Building Alliances, Opening Markets - Business matchmaking missions in New York City and Toronto

Submitted by Ciprian Morcan on 06 July 2023

FGOI - media wall page

22-26 May, 2023

May marked a significant milestone in our internationalization journey as we successfully organized the inaugural business matchmaking mission of our Furniture Go International project, aimed supporting SMEs in expanding into third markets.

The mission was driven by ambitious goals: forging connections between European and North American companies, identifying synergistic business opportunities, drawing inspiration from foreign markets and collaborative success stories, and refining new services to support SMEs' internationalization efforts.

I'm delighted to confirm that we achieved our ambitious objectives on multiple fronts. Our understanding of both markets has grown substantially, and the interactions during the mission have provided invaluable inspiration as we pursue further exploration of our aspirations in third markets.

What are the highlights of the USA mission?

One of the standout moments during the matchmaking event in New York City was Chuck Heckman's captivating presentation. As the Chief Marketing Officer at Matter Surfaces, he shared insights on building outstanding marketing and brand strategies essential for success in the US market. He emphasized the importance of embracing creativity and daring to "go big."

”Have courage to go big with creativity.”
”You don’t have a furniture company; you have a photography company”

In the second session, we deciphered the layered US furniture market and its segmentation, as a starting point in creating effective sales strategies. Thanks to Ed Pedrick - Chief Sales Officer at Matter Surfaces, we have learned the importance of ”specification” power. Did you know that ”The average designer has 26 times as much specification power as the average American has buying power. The number can be up to 111 times for interior design specifiers from 200 firms”?

Another exciting session was the Panel discussion with industry professionals, during which Luc Massaux (The Switzer Group), Jarvis Wong (Jarvis Studio), Malcolm Baker (Evensonbest), Chris Ressa (Design Lines) and Stefan Minovici (The Romanian American Business Council) - provided examples of European companies who have managed to accommodate the US market. The professionals also answered questions from the attendees.

NETWORKING was one of the main stars of the event, and those who came prepared to have genuine conversations with the present companies and organizations, surely identified opportunities and/or gained valuable relationships.

We gained INSPIRATION from some of the most interesting showrooms we have visited. We especially enjoyed our visit to the New York Design Center - Housing over 100 showrooms, NYDC serves as New York’s destination for designers across the US and beyond.

What are the highlights of the Canadian mission?

The mission to Canada was very dynamic, a characteristic that greatly defines the market, as we’ve found out during the 2 days event. We are deeply grateful for the support of the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in Toronto, together with the Canadian Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the event in their home - at the Ontario Investment and Trade Centre. With the support of Trevor Kruse - Interior Designers of Canada, our ambassador for the FGOI consortium in Canada, all the planning led to a successful event.
After a warm welcome from Ms. Eva Libs Bartonova, Head of Trade and Investment at The Czech Consulate General in Toronto, and from Ms. Sonya Rosenwirth from the Canadian Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, we moved through a dynamic presentation session from a variety of representatives from the furniture industry - gaining insights on the furniture market from a cross-sectoral perspective: industry representatives, public administration and the university:

Mr. Joe Mihevc, Council in Toronto City Hall, presented opportunities in Toronto regarding public investments related to furniture/furnishing. In this context we have learned that Canada is ranked 2nd for the Soundness of Banks indicator, which is a good indicator of the trust that businesses have for the Canadian banking system.

Mr. Mike Baker - Chief Executive Officer of the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario (WMCO) - highlighted to us the importance of the cluster ecosystem for the furniture industry. We were happy to learn how similar the European model of the clusters is to the Canadian one - and that it is successful.

Mr. Trevor Kruse - Chief Executive Office at the Interior Designers of Canada, highlighted the importance of collaborating with designers in order to be a successful furniture company on the Canadian market. Additionally, workplaces/corporate projects are the primary design specialization of the design sector activity.

Mr. Bill Kocjancic taught us how to do business in Canada - and he touched on some important misconceptions: ”We are not the United States. We do not have the same buying patterns as the United States. Buying patterns change province to province.”
The education practices for the furniture industry was presented by Mr. Simon Ford, Faculty and Interim Furniture Studio Head at Sheridan College - one of Ontario's leading postsecondary institutions.

The missions not only facilitated networking and knowledge exchange but also provided inspiration through visits to influential showrooms like the New York Design Center. The experience gained during these missions will undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing efforts of supporting SMEs in expanding into third markets and refining services to enhance internationalization endeavors.

As we reflect on the successful outcomes of these missions, we are encouraged to continue building alliances, opening markets, and empowering SMEs in their internationalization journey. The Furniture Go International project has taken significant strides forward, and we look forward to continue the growth process we have started.

The content of this news represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

Prepared by: Andreea Toma

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