About Furniture Link
Furniture Link is a social enterprise committed to supporting the community of furniture banks delivering household goods and converting housing in to homes. Our mission is to create a sustainable economic model that does not rely on charitable donations or grants but that leverages commercial relationships,and pursues public- private opportunities, applying entrepreneurial best practices to expand the conversion of unwanted goods from waste to create home environments.
Furniture Link’s Origins…
Furniture Link came to life when Dan Kershaw, Executive Director of Furniture Bank (Toronto) was charged by his board of directors with executing a bold 3 year plan to scale up operations within his organization and in support of furniture banks across North America.
Realizing that there were many roadblocks to executing the ambitious execution plan, he asked a colleague, Annalee Sawiak, to offer a critical eye and guidance in creating a road map for a scalable and sustainable model.
Together, they identified several challenges and opportunities.
- The need for furniture and household donations for a homeless crisis in Toronto was growing rapidly.
- Awareness that solving the homeless crisis went beyond just housing. Successful programs required the dignity and comfort that comes from a furnished home.
- As a Canadian charity, Furniture Bank has limits in its ability to engage outside Canada.
- As a Canadian charity, Furniture Bank has limited ability and capacity to devote to commercial activities, so an aggressive expansion of its removal business to generate cash flow and a flow of goods presented problems.
- Staff and stakeholders were drawn to the charitable mission of Furniture Bank and were not culturally aligned with growing a removal business to scale impact.
- Removal activity in the GTA was growing but so was the competition within the industry for drivers. What had worked historically became increasingly challenging for the charity.
- Operational processes had been designed for a single site, small operation.
- As a charity, the available pools of capital were restricted.
Faced with this dynamic environment, and charitable constraints the professional recommendation was that a for-profit entity be formed if Furniture Bank was to continue to expand the removal business beyond its current activities, and Furniture Link Inc. was created.
After further consultation with staff and stakeholders, management determined that expansion of the removal business was conflicting with a culture that was focused on a charitable mission within the GTA. Alternatives expansion strategies were pursued which left Furniture Bank no longer needing the new for-profit entity Furniture Link as it was not going to pursue expanding its own commercial removal business activities.
About the Founder…
Annalee is a proud mother to daughter Marissa and sons Alex and David. She enjoys the limitless support and entertainment value of her husband Grant. She is grateful for all that she learned growing up with family members grappling with PTSD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Downs Syndrome and the challenge of arriving in Canada as refugees. They taught her patience, persistence and courage.
She is the founder of the network and support group Amazing Women who told her to just get out there and do it.
For the last 20 years she has worked primarily with technology companies, driving strategies to develop, scale, fund and exit. Before that she ran a private venture fund and had a successful career as an international tax adviser.
Annalee is a qualified CPA,CA.
Partnering with Furniture Bank Toronto
Having worked closely with Furniture Bank throughout the planning process, Annalee was inspired by its social and environmental impact. She saw opportunities to bring commercial partnerships to the Toronto Furniture Bank and introduce replicable methods to increase the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of the service delivery model using the skills developed over nearly 30 years of strategic planning and scaling businesses across industries and around the world.
Annalee assumed the costs and responsibilities of Furniture Link Inc from Furniture Bank and the two separate organizations became partners. Furniture Link assisted Furniture Bank as a case study in leveraging commercial relationships, pursuing public- private opportunities and applying entrepreneurial best practices to expand the conversion of unwanted goods from waste to create home environments.