In March 2020, Brandi Susewitz thought her life was over. She lost her job in the office furniture business and was left with zero income. But that failure was just a step to success. Under lockdown, Brandi started a company that disrupted the market and gained worldwide recognition. Her Clear Office also cured one of facility managers’ biggest pains: what to do with office furniture you no longer need.
Brandi has been in the office furniture industry for more than 20 years. She sold new furniture to companies and helped them furnish their new offices.
“Clients would call us early in the process, months before moving out but hardly ever did they take their old furniture with them. And every time I met with a new client, my first question was, ‘What are you going to do with all this Herman Miller and Knoll furniture?” asks Brandi.
What to do with the office furniture?
The truth is, most companies have no plan for how to dispose of the old desks and chairs, so most of them end up in a landfill. “You might ask why they didn’t put them in warehouses,” Brandi says. “But to be honest if you tear down a workstation and put it in a warehouse, it’s going to waste.”
And the problem is more significant than you might think. Seventeen billion pounds of office furniture end up in landfills in the U.S. every year.
It was Brandi’s first concern when she decided to fix the office furniture industry in March 2020. She had just been laid off from her job and was rethinking her plans.
“To be honest, I went through a depression at first,” Brandi says. “I was worried that I wouldn’t have an industry to work in anymore. My husband and I had no income. I felt like everything I had worked for my whole life was going to disappear. But one day, I woke up in the morning and realized I would never have that much free time again.”
Used office furniture ends up on landfills
Susewitz knew that dozens of facility managers struggled with relocating offices. Especially when it came to used furniture. She also understood that because of Covid, there would be a lot more of used furniture on the market.
“I started researching how much office furniture waste was dumped into our landfills. And I was shocked. That 17 billion pound sounds like a huge amount of waste, but the calculated cost is even greater,” Brandi explains. “But it turned out that there were no wholesalers on the U.S. market who would offer used furniture online, with “add to cart” feature and delivery service. That’s when it dawned on me: wait a minute, this is my ticket!.”
Clear your office
Brandi’s idea was simple: create the first online marketplace where businesses could buy and sell their used office furniture. The response was immense: in the second month of running the company, Susewitz got coverage in the local press. Then – the national media. Today, Clear Office has companies like Uber and Oracle in their portfolio and several exciting projects on the horizon.
“Now we’re talking to top furniture manufacturers about giving their products a second life,” Brandi says. “I’ve noticed that even architectural giants are becoming more interested in the circular economy and sustainability.”
What makes Clear Office unique is that companies can be proactive instead of reactive when marketing their furniture. “Before Clear Office, there were no platforms to sell a whole building worth of office furniture. And on the purchasing side, we are making it easy to use for architects and designers to specify already existing products into projects they are working on,” says Brandi.
Companies are coming back to the office
What sells best on her website? “At first, no one bought anything,” Brandi laughs. “Then I slowly started selling adjustable desks and chairs for home offices. But in the last two months here at Silicon Valley, it feels like someone flipped the light switch. Business is back. And even though most jobs can be done anywhere, I don’t think people will want to work from home forever. At some point, they will go back to the office.”
Brandi points out that companies are more interested in used office furniture because pandemic budgets are tight. “Plus, employers don’t want to invest in brand new desks and chairs because they know there’s so much used furniture out there. But the fun fact is that there has always been used furniture on the market; it’s just that no one knew about it.”
“Most jobs can be done anywhere, but I don’t think people will want to work from home forever. At some point, they will go back to the office”.
Does she see any trends in office design caused by the pandemic? “Clients are more interested in privacy, panel walls, and separators, but also collaboration and meeting areas,” Brandi explains. She sees companies redesigning their workspaces to facilitate teamwork and collaboration. “People are coming into the office to have a meeting and then going home to do their heads-down work.”
With the excellent name recognition she has and companies announcing a return to the office, Brandi has every reason to expect continued success for Clear Office.
Are you thinking about changing your office?
If your business is moving soon, take on the challenge and look at existing furniture inventory that can potentially be used – instead of buying brand new equipment?
And if you’re still looking for an office, contact us at ShareSpace – we’ll find a perfect (and furnished) office space for your business.