By Matthew Niksa – Commercial real estate reporter, Silicon Valley Business Journal Nov 13, 2020, 6:48am PST Updated Nov 13, 2020, 11:00am PST
Pictured, Brandi Susewitz, founder of Clear Office Inc., a marketplace to buy and sell used office furniture online. Photo Credits: TOMAS OVALLE
Laid off from her job near the start of the Bay Area’s Covid-19 shelter-in-place order, Brandi Susewitz set off on her own path.
She created a used office furniture marketplace where people can narrow down the inventory they want by location, price, manufacturer, product type or time frame.
“The way people sell furniture now is the brokers come in, and they rarely give them any money,” Susewitz said, referring to brokers giving facility managers money from selling their space’s furniture. “Usually, they say they’ll just remove it for free. And because the facility manager is at the mercy of the furniture broker and their move-out date, they throw their hands up in the air, like, ‘Ugh, OK, I just need it out of here.’”
With her new company, San Jose-based Clear Office Inc., Susewitz allows people to upload photos of used office furniture to the site, set a price — the suggested resale price is 20 cents on the original purchase price — and then wait for a buyer. Once a product is sold, the seller gets 70% while Clear Office takes 30%.
Because the pandemic has shifted millions of office workers nationwide from office life to home life, Clear Office has an opening to a clear customer base likely through the end of this year — and through at least July 2021, for those who work at tech giants like Facebook Inc. and Google LLC. Moreover, for companies relocating from one space to another, their facility managers are racing against time to try and rid themselves of any unwanted furniture before their move-out date.
Susewitz started her company after being let go as senior account manager of MG West, a San Francisco-based manager of interior projects that offers furniture-related services. But the idea to resell used office furniture online had been with her for two decades, when she was starting a boutique furniture dealership called Russell Williams & Associates that she ran with her husband Eric until 2014.
The pair did a lot of their business buying and selling used office furniture, Susewitz said, but none of it was done over the internet: She scrapped the idea of an online used-furniture marketplace when she was starting her first business in 2000 due to the presence of eBay, the online e-commerce company that launched five years earlier.
Fast forward to this summer, and Susewitz, after doing some research, couldn’t find a website where you could search for used office furniture, add it to a cart and then check out — so that’s exactly what she created.
Since launching Clear Office’s website and app in October, she said the response has been promising.
“This industry is very dinosaur,” she said. “It’s definitely not something that has caught up with technology or the way people are used to working or shopping for things.”
Susewitz said the sustainability department from architecture firm Gensler’s San Francisco office called to express interest in the marketplace and asked her to do Zoom calls with Gensler’s locations worldwide. She added that office inventory from local WeWork locations has already been added to the Clear Office website and that financial services and mobile payment company Square listed it as a resource for employees looking for work-from-home solutions.
All of this represents quite a change for Susewitz compared to when she was job hunting without much success in the spring. While the buyers in Clear Office’s marketplace are only residential right now, she said she expects to see more office business as Covid-19 restrictions ease.
“We’re slowly starting to see a pulse again on actual new projects coming up,” she said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of that pick up after probably the first or second quarter (of 2021).”