When Model No. launched its line of sustainable dining tables and chairs to the public in late 2020, the furnishings company knew it wanted to expand its offerings fairly quickly. But with its eco-friendly domestic manufacturing model, the company realized it needed to approach that growth in a different way.
“We realized as a small company there are only so many things we can do,” said Model No. CEO Phillip Raub. “A lot of these other brands, they are big, well-oiled machines. And with so many new websites popping up, we recognized there were so many great brands out there with a similar ethos as us.”
Model No. was founded on the premise of changing the way furniture is traditionally made. The company uses green materials such as upcycled food waste that is made into a non-petroleum plastic product, sustainably harvested wood, and reclaimed metals and leather. The company uses those materials to produce its furniture via eco-friendly techniques like 3D printing with the goal of reducing its carbon footprint and giving consumers customizable furnishings at an accessible price.
And while Model No. sells an array of indoor and outdoor dining tables and chairs, as well as desks, storage pieces and children’s furniture, Raub said the company wanted to offer other items to help customers complete their space.
“We don’t have glassware, tableware, things of that nature,” he said. “So we asked ourselves, ‘what if we went out and found these great companies that we can work with—brands that are similar to us with a similar mindset around environmental impact, producing domestically, having a deeper mission around what they’re doing?’”
Raub and his team went on a search for other small producers to join a sustainable marketplace hosted on the Model No. website, carefully vetting each brand for adherence to the company’s values.
“We created a criteria of things a brand had to meet,” he said. “We were looking for brands that manufacture in the U.S. because that cuts down on shipping, and we wanted brands that have a really strong mission behind what they’re doing.”
Model No. launched its marketplace on July 8, with more than 40 products from nine brands: Rust Designs, Liberty Tabletop, Neutrall, Milton & Goose, Elana Gabrielle, NM Studio Designs, Dirty Labs, Sanari Candle and Newly brands. The offerings range from upcycled glassware and handmade dishes to wooden toys and non-toxic detergent, and all are produced domestically using environmentally friendly practices.
“The brands complement what we’re doing, with the goal that we’re going to continue to expand,” Raub said. “We’re already in conversations with other potential partners.”
Price-wise, the brands sold on the Model No. marketplace skew higher than comparable mass-market products, but Raub said the company wanted to make sure the items are still affordable.
“For us, it was very important to ensure there was accessibility on the pricing, but also make sure it’s quality,” he said.
Raub said Model No. has plans to expand its own production, as well. He envisions building a network of small factories similar to the one it operates in California, located around the country to produce pieces for their respective areas and reduce the carbon footprint of shipping.
“As we are looking at bringing on more products in the future, you’re looking at changing the way you’re manufacturing,” said Raub. “Everything we do is domestically sourced, everything is produced in our micro-factory in Oakland, and we’re doing that with the goal of expanding to more micro-factories in the U.S. so we can have more local manufacturing.”
Raub said he’s excited about the road ahead for Model No. and its partners, and he hopes this business model shows others in the home industry the power of working together to not only build business, but help preserve the planet, as well.
“You’re going to continue to see a lot from us in this space,” he said. “We’re making some monumental shifts in the home furnishings industry, and I’m really excited about what we’re building here—we have a really strong group of brands.”