Many entrepreneurs will tell you that what they are doing now is not what they did in the beginning. Making major professional changes—even in mid- to late-career life—can often lead to more fulfilling and successful results. That’s what our series The Pivot is about. Each month, we talk to founders, business leaders, and entrepreneurs about how—and why—they changed course and found success in an entirely different industry. Here, we talk to Barbora Samian, co-founder of the Vancouver-based furniture brand sunday,
For three years, Barbora Samian had her “dream job” as an associate evaluation officer at the United Nations in New York City, doing everything from conducting program evaluations of global initiatives to collecting data and preparing reports. But after having their first child, she and her husband Mo returned to their home in Vancouver in 2016 to be closer to their families. Knowing that the city was not a hub for international organizations and NGOs (most are in Toronto or Ottawa), Samian wondered what she could do instead.
noticed The Ubiquity of the Salad Bar In Manhattan, she noticed a gap in the local market: Vancouver—a health-obsessed city—didn’t yet have the same offerings. So she partnered with an old high school friend, a restaurant owner, to launch field and socialAn eatery in the downtown area focused on full-size, colorful and sturdy salads.
Within three years of opening the first location, Samian opened a few additional locations in the city’s financial district and Mount Pleasant neighborhood. The experience of running a small business was a learning curve for Samian, who suddenly had to come up with a seasonal menu, cultivate a team culture to improve employee retention, and learn the ins and outs of marketing. After four years, she no longer wanted to be the day-to-day operator of Field & Social, and was looking for a new business venture. While chatting with her husband Mo, whose family was in the wholesale furniture business, she came up with an idea: a furniture brand with a very narrow, high-quality product offering, similar to the idea of a capsule collection in fashion. The concept resonated with Samian, who always found shopping for furniture overwhelming. She wanted to curate pieces that work well together—without overwhelming consumers with choice.
“I Wasn’t Ashamed To Message Everyone On LinkedIn”
They brought in two other people—Moe’s sister Sarah, who had experience in the industry, and Noel, Samien’s friend from high school who had a design background—and began meeting on Sundays to talk business, because They all had full-time jobs during the week. When it came time to launch the brand, the word “Sunday” stuck. “It’s also realized that day is when you feel most at home,” Samian says.
Mo and Sarah handled sourcing, Noel led product development, and Samian had the drive to build a brand from the ground up. They launched Sundays Online in November 2019 with a line of living room furniture, such as sofas, sideboards and coffee tables. Because they didn’t know much about digital advertising, Sunday’s promotion was initially done mostly by word of mouth. “It was very gritty,” says Samien. “I was not ashamed to message everyone on LinkedIn.” Then Kovid hit.
The pandemic brought several challenges for the young company, such as expensive freight costs, closed factories and supply chain issues. Initially, Sunday’s model was to sell in-stock items from its warehouse, which was one of its competitive advantages, Samian says. “We had to give up on that idea very quickly and started accepting pre-orders within a short timeframe.” After about eight months, and with access to an empty space across from Field & Social (it was leased as a new venue, but the opening was delayed due to the pandemic), they opened a Sunday pop-show in the Yaletown neighborhood. staged up. “We learned that when customers buy a $5,000 sofa, they appreciate the opportunity to sit on it and see how sturdy it is,” Samian says. That’s when the mindset of the founders changed; They knew they couldn’t just be an e-commerce brand. “We pride ourselves on our quality, and it’s hard to communicate that on just one website.”
By September 2020, after targeting specific markets such as Vancouver and Toronto with a “triple threat” of partnerships with pop-up, digital advertising and local influencer To gain brand recognition, Samian began to see a steady increase in sales month-on-month. The growth, paired with the success of that year’s Black Friday sales, meant that they could eventually expand and hire more staff. Sunday now has two showrooms, one in Vancouver and one in Toronto, and plans to open one in Calgary this year.
With the business primarily in Canada, there are plans to push into the US — having staged pop-ups on Sundays in New York and Los Angeles last year — with a showroom in one of those key markets. And while the company’s vision is about providing pieces that are “beautiful, comfortable, and livable,” the ultimate goal is to reinvent the furniture shopping experience and make the process seamless. Delivery is free no matter how much the customer spends, and for larger items such as beds and dining tables (categories have expanded since Sunday), the piece is assembled at the customer’s home at no extra cost. “We want to make creating the space you love easy and enjoyable,” says Samian.