Derek Shambora is the founder of Eco Simplista, a building supply company with a simple mission: to bring eco-friendly home improvement products to South Florida to help make it a better place to live.
As a leader and supplier of the area's building supplies and home solutions, they believe that using sustainable and non-toxic products in your home should be easy. Their customers get only the best of the best, products that have been personally tried and tested by the company's founder, Derek, and his sister, Dana.
With Eco Simplsta it's not about the green and organic "hype," just high quality, affordable, and also original and artistic solutions and ideas for home improvement. When you walk into their store, you get personal attention, frank and honest answers, and you walk out with the satisfaction of knowing that you not only got even more than you wanted, you're also helping the environment.
Derek was kind enough to talk to us about his company and what it's like to make a life in Miami.
How old were you when you started Eco Simplista?
I was twenty-five years old when I opened the doors to Eco Simplista.
How did the idea for the company come about?
Literally, out of nowhere.
A good friend of mine helped me remodel my family’s house one week when they were on vacation. Little did we know about toxins and VOC’s and so on, we
purchased all of our building materials from the local hardware store. As soon as my family came back, they were obviously thrilled with the remodel, but my father was extremely allergic to the chemicals in the air. We did some research and found Mythic Paint. After re-painting his interior, we were so impressed with the product that I decided to call the rep and find out more. Within two months we invested and opened our store with our first product.
You must have a lot of ideas that could be of use to other companies. What drove you to start your own instead of work for someone else?
There is nothing like waking up in the morning and knowing that if you’re running fifteen minutes late you will not be reprimanded by the boss! Seriously though, I have always had a burning desire to do something "big."
Eco friendly building materials can be hard to get hold of and even more can be misleading. How do you find and select what products you feature?
Simple. We purchase samples, give them out to the contractors that are loyal to us, and wait for the feedback. We also test everything "in-house."
Have you found resistance among contractors in South Florida to eco friendly building materials?
Believe it or not, there are some great contractors in South Florida who would love to use our materials, but due to the economic situation cannot afford to steer away from their comfort zone. Time are tough and we understand the hesitation. However, we have had great success with the contractors who are willing to take a chance.
Reality is that the majority of our products are not any more expensive than what contractors are used to paying. We focus more on quality and
ease-of-use, which overall makes the job for the contractors easier and allows them to have confidence that our products will hold up over time.
Did you have prior experience with building materials or did you have to learn as the company evolved?
No, I have not had prior experience with building materials, but over the past couple years I have had more hands-on training than you can imagine!
When did you open your doors?
Do you remember your first customer? What did they buy?
I do. We were about a week away from opening and during our build-out some guy starts banging on our door. He proceeded to tell us about his chemical sensitivities and had read about Mythic Paint. He placed an order for roughly thirty gallons of paint before we had it in stock.
Do you have any aspirations for expansion?
Yes. We are currently seeking a larger retail facility and have just opened a four thousand square foot training facility. Starting January 2012, we will be offering classes for
contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners to learn all of the ins-and-outs of our products. Our biggest focus will be on concrete countertop fabrication, GFRC concrete, and Venetian plaster.
You’re involved with Young At Art Children’s Museum in Miami. How did that transpire and what do you do with Young At Art?
Young at Art is a great organization that we are proud to be associated with. Last month, in collaboration with the Bedlam Lorenz Assembly, we sponsored “The Art of Brew” event from which all proceeds benefited the new Young at Art Museum. We have also donated building materials to Young at Art to help educate parents on the importance of indoor air quality.
We understand you also work with artists. Can you tell us about that and what you do for them?
A lot of the finishes we offer are out of the box and truthfully artists have sought us out looking to incorporate some unusual finishes to their pieces. We have also dabbled a bit on the fabrication side of things for a couple Miami-based artists and have had good success with that.
How did you get started working with artists?
Art is a passion of mine and as a company we try to incorporate that passion into the products and finishes we offer. I got started working with artists as soon as I opened the store.
What’s the next big thing for you?
Next big thing is the expansion. We have spent an enormous amount of time researching new products and have a great idea on what we are missing in South Florida. Reclaimed timber, organic mattresses, and recycled glassware is just a hint of what is coming next....