Lehigh Valley Business Article : Blending design and furniture sales is a winning combo

By JENNIFER HETRICK, September 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Brenda Gaul keeps offices freshly efficient and welcoming for her clients and their guests as the owner of Furniture Soup Inc., which relocated to Bern Township from Muhlenberg Township this summer.
Following Gaul’s design work with layout plans, the company sells, delivers and installs commercial office furniture to clients in medical, institutional, manufacturing, engineering and other industries.
She said many places do not blend together furniture sales and interior design for projects, “which we do to help clients hit their budget and get their value.”
President and lead commercial interior designer, Gaul said her company finds pre-owned furniture, re-engineers it and turns it into something else to meet criteria for clients.
She started the business in 2003 with fellow interior designer Tracy McKay, who left a few years ago to pursue work on her own.
Gaul explained that remanufacturing furniture is revitalizing it, like reupholstering, replacing laminate or adapting shapes to fit certain space or usage needs.
“We might find a conference table top but put on new bases or add a custom top,” she said. “Or somebody might need a weird custom size, and it’s easier to cut something apart to create something new – being creative with how we put the components together.”
Helping to move clients during relocations and assisting with liquidation also are within the scope of this furniture-specific work.
Neville Ranji, senior director of operations at iPipeline based in West Whiteland Township, Chester County, has used Gaul for relocation.
“When we relocated to this office in 2012, we used her again, kind of mimicking a lot of what we’d done in 2009 with color schemes,” said Ranji, whose company provides cloud-based software solutions for the life insurance industry.
Property managers use the iPipeline office as an example to show potential businesses what their setups could look like, he said.

“[Gaul] is able to see concepts that I don’t normally get, like configuring cubicles for huddle space which a new vice president in our IT shop wants,” Ranji said.
A graduate of Reading High School, Gaul’s degree in interior design is from the University of Arizona. Her work in Pennsylvania for architects, interior design firms and a furniture remanufacturer prepared her well for this career.
“The last company I worked for went out of business, and I was able to take my then-current client base to start Furniture Soup,” she said. Gaul opened the company in her garage, as well as McKay’s.
The existing client base from Gaul’s old job helped tremendously.
Today, many of her clients are within a two-hour drive from her office, while she’s also done work in Canada. Gaul has a client in Malvern, Chester County, for whom she has done projects in North Carolina, Florida and California.
Offering trusted contractors and electricians has been a benefit her clients value.
She noted that confidence and experience are part of being successful in business.
“I think we look at things a little differently sometimes, a little more detail-oriented or people-oriented because of what we do,” Gaul said about women in business.
“We’re selling furniture, but the design is the really consulting part of it,” she added. “If you’re good at what you do and an expert at it, people will take it seriously, no matter who or what you are.”
Jesse Jespen, president and CEO of Runwell Solutions Inc. in Wyomissing, used Gaul during a move for expansion in 2010 and since then he’s referred her to a number of his clients.
Gaul gave Jespen’s office a new vision, which the landlord’s contractor followed in revamping the open space.
“Just like customers outsource their IT computer work to us, we outsourced our furniture and office uplift to Gaul and the Furniture Soup crew,” Jespen said.

“It saved me money and time and it let me continue to focus on my business.”