Office Furniture Budgeting Tips for the Mompreneur

Christy | 1:42 AM |

Are you a mother and an entrepreneur looking for office furniture to support your startup business? You probably share the same concerns about budgeting as hundreds of thousands of other women – including me. Here’s a snapshot of the burgeoning “Mompreneur” movement:
  • The total number of small businesses owned by women is increasing 50% faster than the number of small businesses as a whole. (American Express 2011)
  • Family factors are a driving force in the choice to become self-employed. Women spend a great deal of time providing ‘secondary childcare’ – that is, taking care of their children while simultaneously performing work. (SBA 2009)
  • Women-owned firms only receive between 5 and 15% of the funding handed out by venture capitalists and angel investors. (Alicia Robb, Kauffman Foundation)
In other words, we moms are starting businesses in record numbers on a shoestring budget while taking care of our kids. But you probably already knew that! What you might not know are some of the tricks for furnishing your office when cash is tight. Here are three tips I’ve learned over the years that may help:

Know When to Scrimp and When to Splurge
When you are allocating your office furniture budget, the desk should be one of the cheaper items on your list. If you think about it, all you really need is a nice flat surface to work on. I actually like the fact that I don’t have to care about the childproof latches I installed on my hand-me-down desk marring the cheap laminate finish. Put your real money toward an $800-1000 ergonomic office chair. If you’ve tried cheap office chairs, you know you are paying a price with poor productivity and loss of focus from constant discomfort.
When you want to test drive a really high-end ergonomic chair, you have to find a contract office furniture store that sells to big companies. These office furniture showrooms are usually located off the beaten track in industrial parks rather than next to the Sam’s Club. Find a local dealer with the chairs you want to try by looking on the manufacturer’s website. Be sure to note the online price. Unlike many items advertised by the manufacturer with an inflated MSRP that is marked down in stores, the chairs you find at a contract furniture showroom are marked way up (kind of like jewelry). For example, the chair I wanted had a price tag of over $1100 in-store. Fortunately, I knew from the manufacturer’s website that I could order it direct for about $840 (with free shipping). Since I knew to point this out, the salesperson matched the price without any argument.

CIY (Convert It Yourself) for Maximum Ergonomics
As a mom, you’ve got to stay in shape to keep up with your young ones – plus, you need to keep those varicose veins to a minimum so you can age gracefully. This means jumping on the “sit-to-stand” bandwagon. Unfortunately, a nice adjustable height desk is very pricey. Even an attachment that clamps onto the desk to adjust your keyboard and monitor up and down can cost close to $500. I choked when I saw that price!
So, I created my own adjustable-height worksurface. I simply put two boxes on my desk (one for my keyboard and one for my mouse) to turn it into a sit-to-stand station. My monitor is actually a 32” flat screen TV that is wall mounted at just the right height to allow me to work seated or standing. The screen and the mount together cost me less than an adjustable sit-to-stand attachment. Even better, I didn’t have to sacrifice any desktop space. The boxes get stowed under the desk when not in use.

Buy Secondhand Furniture Even for First Class Employees
You do want your employees to have a nice work environment, so don’t scrounge for mismatched pieces at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Instead, find a local office furniture dealer that sells used and refurbished cubicles, desks and chairs in excellent condition for a fraction of the price of new (30-70% off). Sourcing fleets of name brand workstations in excellent condition from companies that are liquidating old furniture is what these guys do every day. You can afford to buy really well-made pieces that all match if you go “pre-owned”. That’s not just good for your business image when clients come calling. It helps employees feel like part of a team. Popular models of high end cubicles are usually still being manufactured even a decade later, so you can add identical workstations later as your business grows!

Image courtesy of adamr /

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