Back to the Past
Our story starts almost fifty years ago when Kate’s father, Jim Dyer founded his business in 1971. An upholsterer to trade, Jim initially set up a flooring company and was later joined by Kate’s mother, Kay, as the business expanded into manufacturing & producing curtains, soft furnishings, and textiles from its workshops in the West End of Glasgow.
Innovation & Craftsmanship
Four years later, Jim & Kay had established a much larger workshop employing many skilled designers seamstresses and upholsterers, manufacturing and supplying carpets, curtains, and upholstery to commercial & educational projects and later to global hotel groups and international interior designers, completing projects throughout the UK, Europe, and the Middle East.
From a young age, Kate was immersed in the family business spending many weekends at work with her parents as they opened new showrooms and stores. She fondly remembers being taught to sew and operate workshop equipment from the age of 12 and by the time she was 16, she had a weekend job working with the interior designers who were running the showrooms and specifying products on high-value residential & commercial projects.
As the family business continued to expand during the 80s, in 1990 Kate graduated in Architecture from the Glasgow School of Art. Due to the recession at that time, architecture roles were scarce, so Kate decided to join the family business full time for a few years. Working across operations and sales, she also worked on a variety of interior design projects including many luxury London properties and ambassadorial residences.
During 1992 the firm merged with a business specialising in bespoke hotel bedroom furniture. Kate became Managing Director and established a new interior design division while developing the FF&E procurement division. In 1993 her team successfully delivered their first full-service project, designing, specifying and procuring the complete architectural interiors and interior design for the new 123 bedroom Choice hotel at the newly built Aberdeen Exhibition Centre.
In 1995, as she was starting a family, Kate set up her own independent interior design & procurement consultancy, KMID. She specialised in delivering multi-million-pound cap-ex refurb projects for large national hotel groups. During the following four years, she worked with Forte, Corus & Regal and many independent hoteliers, specifying and procuring FF&E and OS&E for refurbishment projects in properties throughout the UK.
Young & Gault
In early 2000, Kate was offered a role at one of Glasgow’s largest architecture firms to establish an interior design team and take over the design of a prestigious London hotel, conference & spa project for a key client. The landmark London Docklands Crowne Plaza Hotel opened to critical acclaim in 2003 and was shortlisted for Hotel of the Year at the international Sleep Awards in London the same year.
Completing the London Docklands project in 2003, Kate and Young & Gault amicably parted company as she and her team moved on to establish the first Occa Design studio. With a vision to develop a contemporary design studio specialising in hospitality, the firm went on to work primarily on branded hospitality projects for global hotel groups including IHG, Hilton and Wyndham, and many of their brands. Occa Design continued to grow over the next 7 years with projects throughout the UK and Europe and the opening of a Dubai office in 2006.
As the global recession hit in the late 00s, Kate recognised that it was a do or die moment for the company. In order to survive the turmoil in the industry, she embarked on the idea of pivoting the business to make the designer furniture her team was specifying for hotels, available to a wider retail audience. By leveraging the skills and supply chain within the existing business, her plan was to create a new complimentary service in a new sector that would see the company through the recession. The online interior design store, Occa-Home launched in August 2010.
Series A & B
Starting a new business in a recession was tough, however, the team soon discovered that they were now operating in what was the fastest-growing sector online and were excited by the significant opportunities that created for the business. Within the first two years, they brought in £500k in investment to fund continued growth. During 2013 they successfully raised £1.4m in Series A investment and a further £1.3m Series B investment in 2014, attracting retail industry stalwarts, including Sir Terry Leahy, as shareholders and non-execs.
As Occa-Home continued to attract many new customers and suppliers, the business grew rapidly with turnover doubling year on year. Recognised as groundbreaking, in 2013, Occa-Home was a nominated for the Best Pure-Play Etailer at the International Paypal Etail awards. In 2014 it won the Best Use of Ecommerce in the UK Market at the Ecommerce Scotland Awards along with the 2014 SheerLuxe Online Shopping Award. The same year Kate was a finalist at the EY Scotland Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.
In 2014 Occa-Home embarked on a re-brand to deliver a differentiated, digital, design platform. Houseology.com was unveiled in June 2015. Selling over 200 brands and 20,000 home furnishings products globally online, the new site also delivered a groundbreaking platform full of inspirational design news, information, and tools. At the same time, led by Kate’s husband Jim, the Trade at Houseology division launched. It was the first online service in the UK dedicated to understanding and resolving the needs of independent interior designers.
Occa Design Studio
With over 30,000 customers in over 90 countries, by 2016 Kate and her teams had taken Occa-Home & Houseology from a start-up with no revenue to a business valued at £9m six years later. In 2016 at the GP Bullhound Northern Tech Awards, Houseology was named the 9th Fastest-Growing Technology Company in the North. As the Board deliberated on the future direction of the business at that point, Kate left Houseology to re-focus on her passion for interior design and re-established Occa Design Studio as an independent design firm in November 2016.
With the design studio firmly re-established, July 2018 saw the launch of Occa Procurement. Leveraging her extensive knowledge of the industry to bring together the best people; supply chain; technology and logistics, Kate’s vision was to create an FF&E and OS&E procurement division like no other. Led by Director of Procurement, Karen Moon, the team have already worked on some of the finest luxury homes in the UK, Europe, and South East Asia, while also delivering five-star hotels, private rental developments, and branded hospitality projects.
Today Occa is a growing multidisciplinary design & procurement firm, a talented and collaborative team focussed on delivering amazing projects for amazing clients around the world.
With a rich heritage in the industry and all the knowledge that brings, we’re also a dynamic and innovative collective, daring to disrupt and challenge the status quo to deliver more for our clients.