Furniture that is sturdy, recyclable and so easy to assemble that a kid can do it.
That’s what Cal Poly graduates Justin Farr, Jordan Kepler and Jake Disraeli want to offer parents and kids through The Cardboard Guys, their company that’s designing eco-friendly tables, desks and chairs for children.
The interlocking furniture, made out of corrugated cardboard and strong enough to hold 500 pounds, can be designed and built by kids. No tools or adhesives are required, and children are encouraged to play with their furniture.
“It really is about the creative aspect of it; giving children the means to create and customize something for themselves and to have fun with something that is completely functional,” Farr said.
The startup was born out of a Cal Poly senior project. Farr and Kepler’s original idea was to design furniture for college students, who tend to move frequently and often do not have transportation.
After asking for customer feedback, it became apparent that the furniture was more of a hit with parents.
“We had a good response from college students, but we had an even better response from many adults who said, ‘This is a really cool product. If you made this a bit smaller and threw in a pack of crayons with it, I could use it for my kid,’ ” Farr said.
The team changed course and scaled down the product. They have introduced templates to allow kids and parents to create their own cardboard projects as well.
While the company isn’t the only one designing cardboard furniture, Farr said The Cardboard Guys is focusing solely on children’s furniture, with the goal of “creating the coolest kid furniture ever.”
“And you can recycle it when you’re done with it,” Farr said. "Children are the only demographic that grow out of their furniture, and when they grow out of it, it ends up in a landfill. With this furniture, parents can take it to the recycle bin guilt free."
In February, The Cardboard Guys will launch a campaign through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for creative projects. The business hopes to raise $30,000 to $40,000, which will be used to purchase the tools needed for mass production and for its first full manufacturing run. The company will also do pre-sales of the furniture, with prices ranging between $75 and $100 for a desk and chair set.
Their aim is to sell the furniture online and in brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. The team reached out to Cal Poly, asking upper-division marketing students for help to put together its preliminary marketing campaign for Kickstarter. It is also working with a graphics communication student, who is assisting The Cardboard Guys with the design of its brand. Jake Disraeli, who works on business development and joined The Cardboard Guys full time in October, said the eventual goal is to hire Cal Poly students.
"And to give back to the community that helped us to get off the ground," he said.