Design Startup Spotlight: Kartār

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mC:t   2015.05.05
For our second interview in the Design Startup Spotlight series I chatted with Sumer Singh owner of Kartār, one of Calgary’s newest furniture and home decor showrooms focusing on sustainable and locally-sourced designs. 
Photo: Kait Kucy / Swerve

Photo: CalgaryHerald – Kait Kucy / Swerve

1   |   What inspired you to start your own business? 
First of all my passion for design and making. Its just something I love, it comes naturally to me, and as I passed through my quarter life crisis, I realized that this is what I am destined to do. After doing some research, I saw a need for locally made, affordable furniture in Calgary which would stay true to sustainability. So often you see businesses starting up and letting numbers take over their ideals. They start out by making everything locally and eventually as they get bigger, they move manufacturing or parts of manufacturing overseas.
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2   |   What was the biggest obstacle you met in starting your business in Calgary? How did you overcome it? 
The audience. Calgary has a growing population. Although we have quite the “underground” or “alternative” or “free thinking” population, the majority is still of a conventional mentality whereby they want things the cheapest way possible without considering its sustainable or environmental aspects. We are overcoming this obstacle by guerrilla marketing, direct marketing, and including market influencers in our strategy to reach out to the alternative audience who we want to cater to.
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3   |   What advice could you offer young entrepreneurs in the design industry trying to get their start?
These days it is not enough to just be a designer when it comes to objects and furniture as in my case. You need to know how to make it if it comes down to it. Not necessarily production orders, but you need to get a feel for it with your own hands. This is also the case with entrepreneurs in other industries. You need to know how to do the nitty gritty even if you don’t like it.
Planning is futile. Doing is necessary. Focus on your higher purpose that you set out upon and everything else will fall into place. Life rewards actions, not dreams.
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4   |   Are there any particular resources (organizations, tools, places, etc.) that you’re interested in/excited about?
I am very interested in the educational institutions in Calgary: UofC, ACAD, etc. They produce a plethora of talent which gets diffused as soon as they step out into the real world.
I am also interested in the independent movements going on in the city like Market Collective, Off-Beat drawing sessions, d.talks, Commonwealth Collectors Club, etc. They are building community and that is a big part of social sustainability.
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5   |   In your opinion, what in Calgary needs a design intervention?  
The audience. I believe awareness is the issue. Calgary with its growing population needs to be made more aware of how REAL the environmental aspects of buying sustainable locally made furniture are. Also, we need to encourage more creative startups in Calgary that dont just design, but also make.
In the end, we need to find a way to connect all these local independent movements within Calgary. I reach out to all those that I come across to try and bridge the gap.
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