Entrepreneur of the Year 2023: Art Lee makes Rove Concepts a reality

Rove started making original designs in 2018

The Kickoff: It’s possible that design lives in Art Lee’s DNA: his grandfather was a furniture maker who specialized in mid-century modern. That business closed long before Lee was born (and very long before he launched Rove Concepts in 2011), but he still credits that legacy for sparking his interest in the industry. Rove’s goal was to sell luxe furniture at not-so-luxe prices, and to do so via a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform. It was a brave venture at a time when we weren’t yet turning to the internet to furnish our homes. “It was not at all common to buy furniture online,” Lee recalls. “People thought it was something you had to touch and feel.”

Action Plan: To level up consumer confidence in online furniture shopping, Rove Concepts offers photorealistic visualizations for customers. “They’re never surprised by how our furniture looks in-person… and never underwhelmed when they receive our products,” says Lee. The biz started by replicating popular luxury furniture, but made the switch to original designs in 2018. Since then, Rove has in-housed its design and supply chain capabilities (a gamechanger during the COVID pandemic) and has invested in augmented reality tech (through VR goggles, customers can see the furniture in a rendering of their own home). Now, Lee’s working on a “residence program” in which Airbnb hosts can get Rove-certified—in other words, travellers can actively seek out properties that are furnished with Rove’s wares.

Closing Statement: Lee has grown Rove Concepts from five to 160 employees and has attracted high-profile design partnerships (reality TV fans can spot Rove furniture in season 7 of Selling Sunset thanks to a partnership with the Oppenheim Group). The biz remains largely focused on e-commerce, but now has four brick-and-mortar showrooms (one in Vancouver, one in Toronto and two in L.A.), with plans to open more in New York, San Diego and Seattle. Lee‘s come a long way from selling his car to get startup capital: “We’re approaching a billion dollars in lifetime sales,” he shares.


What advice do you have for up-and-coming entrepreneurs?

Think big and bet on yourself.

What would your co-workers say is your greatest strength?

My actions speak louder than words.