After time spent in the corporate grind early in his career, Houston native Chris Anderson decided to set his priorities straight and spend more time with his dad, going to work with him in his swimming pool business. The decision to make more time for family bonding came with the extra perk of learning the ropes of high-end pool construction and landscaping.
It was the days when tanning ledges were just becoming popular in pool construction, and though the ledges themselves were a brilliant innovation for pool design, how they were being utilized by swimmers was less than brilliant. “Time after time,” says Chris, “I watched customers drag a metal pool chair from the patio onto the tanning ledge. Sure, they’d enjoy the water, but they’d also get ruined furniture and damaged pool plaster.”
Struck by the apparent need and business opportunity, Chris designed a product that was made to go into the pool and stay in the pool for a long time. “But it couldn’t be just durable,” Chris says. “It would have to also look sleek, stylish, and sexy.”
Working with manufacturing contacts he had developed in the pool business, Chris created the first Ledge Lounger Chaise. “After I posted pictures of them online, they blew up overnight,” Chris says.
That was 2011.
Before he knew it, Ledge Lounger was selling across the globe. Chris and his team made a smart strategic move early on, identifying supply chains that could go after large pool builders and interior designers rather than pitching his product to furniture stores. It was a tactic that paid off, helping Ledge Lounger to build a multi-faceted wholesaler network for their products.
As Ledge Lounger began to develop more products, such as patio furniture, outdoor games, cabanas, day beds, and other accessories requested by their clients, the brand took off, earning its place on the Houston Business Journal’s “Fast 100” list of fastest-growing companies three years in a row, in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Ledge Lounger can also be seen on the Inc. 5000 list earning its place among the fastest growing private businesses in the US for the past three years running.
Today, the company is headquartered just outside of Katy in Brookshire, where the Ledge Lounger name has come to stand for American-made quality and longevity. The company’s 48 employees are proud to inspire, through their passion, to inspire people to experience outdoor living in style.
Then came 2020 and COVID-19.
Indisputably, what the people of Ledge Lounger faced in the environment brought about by the coronavirus pandemic seemed like an insurmountable challenge for the business. But Chris, always adaptable in the face of a problem, began to look for opportunities.
A large share of the company’s business had always come from commercial facilities such as resorts and hotels. With all of those businesses shut down and no one traveling, Chris says that part of Ledge Lounger’s business dried up almost overnight, with many of their clients anticipating the slow-down would last through 2021. Ledge Lounger needed to do something new to make up for the business and assure they stay afloat.
It was a challenge that might have caused some businesses to shut their doors – but the Ledge Lounger team was determined to adapt and innovate its way through. While the company’s primary base, the business-to-business arm, had screeched to a stand-still, Chris noticed that the business-to-consumer side was still in motion. Seizing on the opportunity, Ledge Lounger focused on selling direct to consumers, doubling its online direct retail sales almost immediately. And while the consumers sprucing up their homes while self-isolating presented a new business opportunity for Ledge Lounger, Chris could see that his team would have to adjust to a new way of doing business. Gone were the bulk buys that came with a single phone call. Instead, each phone call and each order meant fulfilling small, separate orders – sometimes for a single product – each with its own process for fulfillment.
In response, the company completely modified its processes and product schedule to prioritize products that are directed for consumer sale, shifting near future product development away from B2B product lines. They are currently pushing forward the production of oversized yard games, like dominoes, ring toss, and a combination checkers and tic-tac-toe board, giving consumers more relevant products they could use in their homes – where, let’s face it, most of us are spending a lot more time these days.
“As the world around us becomes more and more unpredictable,” says Chris, “people are looking for ways to escape. Because we can’t go anywhere, they are looking to make their homes safe havens to relax and get away from it all, and we are proud to be able to help make their escape a reality.”
From here, Chris is ready for just about anything.
“The big question for me is how sales will be in the future,” Chris remarks. “Typically, what consumer products we do sell move more in the middle of the summer. So we’re not exactly sure whether the increase in consumer sales we’re seeing now will dry up in the summer or if we’ve tapped into a new portion of the direct to consumer market segment.”
Like Chris, we’re hoping for the latter.
Ledge Lounger is adapting for the future, as many small businesses throughout the Houston area are in these unprecedented times. So that they won’t have to worry about material availability in the instance that their suppliers shut down, Ledge Lounger has adjusted its supply chain so that the company is not dependent on other facilities for materials. This way, they have greater flexibility by having more materials in house.
And Ledge Lounger is also learning from the coronavirus shutdown that spreading joy is more important now than ever. As they are moving forward with their second round of yard games – sidewalk chalk stencils featuring hearts, stars, and smiley faces – the team plans to repurpose the pieces cut from the stencils as activities or décor to donate to children’s organizations like the YMCA and Brothers and Sisters of America.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:
As families across the city look for new ways to entertain themselves and relax in the comfort of their own homes, Ledge Lounger’s first round of outdoor games will be available for purchase online in May in addition to their robust catalogue of stylish furniture and décor.
No matter what comes next, Chris and his team will undoubtedly find a way to adapt and thrive. But not all businesses have a clear path through the shut-down.
“We’re able to sell our products online, but not everyone can. Support every small business you can, however you can,” encourages Chris.
We couldn’t agree more.