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When it came to setting up The Funky Appliance Company, Joe Sillett already had 21 years of entrepreneurship under his belt. A serial entrepreneur, his most successful business to date was Woodworm. He scaled the business from £0 to a £10 million valuation in just four short years.
But Joe wasn’t done there. After a shopping trip with his wife Sadie, they noticed how bland essential home appliances were. Joe decided to mix household essentials with style and fun to form the Funky Appliance Company. This year they’re on track to make £1-2 million in sales.
Learn more about the man behind the British award-winning appliance company in this interview.
The Funky Appliance Company was established in 2016, tell us about your life before that?
I have been an entrepreneur for the last 21 years. Before that, I worked for Wilson Sporting Goods, SAP and Compaq. Most of that time was in Munich, Germany where I lived on and off for nearly 10 years. Once I broke out to being my own person and starting new businesses, I fell in love with the challenge. Can you start a business from a blank piece of paper and make it successful?
My most recognised business to date would be Woodworm, a cricket and golf brand. I took Woodworm from £0 to a £10m valuation in 4 years (by Year 5 we had a £3m turnover). Working with some of the greatest names in cricket and golf like Freddie Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Ernie Els was a real thrill and responsibility, one which I enjoyed immensely. Seeing our products on television for hours on end at a time was incredibly exciting. The adrenaline rush we all enjoyed at Woodworm was incredible.
What inspired you to start the Funky Appliance and what makes your products different to competitors?
I went to an Entrepreneur’s talk in Southampton where Mike Clare of Dreams Beds and Nick Jenkins of Moonpig and Dragons Den were talking about how they found success. Mike said he wanted to start a business selling products which every household needs (a bed). Nick said he wanted to be the first business putting a personal twist on greeting cards, something most people buy.
When I asked both of them how to find a good idea for a new business, their answers were pretty much the same. They told me to find something which every household has in it and put your own twist on it. Four days later, my wife Sadie and I were driving to our local hardware store when she commented that ironing board covers were pretty garish and not very funky, to which I replied, “Hang on a minute, forget about ironing board covers, there are no Funky Irons in the world, they all look the same!”
We immediately got to work designing the Funky Iron and formed the limited company in June 2016. All of our products have to be unique looking and made from bespoke tooling. There are so many appliances which are shared by brands who just put their logos on and have their own packaging. Sadie and I wanted to do something different and bring out products which are truly unique-looking, stylish and most importantly very functional as well.
Who is the Funky Appliance customer?
Every time an order comes through, we make a note of where the order is going to. From within our system, you can see the type of house or building it is going to.
We have a broad range of customers, who all have one thing in common: they are style conscious. They see Funky Appliance as a very fresh alternative to other traditional brands in our space. There is a bias towards female buyers, but we have a considerable number of males who have bought our products too.
To date, on Seedrs, you’ve raised near to £1 million. How have you been able to grow Funky Appliance with the capital raised?
In essence, this investment over 5 years has allowed us to bring our three core products to market: the Funky Iron (December 2018) and the Funky Kettle and Funky Toaster (January 2021). All three products required significant investment in the bespoke tooling and intellectual property.
On relatively modest marketing and advertising budgets, we have managed to grow the brand to where it is today, with a very real prospect of achieving between £1m and £2m in sales in this financial year.
The £1m investment to date has gone into product development, intellectual property and brand development. Our website now looks and feels like a proper brand too. As well as our name which many are quick to say, “That’s a cool name”.
What do you plan to do with the capital raised in your current crowdfunding campaign?
We plan to hire an Operations Manager to take on the day to day operations of the business.
We will also invest in a television advertising campaign for the first time, commencing from April 2022. Television is the perfect medium to ignite the spark in our brand. Our investors will surely be proud of the final advert.
With any spare capital remaining, we will re-invest this into new stock to make sure that we have enough inventory for the television campaigns.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Winning the “Best New Product Small Domestic Appliances” at the ERT Awards in London in December 2021 for our Funky Toaster was a true standout moment for the Management Team as well as Sadie and myself. To win such a prestigious award beating Beko, Morphy Richards, Hoover, Roidmi and Dualit to the trophy was incredible.
All of the RKW senior Management Team were with us on our table that day. Rob Sutton, who has been in the industry 30 years, commented on how it was unheard of for a new brand and product to take such an award.
You’ve just partnered with RKW (Europe’s largest small domestic appliance and houseware distributor) and signed a 3 year licensing agreement. What other exciting things do you have planned for 2022?
As part of the new licensing deal with RKW, we will launch a new range of Funky Housewares and Funky Cookware in 2022. RKW are very skilled in the sourcing of these products and we have worked closely with them in the design of our debut housewares range which will launch soon. The Funky Cookware range is being designed at the moment as well as a range of Funky Knives.
2022 is about executing the plan and delivering excellent products to as many customers as possible. We expect our retail base to grow significantly from the current 81 stores in the UK and Ireland which sell our products. We also expect the international side of our business to start in 2022, with the USA and Canada, the UAE and Australia and New Zealand likely to be the first international territories for our products.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I have always been madly into sport. I used to play football and cricket to a reasonably high level but then took up golf at the age of 34 (15 years ago).
Golf is a game which is immensely enjoyable for a whole number of reasons. In November 2021, I got down to single figures handicap for the first time playing off 9 at my home club Slinfold Golf Club in West Sussex.
I also enjoy travelling with my family. I have a son Sammy (17) and two daughters Emily (15) and Heidi (13).
What is your favourite Funky Appliance product?
It has to be the Funky Toaster which I think is the best-looking toaster in the world bar none.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building a mainly DTC business?
The customer is king. I place huge importance on brilliant customer service. We go out of our way to make sure that every customer gets gold service. If you look after your customers, they will look after you and come back and buy a second, then third product.
They are also your eyes and ears on product development, so close communication with your customer base is like having an external research and development department. The lesson is always to remember that your customer is king.
To join The Funky Appliance Company as they soar into international territories and scale their business, visit the pitch here.