Best known as: Founder of Apt2B
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Mat Herman's Success StoryFounder of Apt2B
As a child, the last thing Mat Herman wanted to do for a living is to sell furniture. And, through a weird twist of fate, that is exactly what he ended up doing. But as with any true entrepreneur, they don’t just look to do things, but to reinvent the way those things are done. And that is just what he did when he founded Apt2B (www.Apt2B.com). But it took a lot of struggle and at times major disappointment to get to where he is today.
Herman graduated from Indiana University in 1996 with a degree in General Studies. Originally, he aspired to become a sports agent, but the fates had another calling for him. Once he graduated, his father, a sales representative for 35 years for a leading reclining furniture brand, StratoLounger, proposed to him the idea of joining his company’s team as an associate. After giving it some careful consideration, Herman accepted the job and was immediately given control of the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania territory selling to mom and pop furniture stores and department stores.As his father has always said, “You have to sell to the masses if you want to live with the classes,” and he took that funny, yet true view to heart.
For over a decade, Herman worked as somewhat of an old-school traveling furniture salesman. He even moved out to California and began selling reclining furniture to retailers there. While most of his colleagues were older reps who had been working in the industry their entire lives, Herman was of a much younger generation, giving him an advantage over them, by being able to relate to a younger demographic and adding a bit of youthful energy, creativity and ambition to the mix.
Life was good for the young upstart. Not only was he pulling in six-digit figures, but he was able to have somewhat of an entrepreneur lifestyle, giving him a taste of what was to come. He lived in a house in the Hollywood Hills, decked out his house in expensive furniture and was living a life of luxury. Overnight, everything he was used to collapsed. The morning after his 35th birthday, in January of 2008, Herman received a troubling voicemail, notifying him that he no longer had a job, since his company’s factory was shut down due to the economy.
Herman tried desperately to hold on for many months, but eventually lost everything he had worked so hard for. What he didn’t realize was that this situation was only setting him up to achieve a greater goal.
In October of 2008, he began conceptualizing on a napkin an idea for an online home furnishing and home décor brand, but put it on the backburner when he was offered an opportunity to work for Ashley Furniture, the No. 1 furniture company in the world. After two years of working for Ashley, and having tripled business during those worst two years for the industry, Herman decided to go off on his own.
It was that same month, in January of 2011, that Herman went full force into starting the brand he had conceptualized a few years prior, Apt2B. In June, it was officially launched.
Herman says his transition following being laid off and having to move into an apartment helped him feel akin to his own brand’s mission. “Quickly, I wasn’t just building it, but I was identifying more than ever as an Apt2B customer,” says Herman. “I knew I needed to downsize, but I didn’t want to have to downsize my taste, as well. But I knew I did have to live within my new means.”
What Herman learned is that nice things don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Consumers can find the exact same products sold in higher-end stores, at a fraction of the cost, through Apt2B. This is due to various factors. For instance, Apt2B works on a very short margin; doesn’t have high overhead, such as rent, freight and warehousing costs; and because Herman knows the furniture industry inside and out, especially the wholesale arena, he’s able to navigate it exceptionally well, in order to bring his customers the best possible prices.
“We’re trying to bridge the huge gap between IKEA and Crate and Barrel. Everything in my house is from Apt2B. If we’re going to sell this, I want to make sure we sell what I believe in. Every product I sell, I put through my own tests.”
What makes this modern, affordable brand so special is its dedication to selling a lifestyle. In keeping with this, and recognizing that the current generation is all about instant gratification, the brand is all about giving its customers a fun and immediate experience. For instance, customers are able to not just choose from the brand’s 1,400 pieces, but have the option to buy full room packages online, giving them everything from linens to bed frames; silverware to dishes; and even a 123pc home package, that provides everything you can possibly need for a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living room.
The business also provides citywide tips to its target market of hip, urban, apartment-dwelling LA customers, who are looking for the whole experience. It has pages devoted to sharing the most popular burger joints, bars, and affordable cultural hot spots. In addition, visitors of the site can keep tabs on the brand’s characters, such as The Guy in 2A and The Girls from 2C, blogging about their daily lives, which should mirror that of the brand’s average customer. Customers can also submit photos of their own Apt2B-styled abodes, along with short little fun questionnaires, which will get posted directly to the site’s Testimonial Wall, providing enhanced interactivity in this content-sharing, social media-laden culture.
Part of Apt2B’s instant appeal has been generated by the unique, quirky flash sales it runs often. For instance, the brand recently ran an online Emmy Awards Party, where it offered 15% off their items until the last award was presented. It also ran its “Race to Vegas” sale, which provided customers with a chance to purchase any Apt2B products at 20% off for the entire time it took for Herman to drive from the Los Angeles headquarters to the Las Vegas Strip to attend an industry trade show. And every Friday, it runs Happy Hour Fridays, which gives customers the ability to once again find the brand’s products at even lower prices. The brand’s out-of-the-box promotions are almost always paired up with a pop culture reference, rather than the humdrum, conventional deals, such as Labor Day sales, that consumers usually find.
For those looking to purchase clearance items, they can also visit the brand’s Trash Chute. Lastly, Apt2B has two full pages devoted to providing gift ideas for him and her – something most people know always causes a lot of stress in one’s headspace, when trying to decide what to buy someone.
Another reason Apt2B is able to keep its costs exceedingly low is the fact that it’s entirely focused around the geographic proximity to its customer base. Rather than shipping nationally, and charging everyone an exorbitant shipping cost to subsidize its high freight costs across America, for everyone, no matter how close or far they live from the warehouse, Apt2B only sells locally to the Los Angeles area. This helps the brand to provide nominal delivery rates, and even allows them to include set-up at no additional charge.
For Herman, the brand’s eventual future lies in licensing it out and opening up shop in every major urban metropolitan city. He has plans to bring the company to other major Californian cities, next. And then onto New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.; places of major apartment living. But it’s already on its way to becoming a true business success story.
But success to 38-year-old Herman is not about making money, he clarifies. “So many people put dollar signs to success. For me, it’s about being proud of what I’ve created. That’s success.”
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