Andreas Messis is the former Co-Founder, Visionary, and creative director of transFORM Home. Andreas and I have spoken many times about creativity, the business of home organization, and the future.
I have learned many things from Andreas through the years and here’s what he had to share about his former company, where the industry is headed and what’s next.
1) Andreas, let’s talk a little about the beginning of transFORM and what your vision was for the company?
When Stuart Reisch and I started the company, we had an amazing vision. We were business partners for 20 years and we enjoyed a successful run. The two of us together created an amazing company. We are very different, and we handled two different aspects of the company. So, the vision was, we wanted to create an amazing company but not just a closet and storage company. We called it transFORM because we wanted to have a very transformative experience for all our customers not just within themselves, but also the environment where they live.
2) Where did you find your inspiration to consistently raise the bar in creativity and marketing?
Besides being an engineer, I went to school for design. So, when I started my early career, I was designing sets on Broadway. I did a lot of traveling, mostly abroad in Europe. Every time I would go somewhere new, I would bring an idea back with me. In the old days, you looked for inspiration in magazines and pictures. Then with the Internet, every time you see something, you go look for it (online) and then you study it. I get a lot of inspiration from just by traveling and looking at things and learning.
3) Tell us a little bit about transFORM’s commitment to technology and why?
Technology is the driving factor everywhere. And we showed that early on. I think we were probably one of the early adopters to utilize an extensive web-based online CRM. And that was the first part of us understanding that we really needed to, you know, embrace technology and utilize it. We knew that you can’t manufacture great products unless you have great machines. So, we went to Germany and bought amazing equipment from HOMAG and Stiles Machinery.
4) transFORM built some amazing vendor relationships. Why is that important?
Both my business partner Stuart and I always embraced our vendors, whether machinery, material, equipment - anything that had to do with a vendor. We never looked at them completely as vendors, we looked at them as partners because if you’re looking for something and they have it, then you get it. But you have to be upfront with them and tell them, “I hope you’re going to have it for a long time and you’re not going to run out.” So there has to be some kind of partnership with trust.
5) On a personal note, You and your family, and community experienced ground zero of the pandemic, tell us about that?
Unless you lived in the New York Metro and did business in New York City, I don’t think anyone has any idea the impact that it really had.
6) What happened to transFORM during the pandemic?
So, everyone remembers in New York; we were shut down. We couldn’t continue. We were shut down technically for almost three months. We couldn’t go to the manufacturing plant. We couldn’t see customers. So, we brought everyone back in June. And unfortunately, business was not there. I can tell you 85 to 90% of our business was in New York City. So, the last three, four years, we focused our efforts in Manhattan. When things finally opened up, the business was gone. Unfortunately, we had to shut our doors last year. It was a terrible choice to make.
7) You’ve been through a lot; where is your happy place?
I was born in New York City but grew up on the island of Cyprus. My favorite place to go is where I can look at water or take a stroll close to water.
8) What substantial changes and trends we will see in the next 5 years?
So, what I see, finally, is something I’ve been talking about it for a long time. You’ll see the marriage between the closet industry (and kitchen industry) I’ve seen it coming. I used to go to the closet conference. And I also used to try to attend as many Cabinet Makers Association events as well to understand where they’re coming from. I think you’ll see the marriage between kitchen companies that are doing closet storage, and then you’ll have closet and storage companies that will be doing kitchens. And this is, I think, where we’re headed.
9) Any advice you would like to pass along to newbies in the industry?
Do what you’re doing because you love it. You have to love what you’re doing and your passion for what you’re doing will come through to your customers and they’ll embrace you for that. And then embrace challenges.
10) What’s next for you?
So, I’ve been working on a couple of things. By the time this comes out, it will be out. But, you know, I’m at the point where I’m very, very, very selective of who I’m working with and what my next move is. I love this industry. I am very excited to tell you that I am working on a few options. And one thing has promise for me and the industry.
Thank you, Andreas, for sharing your vision and history with us.
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