Inside Track: Ciaran Finane, Finline Furniture

Sofa so good for furniture maker’s new strategy

Finline Furniture is a family-run company that manufactures bespoke hand-made furniture at their factory in Emo, Co Laois.

What distinguishes your business from competitors?
We are a family-owned business that both manufacture and retail all our sofas and chairs. Every piece is handcrafted to order and comes with a 10-year guarantee. Everything is focused on creating a stylish, quality, affordable piece that will add to a home for many years.

What sets your products apart in your sector?
Our range of products and choice of fabrics. Every piece we make can be made higher or longer, softer or firmer and in a choice of 2,000 fabrics all delivered in six weeks. Because we make our products, we can offer a level of expertise and knowledge that others in our sector cannot.

What's been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Prior to 2011, Finline Furniture only sold our products wholesale to upmarket retailers, as well as exporting to the UK and beyond.*

When things turned with the economy, retailers started going downmarket and getting containers of furniture in from China. Our sofas are bespoke and hand-made. We could see the writing on the wall to a certain extent; our representation in retailers was declining and our product was taking a lot more time to sell.


In 2011 we made the decision to start retailing directly to consumers. Finline Furniture now retails from our factory showrooms in Emo, Co Laois and has just opened a stunning new showroom on the Long Mile Road in Dublin.

And your major success to date?
We supplied the furniture to the recent G8 Summit in Lough Erne. We have exported to 25 countries. Recently, we started exporting to China as there is an appetite among Chinese consumers for quality European-made product and this is a market we wish to grow.

What's the biggest mistake you've made in business?
One mistake we've made, and we're still making, is that, because there's so much family involved – my mum, my dad, my brother and me – we do make decisions by committee. We come to lowest common denominator decisions, for example in advertising. Our branding and logo was done in-house and it's designed for the trade. We've recently taken on a marketing guy and a PR company to give us direction and look at things from the outside in.

What was the best piece of business advice you've ever received?
"If you're going to do something, do it right". It's something my father and mother, who started the business, have always hammered home to everyone in our business.

Who do you most admire in business and why?
Steve Jobs. The volume and quality of the products that Apple has produced is phenomenal. I admire how he persevered and kept innovating right up until the day he passed away. Plus, I'm addicted to my iPhone.

What piece of advice would you give to the Government to stimulate the economy?
Reduce rates to realistic figures. Also government bodies should help stimulate local furniture manufacturers by sourcing products from local suppliers so government buildings should have Irish-made furniture.

On a local level, I think councils should allocate areas to erect billboards on motorways and roads as a means to raise funds while promoting local businesses. In many counties towns have been bypassed and businesses are suffering. In Laois, thousands of motorists pass through each day and only spend money at a toll booth.

Do you think the banks are open for business?
I think banks are greatly exaggerating the lending they are providing for businesses. Thankfully, we don't owe the banks anything, but I don't envy businesses that have to deal with banks on a regular basis. It does annoy me that retail banks are trying to become so automated. We prefer giving our money to a person, not a machine.

How do you see the short-term future for your business?
We hope to further develop our website to include more images and products. On the retail side, we will get our new Dublin store up and running and trading to a high level, while focusing on China and other markets on the wholesale side.

How much is your business worth and would you sell it?
Our business is worth whatever someone would be willing to pay for it! However, we have no intention of ever selling the business. Finline Furniture has incredible staff who have been with us for an average of 16 years. We've been in business for 34 years and we intend being here for many more.

In conversation with Joanna Roberts

This article was edited on September 19th.