Building a Furniture  Empire One Store at a Time

Building a Furniture Empire One Store at a Time

By Hillary Latos

Meet the power couple behind BoConcept, Niki and Shaokao Cheng. Recognizing a lack of modern mid priced quality furniture options in the city, they sought to change the landscape of home decorating by franchising this beloved Danish brand. Thirteen years later they have expanded their empire to encompass nine stores in New York and Pennsylvania. Here Resident speaks to Niki Cheng on their family's rise to the top.

How did you start Bo Concept?
I went to Parsons to study interior design and I have an architectural background. I was doing odd jobs in restaurants and I eventually got fired. Then I started dating my future husband and he told me, well this is a chance for you to get a real job. So I started interviewing for positions with interior decorators and architectural firms and one of the reasons I didn't get a job was because I didn't speak English well. He put me in an accent reduction program for 3 months. Once you're fixed you are fixed for life. This was one of the best things I've done in my life. One of the things he advised me was to get a job at a furniture store. I thought no way but it was a few months before my visa was about to expire. So I interviewed at a store and got the job and an H-1 Visa. I always thought I was very creative but at that job I realized I was great as a salesperson and I know how to sell. While we were together, my husband came up with the idea that we should start a business together.

After we were married he had a one bedroom bachelor pad on 32 & Madison and I wanted to renovate it. While we were looking for new furniture I realized there was a lack of contemporary furniture in the mid price range. In the same price range there was only Macys, Bloomingdales, and Crate & Barrel- which are classic American but not modern. Anything that's modern was Ikea and B&B Italia.

When we were researching for furniture, we found a BoConcept ad in Metropolitan Home for their store in Paramus and saw an opportunity to franchise. Now we own that store, 3 years into our start. We refinanced our home and started our own business in 2003 within the first year of marriage. BoConcept is a Danish company with a lot of history. Currently within our family we own 9 stores including Chelsea, Soho, 57th Street, DUMBO, Princeton, Paramus, 2 in Philadelphia, and an outlet in Flushing. He's good at accounting, warehousing and customer service and I'm good at managing the look of the store, it's a perfect combination.

Where do you see the direction of Bo Concept stores?
Ideally we would like to own a store on the Upper West Side. The economy is better but it's hard to maintain a brand. There are 3 sources to maintain a brand- our supplier, the landlord and our employees, it can be challenging yet rewarding.

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