrepreneur cut costs considerably, and hoped that the market would pick up again. That seemed to be the case at first. “When the advice to work from home was withdrawn last year, people went to the office full throttle again. But when people had to start working from home again, it stopped,” says Muller.

“I have still invested the profit on the sale of my home, but I also have a family to support and couldn’t do that again.” Cartoni was declared bankrupt last week, on December 28. “I don’t know yet how to process that emotionally, because such a company is also a bit your child.”

Sustainable is expensive

Muller also says it was difficult to monetize a sustainable product. “For example, we had our tables made in the Netherlands. The chassis alone cost me 700 euros, while I could have bought it from a competitor for 300 euros. But then it would come from a low-wage country. There was a price tag with sustainable production. at our tables.”

That is why Muller was unable to easily shift his sights from the business to the private market in recent years. “The private market has done very well in recent years. But business customers are willing to pay a little more for a table, because they can tell a good story. The private customer mainly looks at the price.”

Keep your own pants on

In retrospect, Muller says that he may have invested too much in sustainable production. “I have learned that a company has to hold up its own pants, and that proves difficult with sustainable production in a money-driven economy. There are not so many Teslas on the road due to environmental considerations, but because of the lower addition. should give a choice between sustainable and ordinary furniture.”

The founder of Cartoni says he hopes the company can make a new start. “If I succeed, I would like to stay involved. Otherwise I would like to use my experience as an expert in materials knowledge as a consultant. Many companies that choose a sustainable product go for a ‘catchy’ story, while that is not always sustainable. I can save them from falling into that trap.”

Losing ABN Amro

Curator Roland Camphuis, who has to settle the bankruptcy, says he has not yet investigated the causes of the bankruptcy. “It is also a bit early for that. But I understand that the collapse of the market for sustainable office furniture and the loss of the largest customer, ABN Amro, were the main causes.”

Camphuis says it will look at the possibilities for a restart next week. Last week there was already one candidate for this.

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