Phantila Phataraprasit, Sabai Design: Building the Future of Sustainable Furniture

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Pursuing a life as an entrepreneur is a major leap for some who follow the path. But for Phantila Phataraprasit, problem-solving and founding new ideas were familiar concepts.

Growing up in Thailand, Phataraprasit says she had many examples of entrepreneurship around her, as her mother ran eco-lodges and her parents co-founded a tea garden. From a young age, she also fostered a love for nature and a strong sense of civic responsibility.

“Being a part of my generation, learning about the impact of climate change, pollution, and waste really resonated with me,” she said. “When I was in college, I was starting to be more thoughtful about my choices and how they impacted the environment and people, whether that meant eating less meat or buying more secondhand clothing. When it came to sustainable furniture, that was something that was missing for me.”

It was out of that gap that Sabai Design was born while Phataraprasit was a student at NYU’s School of Law. Co-founded by Phataraprasit and her business partner Caitlin de Lisser-Ellen (Stern '21), the company creates its products with only recycled and natural materials. It also offers a buy-back program that solves the headache of disposal/reselling and an even cheaper line of refurbished furniture.

Sabai Design participated in the Startup Sprint in 2018 before completing the Summer Launchpad in 2020. Phataraprasit also went on to become a member of the Female Founders Fellowship.

This year, Sabai Design raised its seed round with participation by the NYU Innovation Venture Fund and other investors, a decision Phataraprasit says was a “no-brainer” given the company’s long-standing relationship with the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute.

Since graduating from NYU in 2020, Phataraprasit has been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for Retail & Commerce. Looking forward, she aims to make Sabai Design a leader in the movement to address the impact that the furniture industry has on waste, materials, and chemicals. That includes capturing and creating a space where people who are interested in sustainable furniture can actually access it.

“For the business, we want to develop the entire line out so that someone can come to Sabai and outfit their whole home with our products," Phataraprasit said. "As a consumer, it’s exhausting to do research for every single piece of furniture that you buy, so we want to be a trusted sustainable and non-toxic source for building your home. Sometimes living sustainably can be costly and out of reach for a lot of people, so we’re bridging that gap.”