Roy Otwell and Doug Henderson, the co-owners of the modern home furnishings seller Switch Modern, launched their business when they had already established successful careers. (The “Switch” in their company name is a reference to their career changes.)
“We were already middle-aged,” said Otwell, “and decided to make a change for all things design.”
Today, the two work together to sell luxury home furniture, upholstery, lighting, and accessories. They have a showroom in West Midtown and do a good deal of business online at their site, switchmodern.com.
The business is thriving, in large part because Otwell and Henderson work so well together.
“The beauty of the partnership is that there’s always somebody else who has an opinion that you can rely upon, who can fill in for you, has knowledge that is better than yours,” said Otwell.
They originally opened the business in 2002 as a single-brand showroom featuring products form Italian company Polyform. They have since expanded out to feature more than 80 brands, with clients from across the country.
“Doug likes to say we sell everything from the front door to the back door, except the front door and the back door,” said Otwell.
A big part of the value proposition they offer is the curation of products with timeless designs, some of which date back 120 years. In addition, they provide top-notch, personalized service to all their clients. This has created a good a strong reserve of customer loyalty over the years.
“What we try to do is make that process as easy and pain-free for customers as possible so they can have fun doing it,” Henderson said of the Switch modern sales experience. “And then let us take care of the difficult work behind the scenes the customer never needs to know about.”
Switch Modern turned to Invest Atlanta at a time when bank financing was more difficult to secure.
“That was coming out of the Recession, no banks lending anything,” said Otwell. “We needed to do what we could to piece together the right financial package and certainly Invest Atlanta was one of those. They had a nice little package for this side of town, specifically the zone that we were in, that made it possible for us to have access to some funds.”
The company secured a loan that helped them move into their expanded 25,000 square-foot showroom in West Midtown. The two had what they described as a “wonderful” experience working closely with IA’s Lonnie Saboor and Cynthia Freeman to secure the loan through one of Invest Atlanta’s small business loan programs.
As they approach two decades of being in business, Otwell and Henderson have no regrets, though they do have some advice to offer those thinking of jumping into entrepreneurship.
“It’s a wonderful, terrible thing,” said Otwell. “You work harder, you work longer, you never not work. But at the same time, you have the gratification of seeing some fruits of your labor. You get to see directly what works and while you’re responsible, you get to bathe in the glory and get the satisfaction."