Co-founder David Light on Kochie’s Business Builders

Our Co-founder David Light was invited by David Koch, host of ‘Kochie’s Business Builders’ to talk about IconByDesign. This segment appeared recently on Channel 7. Kochie, as he is often referred to, got David to share his knowledge on everything from how IconByDesign came to be, its growth, the ins and outs of business, and plans for the future. 

Family background

Let’s start at the beginning… What inspired father-son duo David and Adam Light to set up IconByDesign in 2015? For David, it was a natural progression from his background in logistics, manufacturing and technology. After all, the Light family has always been involved with furniture in some form or the other for five generations! David’s own father owned a furniture factory and, as a young boy, he saw first-hand how they manufactured everything from sports equipment like go-karts and skateboards to items like speaker stands and chess boards. David’s grandfather was a carpenter and his great-grandfather was a joiner. David got to understand the entire manufacturing process simply by being immersed in this environment – an osmosis of sorts. 

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Joining forces

David’s son Adam also owned a homeware store and wanted products that would be an extension of this brand. Dining tables and chairs seemed to be a logical choice. So when David and Adam decided to join forces, they both agreed it made sense to stick to what they knew. While David drew upon his long-standing business acumen, Adam as a young entrepreneur, brought new ideas and ways of doing things to the business. After doing their research, they realised the Australian market wanted elegant dining furniture that’s made from solid wood yet reasonably priced. They settled on a Scandinavian and mid-century modern aesthetic and launched the business with the Magnus dining table and Astrid Dining chairs.

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How do two generations with very different ideas make things work, especially if they are father and son? David says it’s all about setting rules and boundaries up front. They made sure there was clarity in their roles and responsibilities. Another factor was treating each other as equals rather than as father or son when working together. David realised that while on the home front he is “dad” to his two children, at work, he is their peer. This became even more important once his daughter Nikki joined IconByDesign. David sees it as a unique opportunity rather than an obstacle. It makes every day special now that he works together with his son and daughter. 

IconByDesign uses a small-batch manufacturing system that gets rid of the middlemen who tend to drive up costs. This way, customers get exceptional design and craftsmanship at a fraction of the prices offered by its competitors. Manufacturing is done off-shore to very stringent specifications and quality control. 

Buoyed by its success in Australia, IconByDesign looked abroad and soon set up shop in the USA – a gusty move to go overseas when most businesses would rather open another store in another Australian capital city. Choosing an international location took a lot of consideration. The first option was in Asia, but the diverse cultural and language differences made that difficult; Europe brought up similar challenges. China was a strong contender, but it would mean competing either at the very top end of the market or at the bottom rung – both of which were not acceptable. USA emerged as the most viable option due to its largely homogenous English-speaking environment. And now that IconByDesign is established there, the sky’s the limit! 

David affirms that no matter how far IconByDesign spreads its wings as a furniture retailer, what will always remain is its belief in core family values that are entrenched in its business model.