Community//

Jonathan Yaraghi of Jonathan Y: “Curbside pickup”

I truly think there’s room for everyone at the table, but we’ve got to rethink how we do it. Yes, my business model is built on technology and e-commerce capabilities, but people crave an experience too. Malls in particular have a huge opportunity right now. An opportunity to listen to what their communities are asking […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

I truly think there’s room for everyone at the table, but we’ve got to rethink how we do it. Yes, my business model is built on technology and e-commerce capabilities, but people crave an experience too. Malls in particular have a huge opportunity right now. An opportunity to listen to what their communities are asking for. My target market is Millennials or those that shop like Millennials. For them it’s all about convenience. So if it’s more convenient to buy it online, great they can do that. But if they want an entire experience, then that mall better have younger, more upbeat, hipper tenants, products and restaurants to meet the needs of today’s consumers.


As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Yaraghi, Founder & Creative Director of Jonathan Y. He launched his eponymous area rugs and lighting business in June 2017, catering to the Millennial state-of-mind.

Prior to starting his own business, Yaraghi spent 12 years with his family’s area rugs and home furnishings business, Safavieh. He held a variety of roles there including manager of wholesale sales and creative director of total home, overseeing all hard product categories including furniture, lighting, mattresses, decorative accessories, outdoor and more.

Yaraghi holds a degree in Information Technology from Syracuse University’s celebrated iSchool and sits on the steering committee of the Cooper Hewitt’s Young Patrons.

He calls New York home, where he works to meet the needs of the ever changing Millennial consumer through a balance of analytics and design. Fast fashion. Affordable pricing. www.JonathanY.com


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My family has always been my inspiration. I grew up in the family business, and I might still be working there if not for a near death experience on a repelling trip in Ecuador that pushed me to really stop and think hard about what I wanted to do with my life. I’m a fourth generation entrepreneur. My great- grandfather started an antique Persian rug shop in Iran in 1914. I realized I wanted to create my own legacy. The rest, as they say, is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

2020 has certainly been the most interesting by far on many levels. I personally tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this spring and spent a number of weeks in the hospital and recovering at home in New York. It was a rough go. The hardest thing I’ve ever experienced personally and professionally by far. I questioned “why me” on a daily basis. Quarantine gave me major cabin fever, as I’m normally a very active and busy person. I did a ton of reorganizing, redesigning and purging in my apartment. I’m extremely thankful to have recovered and be here — healthy — to do this interview.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I definitely do and it may seem silly, but it forever impacted how I do business. Not long after we launched our business, a customer posted a negative review online and I was at a loss for how to handle it. I was out to dinner when I saw it post and within minutes I had gone into “crazy” mode and tracked the customer down to call her on the phone. She was — quite literally — shocked to hear from me. I let her know that I understood how she felt and that I appreciated her sharing her feelings, but that I wanted to change her mind. She was willing to consider my offer and I sent her a replacement product right away. Ultimately, she changed her review. It set the bar for how we still handle customer service today. It was a huge lesson in how important it is to connect with your customer. I love sharing this story and I do often!

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Well number one, we are always introducing new products. 300 new skus by the end of the year! That includes expanding our B2B reach to the contract and hospitality market. But as far as helping people make smart buying decisions, we’ve got a few new technology enhancements we’re excited about. We recently launched an online rug visualizer tool on our consumer site, eyely.com, to help people visualize how a rug will look like in a room, just by uploading a photo. The AR tool places any of our rugs — to scale — into the photo so you can “try before you buy”. We are also introducing a line of “smart” products, for wireless, accessible, convenient, and secure capabilities, for how we live today. Plus a new Jonathan Y app in the App Store is in the works!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s all about balance. Of course it’s important to work hard, that’s how you build success. But you’ve got to balance that with the rest of your life. For me it’s eating healthy, clearing space (in your head and in your physical environment) , staying active with exercise, and spending time with family.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My entire family shaped me. I mean that in every way, so I really can’t single one person out. My success is a credit to my dad and his four brothers — they taught me everything. It’s rare to find a family where all the family partners are fully involved and actually get along. I’m lucky. They each brought their strengths to the table, whether it was being aggressive, analytical, engaging with their customers, or teaching me to just take my time. I hope I make them proud because, truly, the best parts of each of them are what I strive to be.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When I started my own company, I knew I wanted environmentally friendly practices to be at the core of what we do. I’m proud to say that the company gives top priority to reducing the firm’s environmental impact. All of our products are shipped in eco-friendly, recyclable packaging and the company’s New York headquarters runs on solar power. We use LED lighting in our lamps and carry natural fiber rugs that are made from sustainable and recyclable materials. It’s a small part of the bigger picture.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share five examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

As a B2B business, we work with a lot of large retailers that sell Jonathan Y products both online and in-store. And yes, as you’ve said, the pandemic has changed how we shop, for better or for worse. Many consumers who never shopped online before are now expert digital consumers. Large retailers have really stepped up to the plate these last few months and offered as much variety, convenience and safety for their consumers as they can, in order to retain them as loyal customers. A few things that have stood out to me are:

  1. Adjusting inventory and sales models to offer more “in-store only” items for sale online.
  2. The hybrid approach: Offering safe shopping options for both in store and online.
  3. Curbside pickup. For those that still want to go out and get it but want a safer way to do it. Order online and pickup outside of the busy store. It’s been especially interesting to see how large shopping malls with multiple retailers have adapted and worked with all of their tenants for smart solutions like this.
  4. Added incentives like free shipping, especially if they weren’t an online focused business previously.
  5. The by appointment model. To make the in-store experience more palatable for those hesitant to venture out.

In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?

I truly think there’s room for everyone at the table, but we’ve got to rethink how we do it. Yes, my business model is built on technology and e-commerce capabilities, but people crave an experience too. Malls in particular have a huge opportunity right now. An opportunity to listen to what their communities are asking for. My target market is Millennials or those that shop like Millennials. For them it’s all about convenience. So if it’s more convenient to buy it online, great they can do that. But if they want an entire experience, then that mall better have younger, more upbeat, hipper tenants, products and restaurants to meet the needs of today’s consumers.

The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?

Change, adapt and stay relevant. I come from a successful family business of brick and mortar retail. And they have stayed true to their roots, but have always been open to change. So like the other successful retailers you mentioned, they have done what they do best, but adapted over time and never got stodgy. Whether that’s integrating new technology, new shopping business models, sourcing new products, or marketing their business to stay relevant. In some cases it’s all of those things that make up the secret sauce of success.

Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Again it’s that balance. There are a lot of great sources that make beautiful quality items for me in China. But I also have great partners around the world and domestically. You have to find what’s right for you, your brand and your business. You shouldn’t have to compromise in order to be competitive in your marketplace. The world has opened up, every business has options. Be creative and at the end of the day give your customer what they are looking for, but with your unique spin.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The environment continues to be a hot topic in this election cycle and for good reason. Our generation needs to continue to focus energy on what our best efforts can be. We have a responsibility as human beings. All the small things we do as part of our business — using LED lighting, eco-friendly packaging and smart technology — it all matters and makes a difference.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Jonathany.com

@jonathany_official on social

Or our sister site

Eyely.com

@eyelyhome on social

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

“Work it out with your team” With Jonathan Yaraghi & Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated
Community//

“Keeping up.” with Jonathan Fedele and Len Giancola

by Len Giancola
Community//

Jonathan Chitayat: “No Legacy is as rich as honesty”

by Ben Ari

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.