Cover Story | Ten to Watch

John Humphrey, Myung Chul “Bruce” Kim, Alec Babala, and Jonah Wilcox-Healey – Greycork

Watch Them Change the Furniture Game


If you haven’t heard of Greycork, it’s probably because they haven’t shipped a product yet – but that hasn’t stopped the aspiring home furnishings brand from racking up press clips courtesy of Forbes, Fast Company, The Los Angeles Times, and influential blogs like Refinery29. Founded by four young entrepreneurs with ties to Providence, Greycork makes no secret of whose market share they’re after, declaring outright that their furniture “serves as a better alternative to IKEA.” Their designs are simple, elegant, manufactured in a family factory in nearby Fall River, and assemble in minutes with no tools. It’s not just an innovative approach to design that sets them apart, however. Greycork’s branding efforts are well-curated and demographically savvy: They’ve put out two issues of their online “magazine,” which presents personal, design-centric stories that speak directly to Millennials, and the Greycork Loft in Providence not only serves as a showroom for their products, it’s also available for overnight stays on Airbnb.

What is Greycork? What’s the story behind it?
Greycork is a brand for the home that will responsibly grow through an understanding of our customers, our partners, and ourselves. We’re a team of people who have grown up in manufacturing, designing furniture, or conducting design research. We were strangers before Greycork; we came together in late 2013 after John built a coffee table that could easily assemble or disassemble without any tools. He initially did it because he was thinking about creating a new product to help grow his family’s manufacturing company, but once he saw what he had done, he immediately remembered all the frustrating furniture buying and assembling experiences he’d had in recent years. He networked to find Bruce and Alec, and given all their backgrounds, they thought they could create something much better than what’s available today.

How do you intend to stand out in a crowded industry?
The thesis for our business has always been that there is the opportunity to create a furniture company that is vertically-integrated, sells at a mass market price point, and leads the industry in terms of customer experience. To do this, our approach is to begin by understanding the person who will be using Greycork, then reflect on our understanding of ourselves – our mission, vision and pillars – and ultimately implement a product and a holistic company-customer interaction that we’re proud of and is better for those who transact with us. It is a very bottom-up, organic methodology. We believe it will allow us differentiate, and lead the industry in terms of customer experience.

What can people expect from Greycork in 2016?
Greycork will begin shipping our Living Room Collection in January. In March, Greycork will be able to ship and deliver any product to our customers in one to five days. We will also be adding customization in color and fabric type to our Living Room Collection, and releasing a few smaller home goods, which we are excited about.

What brought you to Providence?
We’re a small team of four, and each of us has ties to Rhode Island. John grew up in Tiverton, and Bruce, Alec, and Jonah went to RISD. With John’s family factory based 20 minutes outside of the city, it was natural to base Greycork in Providence. Thanks to the city’s rich history in manufacturing, its young and supportive community, and College Hill’s valuable network, the team has been able to quickly prototype the living room set and launch a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that was funded over 460%.

How does “made in the USA” factor into your strategy?
Most of our supply-chain is US-based. The possibilities for manufacturing at scale in the US exist, but as a business owner it’s important to understand that manufacturing is a relationship-driven industry. An important thing we’ve learned is that we need to start by understanding the customer's desired price point and our desired cost structure. From there, it helps to be well-versed in materials, while understanding the equipment and capabilities of potential manufacturing partners. We have pre-existing manufacturing relationships that are quite helpful, but even still, it takes capital. It is hard work, but also rewarding.

What are your growth plans?
At Greycork, we use the phrase “responsible growth,” which for us means that we will grow only at a rate which we can sustain an industry-leading customer experience. We’ll need to hire for a broad range of roles in order to achieve our goals. We hope to be a company that reinforces Rhode Island’s design economy, helps others network with suppliers, and brings more businesses to the state. We want to empower one another to keep working with our hands.

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