Hugo & Hoby received a Bronze award at the 2015 reSET Impact Awards. The annual event honors winners of the Impact Challenge and recognizes innovative, impactful and viable early-stage ventures and startups from all types of industries.
Innovation Destination: Hartford asked Impact Award winners about their companies and their experiences. Read the interview and watch a video with Hugo & Hoby Co-Founders Ben Young and Frederick Kukelhaus.
IDH: Give us some background. Why did you start your company and how did you develop the business concept?
KUKELHAUS: We are two friends and roommates at the Yale School of Management who were tired of having to choose between cheaply made, bland furniture that we knew would end up in a landfill in a few years and expensive alternatives.
In 2014, we started testing ways to affordably produce furniture using the incredible renewable resources and manufacturing skills here in New England. We decided to start a company and named it after our grandfathers—Hugo Kukelhaus and Hobart “Hoby” Young—both carpenters, designers and environmentalists.
IDH: Tell us a little more about your company.
YOUNG: Hugo & Hoby makes the handcrafted and sustainably sourced furniture we’ve always wanted to see. We partner with some of the country’s best designers, manufacturers and craftspeople to “batch” orders, sell online and ship directly to customers’ doors. This lets us avoid traditional furniture markups and reinvest in higher quality while telling the story of the people who build things in our communities.
IDH: Why did you get involved in the reSET Impact Challenge?
KUKELHAUS: The mission of reSET represents the aspirations we have for Hugo & Hoby—to have a large, positive impact on our local and national community through entrepreneurship. reSET has been incredibly welcoming as well as supportive.
We’re constantly impressed by the depth of entrepreneurial talent, inspiration and excitement in Hartford.
IDH: Where do you see your company in the next few years?
YOUNG: We’d like to like to see our furniture in places we didn’t expect it. This is what success looks like for us—when you see something you built becoming a meaningful part of someone else’s daily life.
We’d also like to be known as an example of how to build a thriving company that is sustainable and creates well-paying, skill-based jobs for local communities. Pretty heady stuff for a couple of guys making coffee tables!
IDH: Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs or startup business owners?
KUKELHAUS: Spend time with the smartest, hardest-working and most positive people you can find on something that gets you excited. This alone will be worth the experience.