For Ralph Montemurro, the inspiration to launch an upholstery and home furniture business sprung from a nursery.
“About 16 years ago, my wife and I were on our third child and designing a more contemporary home. We got to the nursery and couldn’t find any modern furniture for it since everything was still very traditionally at the time, and we didn’t like our options,” Montemurro recalls. “That’s when we realized there was a big gap in the market for modern nursery furniture and that maybe we could do something about it.”
Having recently sold a sportswear company, Montemurro was eager to enter a new industry. And after sourcing local manufacturers, the pair saw an opportunity to open up their own upholstery and rocking chair manufacturing shop in Toronto under the Monte brand.
“It took us 40 prototypes to design our first chair, the Luca Glider. That became our first product, and its success set the stage for the whole company,” he recalls.
The popularity of that first chair motivated Monte to expand its line. Soon, the company was creating different models with various designs and features.
Fast-forward to 2021, and Monte now offers upholstery services and a wide range of nursery chairs, beds, and other home furniture items via its online store and nearly 200 authorized dealers throughout North America.
Crafting a brand
From a single design to a worldwide catalog, it’s safe to say that Monte’s original vision has come into its own. Today, the Monte name is synonymous with high-quality, sustainably-made home furniture produced with locally sourced plywood, maple, and walnut materials.
“We get as much wood as we can from Canada, and that’s always been important to us,” Montemurro.
Granted, sourcing local materials has become harder due to supply issues and price surges over the past year. Nevertheless, he adds, Monte is sticking to its guns: “We’re just taking our punches right now. The supply has been very low, so we’re relying on our wood suppliers to get us what we need. At the end of the day, we don’t want to buy materials that are lower than our standards, so if that means waiting longer for higher-quality materials, then we will wait.”
No doubt, the key to Monte’s brand has been an unwavering commitment to working with local wood suppliers and manufacturers and going to market with products that outlast (and outshine) the many imitations.
“If I’m going to make it and sell it, it’s gotta be something that I want to have in my own home. It’s got to be something that I’m proud to sell and a product that’s going to last a long time,” says Montemurro. “Sure, you can buy an inferior knock-off chair or bed that’s going to break in six months, but if you want something that’s going to last, something you’re going to be proud of in your home, and something you can pass down to your family, then you’ve got to invest in a product that was made to last.”
As for keeping the Monte brand top of mind amidst the global online competition, Montemurro says it’s essential to use social media where possible and stay true to the brand’s qualities.
Of course, he adds, it helps to have a team that believes in what makes the business stand out: “You really need great people to build your brand; that’s the bottom line. Your people have to be great and have to share your vision and passion. Without that, the brand is empty.”