Huong Nguyen is the co-owner of The Spotted Frog Furniture Company along with her mother-in-law, Linda Rennie. The Steveston store offers handcrafted local, customized furniture and accessories for bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and more. As a small business owner, Huong wears many hats, but her primary responsibility are sales, marketing, purchasing, merchandising and cleaning. Linda’s focus is human resources, finance, operations and being a community ambassador and number one Canucks fan.
What were you doing before you opened your business?
I had worked at IKEA in strategic management roles for eight years. Linda retired from her amazing 30-year management career at CIBC.
What inspired you to start your company?
I had always had a goal of owning my own business. After my first child was born, I realized the stressful and demanding corporate life I was groomed for meant that I would miss many milestones in my child’s life.
I went back to IKEA for six months after my maternity leave to see if there was a way to make it work, but it was futile. I was miserable and was not excelling at my job or at being a mom. I was torn and it dawned on me that this was a perfect time to start the next chapter in my life.
Being my own boss has allowed me to have a more flexible schedule and because I am working hard for myself, I know my sweat equity will pay off for the future. My parents are commercial salmon gillnetters and have been part of the Steveston fishing community for almost 25 years, so I really wanted to open a location in the neighborhood that I grew up in.
Linda in a nutshell is a supermom. She has five boys ranging in age from 12 to 33 years and although she is the only female in the household, she is the strongest one of them all. After logging 30 years in the financial industry with CIBC, she decided life was too short and traded in her conservative high-stress role for something radically different.
I approached my mother-in-law for advice and we ended up starting the next phase together.
What is your company all about?
Our business philosophy is to offer quality Canadian-made furniture designed for generations. Our main style expression is transitional. Although we pay tribute to our heritage with some Canadiana Country pieces, the majority of our 1,800 square foot showroom is dedicated to a more modern classic expression.
Our perspective in life is reflected through our merchandising style and choice of products. The elements that inspire us are the changing seasons, colors, textures and nature. When you walk into our store, your senses are immediately assaulted. We create inspiring vignettes of themes throughout the floor, forcing our customers to take the time to browse through every nook and cranny.
What’s your vision for your company?
We would like to offer you an opportunity to experience life through the eyes of a frog. It is said the spotted frog has a life span of less than five years. If humans had such a fleeting lifespan, would we not live every day like it meant something? Would your world not be richer in colour, flavours, textures, sounds and scents? Would you not shed your fears and embrace your dreams? Life is too short. Live it passionately–that’s why we’re called The Spotted Frog Furniture.
What excites you about what you’re doing?
I am surrounded by inspiration everyday. I’m a creative person, so having a business that allows me to create beautiful interiors and vignettes everyday is very rewarding. I am also a people person so I love hearing all the stories that people bring when they walk through our doors.
What are some early examples of success?
Ever since the opening of our company in November 2008, many of our first-time customers have walked into our boutique with puzzled looks. The braver of our clients would comment, “You opened during a recession?” or would ask, “What kind of name is The Spotted Frog for a furniture company?”
We pride ourselves on breaking conventions. My business partner is my mother-in-law. We get along famously and the negative cliches of in-laws don’t exist within our family ties. While many furniture stores advertise they are going bankrupt, we enthusiastically followed our hearts and opened our dream boutique in the heart of a recession. We didn’t accept excuses and within six months, we proudly garnered the award of “Best Specialty Furniture Store” in our city by the readers of our community paper.
In 2010, we were honored with the same award and plan on holding on to it again this year which means we have been voted “Best Specialty Furniture Store” 3 years straight.
Are there any charities or organizations you’re involved in?
Whenever we can, we give back to the community we live in with a focus on women and children. We are the proud sponsors of Ice Frogs, a team of the Richmond Minor Hockey League. We also donate every year to causes such as The Vancouver Children’s Hospital, The Night of Hope (Breast Cancer), and the Easter Seals Foundation.
What’s next for you?
Opening a second location in Vancouver! Stay tuned.