Constant innovation is key for success

August 12, 2020 | By Rupkatha B

From a pop-up at a local market to a full-fledged online business, DRAWDECK founders believe that constant innovation is key for success. In 2014, DRAWDECK started at the local markets such as Ripe Market and Good Vibes Market at Alserkal Avenue. “As a start-up, we bootstrapped and didn’t have enough marketing budget to promote DRAWDECK. So, we went to the pop-up markets to build brand awareness,” share co-founders Alex Dunn and David Hammond.

Six years on, DRAWDECK operates in the UAE and Australia with a studio in Dubai and a fulfilment centre in Brisbane.

So, what’s DRAWDECK all about?

It is a home-grown brand started by Dunn and Hammond that sells affordable but high-quality digital wall art made by independent artists globally, and curated by the DRAWDECK team. Every sale made on DRAWDECK directly supports the artist behind the design.

Art inspires both Dunn and Hammond, and they were keen to establish a platform that artists could use to showcase their works. “In Dubai, there are either high-end galleries or concept and furniture stores selling printed artworks. We created DRAWDECK as a platform that connected talented artists from around the world with people here who appreciate art,” Hammond shares.

“We invite artists from around the world to create their profiles on DRAWDECK and sell their artworks through our e-commerce platform,” Dunn elaborates.

DRAWDECK has 200 artists onboard, most of whom are based internationally and are able to access a completely new market through the online platform without being based in the region. The business model is smart but simple. “We are adding around five artists every month to be able to curate the artworks carefully and promote the artists too. We have set a base price for all products. The artist builds on top of that base price depending on what they want to earn per sale. This model ensures that we receive a standard commission for every sale made on DRAWDECK.”

We’ve added new revenue streams

The e-commerce platform is only one of the revenue streams for DRAWDECK. Over time, the brand has gone from strength-to-strength, adding a business-to-business (B2B) segment, complementing the business-to-consumer (B2C) platform.

On the B2B side, DRAWDECK supplies artworks to commercial projects. “As DRAWDECK started gaining popularity, we were approached by interior design companies and fit-out agencies. We started supplying artworks, made by local artists as well as in-house, to restaurants and hospitality projects,” Hammond shares. “More recently, we also bought a framing concept. The brand followed a traditional sales approach and used to rely on walk-ins. We modernised, rebranded and launched Draft Frames as a digital business in March 2020. It allows customers to upload photos via their mobile phone and we frame and deliver it to them.”

The revenues from the B2B side of the business has helped DRAWDECK scale up the B2C platform. “It gave us the much-needed digital marketing budget that we didn’t have before,” Dunn states. “It has helped us to strengthen the technology backbone of the business, by reinvesting and redeveloping the website.”

Strengthening the tech backbone

Currently, DRAWDECK is looking for a round of investment to further enhance the technology backbone to ensure that creativity is aligned with the customer experience online.

“We have planned for an exciting technology roadmap upon a successful Series A funding. We already have fulfilment partners in Australia, Europe and the US who are ready to start as soon as we roll out the new website. While we have streamlined the payment process, we will soon add a ‘pay later’ payment plan on the website, giving customers the option to split their payment across four months,” Dunn reveals.

“We also want to create our own algorithm using artificial intelligence (AI) that will curate content based on the user’s preference. We want to build a virtual gallery wall that will help the user visualise an artwork in their home. We are keen to build an augmented reality (AR) enabled app that will help the user to select an artwork from DRAWDECK and superimpose it on their wall before purchasing,” he adds.

Also read: UAE start-up survives the ‘great lockdown’

Opportunities can emerge from a crisis

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic affected several businesses, DRAWDECK’s B2C sales increased dramatically. “Our revenue for the second quarter of 2020 increased by 82% compared to the previous quarter. In May, DRAWDECK recorded a 70% increase in sales compared to April. The traffic to the website and social media has increased significantly, so has inbound enquiries leading to higher conversion and sales,” Dunn shares.

“On the B2B side, as some projects were put on hold, we had a slight impact on invoicing. But the B2C business supported our growth. Our multiple revenue generation streams have kept us afloat,” Hammond states.

As DRAWDECK leveraged on the benefits of having multiple revenue streams, it has also been ‘responsible’ in its approach to doing business. “As part of our recent partnership with One Tree Planted, for every print sold on DRAWDECK, we plant one tree in return. A number of our wooden frames are already FSC certified, as we source wood from responsibly managed forests,” Dunn shares.

“Importantly, we have always ensured having enough cash in the bank to pay for overheads, including salaries and rent. A lot of opportunities can emerge from a crisis, but as businesses, we have to think about selling things that are meaningful, so that once the situation stabilises, people will return,” Hammond adds.

“And constant innovation is key for success,” they conclude.


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