INTERVIEW. Bynd Artisan x Richard Munao

Beauty In The Eye Of Richard Munao: A conversation between Cult Design's founder and the team from Bynd Artisan, creators of artisanal leather and paper craft. 

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of partnering with Bynd Artisan to host their first live panel conversation at our Cult Singapore showroom. Following the event, our founder and CEO, Richard Munao, sat down with the Bynd Artisan team for an in-depth conversation about Cult Design's journey over the last 25 years

Here, Richard shares lessons and wisdom on business and life from his own experiences. These include the importance of looking ahead and staying curious, the courage to make scary decisions (and enjoying the sweet rewards when they pay off), that one person’s “crazy idea” could be another’s path to success, rituals that help him keep balance, the necessity of finding rest and stillness. 

We invite you now to take a short break from your day and read some of our favourite interview snippets - thank you Bynd Artisan for the inspiring conversation!

L-R: Cult founder and CEO, Richard Munao, along with Ron Sim and Ravi Shankar from the Cult Singapore team. Image by Lavender Chang

Richard Munao pictured at the Cult Singapore showroom. Image by Lavender Chang

Bynd Artisan: How have you changed and evolved, both as a businessman and a person, and what important lessons has the past 25 years in business taught you? 

Richard Munao: Looking ahead and not behind has always been an important ingredient, plus taking measured risks to be different. Looking behind distorts your vision and at times, can make you question your direction. Awareness is critical, but clarity is crucial.

When I started Corporate Culture in 1997, we focused on loose furniture, not the big-ticket items like workstations and task chairs. Everyone thought this was a crazy idea, that we wouldn’t last. That was more fuel for me to want to prove them wrong.

During the first 12 years of our business, we sold many pieces for people's homes. The next evolution was to change our name to help grow our B-to-C business, which saw us shift from Corporate Culture to Cult in 2014. Then in 2016, we launched nau, our own in-house brand of furniture and lighting designed by a collective of Australian designers.

BA: We’re always inspired by the habits of successful people. Could you tell us what a typical day in the life of Richard Munao is like? 

RM: I would say there isn’t a typical day, but I have a few rituals. I try to exercise three to four days a week before work and always get an early start to ensure I can clear the emails from the day/night before heading to the office/showroom with a clear inbox. This allows me the time to be with the team, not behind my computer. I live three doors down from the showroom and my wife runs her own design practice from home; I like to have at least a coffee or lunch with her daily. This gives me the time to reflect and invest in the other very important part of my life. It hasn’t always been easy to get the balance right and it’s still difficult, but awareness is everything and allows you to take mindful action.

BA: What made you decide to set up Cult’s first international store in Singapore?

RM: We have been active in the Singapore market for the last six years, focusing primarily on Australian Design. The idea is that overtime, Singapore will be our hub for the APAC region and allow us to push nau into other markets. When we first started, we only represented the nau brand in Singapore, and as time has gone on, we have been fortunate to add some of our international partners we work with in Australia, such as HAY, &Tradition, Gubi, Nemo and Please Wait to be Seated. With the addition of these lovely Danish and Italian brands, a showroom was necessary to be able to grow our retail footprint in the region.

Bynd Artisan’s Customised Notebook, "Getting To Happy with Bynd Artisan" Brooches, Uplifting Leather Tag, photographed at Cult Singapore. Image by Lavender Chang. 

BA: Sometimes the scariest decisions we give ourselves the courage to make could turn out to be the best decisions we ever make. What is one such decision that comes to mind?

RM: There are quite a few, but I would say when you spend years creating a brand like Corporate Culture, and then knowing that to grow in the residential market, we had to drop what we had been building for 15 years, that took some courage, but I’m very happy we did that.There is always trepidation opening new arms of the business, whether it’s e-commerce or a new showroom. Three years ago we launched our Australian e-store and it has been a learning curve translating our in-store offering to online consumers. We’re continually developing how we service our online customers and are proud to see strong growth year-on-year as a result.

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