Lumizil is an online lamp shop that was founded in 2014 by WHU alumna Lena Schaumann. The company is based in Berlin, where eleven employees currently work for Lumizil. The Lumizil website is characterized by intelligent filters designed to facilitate the customer search for the perfect lighting, along with a range of nearly 20,000 lamps that ship directly from the manufacturer. But is now available in brick-and-mortar stores, too: it has collaboration arrangements with furniture stores. Their inventories are displayed on Lumizil, and customers can order from these stores by Click & Collect. There are iPads in the furniture stores, too, to expand the retail space digitally and help sellers advise their customers with all the images and information they need.
Lena, after graduating from WHU, you had the opportunity of continuing on to run your family’s company. Why did you decide to pursue your own business start-up instead?
I initially entered my father’s family-run company. My goal was and still is to digitalize the classic furniture store in Kassel, preparing it for the increasing importance of eCommerce in the furniture trade and ensuring its long-term competitiveness. It quickly became apparent that the current business commands almost all of the attention, with issues in eCommerce always handled as secondary. We also have many years of experience as a stationary business, and we know what we are talking about. In the online world, on the other hand, we have a lot of respect and are proceeding with care. When in doubt, the focus was clearly on the ongoing and profitable stationary business.
That was the point at which I consciously withdrew from the family business. In Berlin – the online world – I set up a purely online team that very deliberately spends 0 percent of its time on existing stationary business. This is how I gave myself and us the space to think and learn in complete freedom, without any restrictions.
After almost a year on the market, we reconnected with the family firm: we display the inventories of Möbel Schaumann on Lumizil. Through us, the customer can then place an order with Schaumann via Click & Collect. Möbel Schaumann also provides iPads on which the Lumizil range is presented. This digitally expands the limited exhibition space.
With Lumizil, I have my own shop and ship throughout Germany, but I am still in charge of managing the eCommerce challenges for our family business. So, I really haven’t withdrawn, and presumably I never will, because I don’t want to, either. Lumizil gives me the opportunity not to jump in directly, to pursue my own vision in its entirety, and at the same time to contribute to the success of the family business, and I’m very happy with that.
What were you able to learn from your family’s business experience that helped you found a company of your own?
There’s a great deal I value about that, most of it probably subconsciously. Obviously, I grew up with a very entrepreneurial thinking, and that’s how I was raised, too. My family supported my plan right from the beginning, so that’s not where my first critics were. That was certainly an immense help. But my father’s experience has also helped me quite specifically in countless respects: shareholder agreements, incorporation documents, registrations and so on. For all of it, there were existing documents that could be adopted for the purpose, at least in part. The first annual financial statements were certainly also much easier, since I had someone right there who had already done them quite a few times.
How does the Lumizil concept work, and what is the core of the company?
Lumizil is a classic retailer and ships all of its products directly from the manufacturer. That means we have no merchandise whatsoever, so we can focus completely on sales and our vision: we believe in multichannel furniture retailing. The customers are showing us how it’s done: They’d like to look online and buy offline – or the other way around. The need must be met by the regional small and medium-sized furniture stores, such as our family’s store, if it is not going to be eventually displaced by the large incumbents or purely-online players.
So we display our products online and ensure that the path to the new lamp is as short as possible: quickly searching and finding lamps in a huge range with buyer’s aids at every conceivable place, reserving the lamps and picking them up from one of the furniture stores in our network, or shipping them directly to the home, usually with same-day shipping directly from the manufacturer’s factory. Furniture shopping should finally become as simple and straightforward as shopping for shoes.
Last year, you conducted an experiment with a family that spent ten days living in the dark – that is, without lamplight. How exactly was the experiment carried out, and why did you conduct it?
On day one, we removed all of the family’s lamps throughout the house. From then on, and for a week, we monitored their lives without light. The whole thing took place in February, at a time where it gets dark early and the sun comes up late. We conducted the experiment to see how crucial and important light actually is for everyday life. Vacuum cleaning was done based on sound alone, supper was eaten earlier than usual so that cooking could be done by daylight, getting up in the morning was much more difficult without light, and after around seven days, all of this had an impact on the mood in the home, too. Fortunately, it was almost over by that point – and as a reward for persevering, the family’s entire home was fitted with new lamps. The conclusion: we need light far more than we actually think, and practically every aspect of everyday life is more difficult without light.
At Lumizil modern working structures – no fixed working hours or locations, for instance. What advantages and disadvantages for the company do you see in such structures?
I see lots of advantages in them, such as a relaxed working atmosphere, greater personal responsibility for each individual and, consequently, higher identification with the company. Flat hierarchies mean that everyone has the same “rights.” And in very practical terms, the modern working structures make it easier to organize and plan periods of work and leisure for each individual. In fact, I do not see any direct disadvantages. Naturally, you have to make sure that the whole system is not taken to its limits and occurs in a certain framework – the relaxed working hours in particular. Organizing oneself is not everyone’s strength.