Following the recent announcement that specialist furniture manufacturer Frank Olsen has launched a new wireless charging bedside cabinet range in an exclusive partnership with Bensons for Beds, Cabinet Maker spoke to sales director, Charlie Graybrook, to find out more.

Specialist furniture manufacturer, Frank Olsen Furniture has been trading for just over a year now, but Charlie Graybrook - the man behind the business – has been in the Industry for nigh on 20 years, so it’s safe to assume that he knows a thing or two about what works well. His inspiration when starting up little more than 12 months ago actually came following a family holiday to Disneyland, where he discovered the value of detail in creating an experience for customers, and recognized a very real need to be able to do the same in the furniture industry.

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A year on, and the Disney effect has clearly transferred, with big business wins such as the partnership with Bensons for beds, and others in the pipeline. Charlie filled us in: “The inspiration behind the business was to create Products that were truly innovative; that would engage with today’s consumer and that would position the brand at the mid-market, with good value, great Design, and excellent quality from a forward thinking business.

The product development is a clear indicator of the business’s forward thinking nature, with intelligent furniture the order of the day. Charlie continued: “Smart phones are with us to stay and we felt it was important to design furniture that has added value in that it performed useful functions as well as storage and looking good. Our vision was ‘furniture that lives with us’.”

Arguably, regardless of how good an idea, setting up a new business is not always the easiest of things and in the present climate, one can’t help but wonder if it was particularly challenging. Charlie enlightened us: “Our biggest challenge was raising the finance to grow the business. As a new company, although we have experienced consistent growth, this is always a challenging area. However, with the help of Cheshire East Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Power House Investment Fund, we were able to access the levels of finance we needed to grow the business and work with the national retailers such as Bensons for Beds.

“The fact that we had developed the Technology and had been able to apply for Patent protection has definitely helped in achieving our goals in this area because if shows our commitment to product development and protecting our value in Intellectual Property. We adopted the approach that we could moan about uncertainty or we could design and innovate. We thought the latter sounded more fun!”

As well as fun, of course, the business has had the added benefit of becoming very successful very quickly. Charlie paused for breath to tell us about it: “How can I sum up our first year? Exhausting, exhilarating, stressful at times, but importantly it has been great fun and a great sense of achievement in such a short space of time.

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“We are very proud of our success to date and we have some very exciting pipeline projects we are working on. It is a good feeling to see great consumer reviews about products for which you have been responsible for the whole cycle, from conception of the idea right through to the end delivery. The Frank Olsen Intelligent Furniture brand is now well established in many leading high end furniture stores and in the AV sector. Our Ethos is underpinned by our commitment to product innovation and design, quality and service, sensible pricing and above all, our passion and enjoyment in what we do. Our team is growing and we expect to go from strength to strength over the next few years.”

We were keen to find out why the focus on intelligent furniture, and whether Charlie believes that this sector has real growth potential. The answer was simple: “Absolutely!  There is one thing that is guaranteed and that is the way technology will change our lives. By continually innovating, we intend to stay ahead of the market and maintain our position at the forefront. Whilst wireless phone charging is a key factor for now, we are working on other technology/furniture developments to future proof our brand as others try to follow.

“The fact that our furniture offers more than just ‘furniture’ in the traditional sense, makes it stand out from the crowd. Our aim is to create good contemporary furniture that lives life with us through combining technology with furniture as we know it.”

And so to the latest development with Bensons for Beds, we posed the question to Charlie, just how did the idea come about? “As with many good inventions, it was really as simple as the fact that at night, my charging cable would often fall down the back of the bedside cabinet and just looked a mess when it wasn’t being used,” he explained. “I felt that I could improve on this.  Having spent many late nights, often in to the early hours on the design and prototype process and a number of visits to the electrical factory, I finally got to a working prototype.

“It sounds simple, given that wireless charging is already an existing technology, but it was in fact very difficult as there are quite a number of technical challenges to overcome. At times I did wonder if this was why the concept of hidden built in wireless phone charging bedside cabinets hadn’t been developed already. But, due to the technical issues we had overcome in the design, we were able to apply for Patent protection.”  

The wireless charging itself works on what’s known as the QI (pronounced Chee) charging standard. This means that it is conductive charging, with the charger embedded in to the cabinet, hidden from sight, and therefore keeping the strong clean lines of the design. For phones that are not QI charge compatible, each unit comes with a super-slim adaptor that sits un-noticed under a standard phone case and the phone will work as wireless charge.

With the product all ready, it was time to identify the best route to market, and, as Charlie said: “With Bensons for Beds, being the UK’s largest quality bed and bedroom furniture retailer, I felt was it the perfect fit. The team at Bensons could really see the potential and so a partnership to launch the designs as exclusive to Bensons in all 270 stores was born. It has been fantastic working with them and we anticipate that the range will be a great success with future range developments already in the pipeline.”

And as for other future plans for the business? Charlie concluded: “Well, we are working on some quite exciting ideas and adapting technology that will ensure our furniture ranges stay one step ahead of the market and become integral to our lives. As we say ‘To be Frank… we must concentrate on tomorrow but look after today’.”