This 28-year-old CEO gives tips on how to make a company more sustainable

Welcome to Take 60, quick one-minute stories about new faces in our industry that might help you move the needle toward future success. Retailers, designers, manufacturers, and more — Take 60 covers them all, so check back each week for a new addition to the mix.

HAT: You’re a 28-year-old CEO of your own company, Sabai Design. Tell us how Sabai Design came to life and the inspiration behind it?

Phantila Phataraprasit,CEO, Sabai Design: Sabai was born when my co-founder and I were freshly post-grad. During our time in college we had built a great relationship through founding a credit union on-campus at Columbia [University] and had bonded over our interest in sustainability and our efforts to both incorporate it into our everyday lives.

Following graduation, we were both working to furnish our first post-grad apartments and became aware of how limited the sustainable home furnishing options are, especially for those trying to stick to a particular budget. Other than shopping secondhand, many of the options are incredibly expensive, and we knew that there was demand for a company like Sabai that allows individuals to align their home and what they put in it with their values, without sacrificing their bank accounts.

When we looked further into the impact the industry has on the environment, whether from a waste, material, or fuel perspective, we felt there was a huge opportunity to make a positive impact and induce positive change within the industry.

HAT: Is there a specific occasion that brought Sabai Design to North Carolina to be manufactured other than it being the furniture capital of the world?

Phataraprasit: It took a while for us to find a manufacturer that believed in our vision, and we were lucky enough to find a young, minority-owned manufacturing partner in North Carolina that believed in what we were doing. My favorite bakery also happens to be in N.C.! (The Market)

HAT: What initial daily small steps can manufacturers take to help reduce waste?

Phataraprasit: 1. Find ways to utilize fabric scraps or connect with textile recyclers to send fabric scraps to be recycled.
2. Prioritize sourcing materials from local suppliers.
3. Utilize renewable energy.

HAT: You launched in July 2019, right before the pandemic. What strategies did you implement to ensure Sabai was a success during that time?

Phataraprasit: When Sabai was first being established I was in law school at NYU and had access to a great network of entrepreneurs there that I was able to seek advice from, which really informed our approach as we navigated founding a business as two young female-founders. Through those conversations, I realized the immense importance of customer discovery and really understanding the individuals you’re creating for.

With this in mind, we wanted Sabai’s offerings to be directly influenced by the community we were trying to serve, interviewing tons of people to get a real understanding of what it is they look for, what their priorities are, what their budgets look like, etc.

We also relied heavily on social media and when we started the official design process really turned to our customers for insight. We’d often do Instagram polls to gather opinions, or present different design options whether that be colorways, the size of the arm rests, the list goes on.

HAT: What are some of the products you can recommend that can help companies to be more environmentally friendly? 

Phataraprasit: Water-based glue, water-based wood stains/varnishes.

HAT: You’re currently online only; do you foresee Sabai Design moving into a brick-and-mortar location one day?

Phataraprasit: Right now, our DTC model is really what empowers us to function so sustainably. Every Sabai item is made-to-order, allowing customers to fully customize their pieces and also allowing us to eliminate as much waste as possible. That being said, we don’t have any current plans to be in any brick-and-mortar retailers as this DTC approach is really what enables us to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

Five fun facts about Phantila Phataraprasit:

1. Where are you from? Bangkok, Thailand

2. What is your favorite product to date from Sabai Design? The City Table!

Sabai Design's City Table

The City Table

3. Are you currently watching any great TV shows? The Great

4. What is your one guilty pleasure? I try not to feel guilty about doing things I like, but I rarely eat red meat anymore except for the occasional burger

5. What is your personal design style? I like to keep my space relatively minimal, while mixing natural materials and with some more modern pieces

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