Produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications
Alum’s Streamlined Furniture Resale Website Aims to Cushion the Stress of Online Sales
Photo by John T. Consoli
Reham Fagiri ’04 turned to popular classifieds site Craigslist to sell her furniture before a move to New York City. But after a string of no-shows, strangers parading through her home and awkward haggling, “I thought to myself, there has to be a better way to do this,” she said.
With a background in software development and an MBA, she was equipped for the challenge, co-founding AptDeco, a furniture resale website, in 2014. The online marketplace—which has grown from servicing just New York City to much of the Northeast, from Delaware to Connecticut, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area—eliminates the sketchiness around peer-to-peer sales by offering pricing suggestions, a secure payment system, and pickup and delivery.
“We wanted to create a trusted community where you could remove the friction and the scams,” she said. Initially rolled out to friends and family, the website soon expanded—and the site’s first sale, a headboard, was made by a stranger. “The first moment I thought, ‘Wow, this is a real business’ is when I didn’t recognize any of the people shopping on the site.”
The young company got a boost when it was accepted by the Y Combinator, a famed Silicon Valley startup accelerator that has funded the likes of DoorDash and Airbnb, and helped Fagiri and her co-founder, Kalam Dennis, meet investors and learn from other startups.
But AptDeco also faced stumbles. Initially, the company contracted its pickup and delivery to moving companies. But when a truck didn’t show up, or the service quality was poor, AptDeco got the blame, not the third party. Now, they’ve brought delivery operations in-house, and the company has created software to optimize delivery routes.
The hustle of startup life is familiar to Fagiri, who grew up in Sudan and came to the University of Maryland as a 16-year-old to study electrical engineering.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. In Sudan, like in a lot of developing countries, there aren’t a lot of big corporations. To be successful, you have to create your own business and solve your own problems,” she said.
Today, she’s expanded AptDeco to more than 100 employees and is preparing to enter new markets, including Washington, D.C.
Despite Fagiri’s success, she knows the odds are stacked against other entrepreneurs like her: Black, immigrant and female. “There’s very little capital that goes to women or minorities. But that shouldn’t stop you. If you have an idea, do it.”
Correction: This article originally misspelled the name of the AptDeco co-founder.
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