The Rebirth of Jovili
It was not until he was building a house in the Oakhurst/Charleston neighborhood of Fort Worth with his wife Brittany that Stephen Rivers became a furniture designer.
The owners of Trinity Uptown Custom Window Treatments, Stephen and Brittany could not find furniture to fit their design aesthetic. Searching for what Stephen calls “mid-century modern pieces with a 21st century feel,” the Rivers kept encountering either inexpensive pieces which would not last or custom pieces which cost more than they were willing to pay. An entrepreneur at heart, Stephen decided to take matters into his own hands.
Born in Ludwigsburg, Germany, and raised in Dallas and Fort Worth, young Stephen did not dream of being a furniture designer. However, when he was confronted with a lack of good, quality furniture at an affordable price point, he did not hesitate to step up to the challenge. Thus was born Jovili, a furniture company that makes high quality, high-concept furniture for an affordable price.
As Stephen began to learn about the furniture design business, all the pieces started to almost miraculously click into place. On his first visit to Vietnam to find a company to manufacture the furniture he had designed, Stephen says, “It was almost like a divine intervention. I met all the right people on the first visit. I hit the nail on the head right out of the gate… incredible!” Once the manufacturer was in place, the rest of the pieces clicked into place: financing, logistics, the online store. Jovili launched in March of 2017.
Originally, Stephen felt that Jovili would be a Fort Worth company designing furniture that appealed to millennials and serving the North Texas area. He aimed his products at twenty-something professionals who had graduated from the do-it-yourself furniture of IKEA and wanted something a little more polished. What he did not realize that his furniture would appeal to older families with children and pets who wanted nice furniture pieces that did not cost more than their teen’s braces. He also did not expect that he would start shipping his furniture across the country. He had, it seems, found a sweet spot, and Jovili flourished.
What, however, would a success story be without some sort of adversity to overcome? In the beginning of 2018, Stephen was told by his furniture manufacturer that they were having to drop his line. It seems a large Canadian furniture company who used the same manufacturer in Vietnam was growing uncomfortable with Jovili’s success. A generous man, Stephen does not fault the manufacturer.
“It was an economic decision on their part. I completely understand why they did it,” he said.
Lacking a manufacturer for his designs, Stephen was faced with a decision. He could liquidate his remaining stock and close Jovili. After all, the window treatment business was flourishing. Or he could find a new furniture manufacturer and re-launch Jovili.
“I believe in the brand, the designs, and the customers,” Stephen said. So he set out to recreate Jovili.
This time around, Stephen met with a furniture manufacturer on the West Coast, and as they had before, the pieces started clicking into place. This was Stephen’s sign that Jovili could be reborn.
Jovili’s first iteration offered several models of furniture (sofas, chairs, and tables) in a limited number of finishes. With the new manufacturer on board, not only will the sofas and chairs be made in the U.S., they will be available in 50 different fabrics and 5 different finishes. Each piece will be custom made to the customer’s exact specifications.
While this customization benefits the customer, who can create the perfect piece of furniture for their space, it also benefits Stephen. He does not have to stock multiple pieces; each piece is made as it is ordered and shipped when it is finished.
Whereas Jovili 1.0 did pop-ups in places like Waterside and on Camp Bowie, Stephen said that Jovili 2.0 will be almost exclusively virtual. “The orders are coming from online, not pop-ups,” he said. “We debated showrooms versus virtual,” and virtual won. So now, he is knee-deep in re-designing the website. “We’ve got a lot of new technology… 360° views of the pieces [that are] almost VR!”
Stephen reflected on the journey to launch and then re-launch Jovili. It takes “a lot of work and heart to bring a product to life that you’re proud of,” he said, but at the same time, he is a big believer in, for lack of a better word, fate. “I believe in letting things happen as they need to happen.”
Jovili will re-launch in the fall of 2018.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Madeworthy.