It would have been hard to imagine, floating down a swirling river in a dugout canoe with a Swiss man I had just met, that I would someday
launch an online furniture marketplace in Basel. I've found that life, like a river, is much easier when you go with the flow. In my case, it led me to Basel. I arrived in late summer 2014, moving from Washington (leaving a job at a big international organisation to follow-up my heart, like so many of us foreigners in Switzerland!).
We moved in to a relatively spacious home near Basel. Having sold or given away most of my worldly possessions, and with a Swiss man who had very few pieces of furniture, I was faced with the task of furnishing our new home. I poked around some nice design stores (3,500 CHF for atable? Ulp!), got lost in several mazes of Brockenhauses, and discovered Tutti and Ricardo online. I liked these best because I didn't have to talk to anyone in person, and I relied heavily on google translate to help me understand what was for sale, and communicate to sellers. I'mpretty sure this resulted in some German messages along the lines of 'Hello Peter, Me want chair. Chair available? Get this week?'. No wonder I had such a poor response rate.
We had a few hiccups, with a table advertised in Basel that we actually had to pick up Sissach, and my lack of knowledge of Swiss geography combined with my Canadian sense of distances meant we sometimes travelled a bit far to get things. Me: Bern isn't that far, right? Him: You need to calculate 1 CHF per km. 1 CHF!! We just added 200CHF cost to that table. Me: Oh.
His friends thought I was crazy, going to so much trouble to buy second-hand furniture. Sometimes I started to wonder myself. But, it also made me wonder whether there was a better way, a way in which normal people who weren't interested in Adventures in Google Translate or Getting Lost in Brockenhauses could buy high quality furniture, which just happened to be second-hand.
For me, buying second-hand was important - I am motivated by reducing the environmental impact of my day to day life. So, I began to develop the idea of an online furniture platform, that made it really easy to find and buy nice secondhand furniture. I knew that not everyone would be willing to go to the same effort as me, so I set out trying to solve what had been the biggest barriers for me – language, transportation and clear information about the items. I have a clear recollection of
describing my idea to my Migrosklubschule classmates over lunch one day, my comrades in arms in navigating this new land.