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Iranian-Italian Couple in California Launches Online Furniture Company

By Grace Nasri, Iran Times

An Iranian-Italian couple living in northern California has recently launched an online furniture company called SOBU. Alessandro and Laleh Latini, a married couple living in Alameda, in January launched their Internet-based furniture company SOBU, named after their children Sofia and Bruno.

"We're crossing our fingers that we keep the momentum up," Laleh said.

Laleh was born in Tehran, Iran, and moved with her family to San Francisco during Iran’s 1979 revolution, when she was just 8-years-old. She told the Iran Times that she has not been back to her native Iran since.

“I have not been back to Iran since I moved to the states as a young girl, although both my husband and I are so interested in visiting the country someday,” Laleh said, adding, “My grandmother who was living in Iran just passed away and so I only have a few other relatives in the country now.”

Alessandro was born in Rome, Italy, and moved with his family to Sardinia, Germany, France and Brazil, before finally settling in California’s Bay Area.

The two met as students at Redwood High School in Larkspur, where they became friends. After graduating, Laleh and Alessandro went their separate ways. Laleh went to UC Davis to study architecture; she then switched her field of study to design with an emphasis in film and photography. After graduating, Laleh began a career as a full-time graphic designer. Alessandro went to UC Berkeley, where he studied architecture. While in school, Alessandro discovered his love for furniture in a woodworking class. He decided to pursue his passion for building by moving to New York to make custom-designed furniture with a friend.

"We were trying to decide what we wanted to do with our lives," Alessandro told the Contra Costa Times.

While in New York, he began working at a construction company with his brother. The company was headquartered in San Francisco and, after about two years in New York, Alessandro decided to move back to the Bay Area, where he reconnected with his high school friend.

After moving back, Alessandro spotted Laleh riding around the hills of San Francisco on a Vespa. He told the Contra Costa Times that he left a note on Laleh’s scooter, saying that they should meet up later. One thing led to another, and the two began dating. They married in 2003 and now are the proud parents of Sofia, 6, and Bruno, 3.

Laleh began freelancing, but soon came to the realization that the work didn’t give her the creative satisfaction she was looking for. "The creative outlet wasn't there," she said. "I was yearning to not have a client."

The couple had long discussed going into business together, but when their son Bruno was born, they had to temporarily put aside those plans. "Once Bruno got older, it became more feasible," she told the Contra Costa Times.

Initially, they considered opening a bricks and mortar store, but then came to the conclusion that an online store would pose less of a risk. "We're trying to be very cautious about it," Alessandro said. "So far, it's been a small financial investment."

At SOBU, Laleh takes photos of the products and designs and manages the website, while Alessandro designs the furniture. Though the store is still new and they have yet to make a sale, the couple is optimistic.

The Iran Times asked the Latini’s about SOBU and whether or not it was their full-time focus. While Laleh is currently focused on the new company full time, her husband Alessandro continues to work full time designing furniture.

“SOBU is my full-time job right now,” Lalah told the Iran Times. “I stopped doing my freelance graphic design work for clients a few months back when we really got more serious about starting our own company. But I am also mom to two young kids, one of whom goes to preschool two days a week and is with me the rest of the week; the other is in first grade. So, I am juggling both our new business and my duties as a mom. It's a challenge, but I am loving both roles,” Laleh said, adding, “My husband, Alessandro, is working full-time as a furniture designer for a company he has been with for over 10 years. After we put our kids to bed at night is when we sit down and go over all things related to SOBU and touch base about the business.”

When asked about their goals for their budding company, Laleh told the Iran Times, “We hope to continue adding interesting and elegant products to our assortment [of products for sale]. In addition to furniture, we may also add art or pieces which we collaborate with other designers. We hope to grow, yes, but only at a manageable pace where we are enjoying the work and still have plenty of time and energy for our kids,” Laleh explained.

Alessandro seemed to share the same sentiment that their main goal for starting the company wasn’t simply to get rich. "We're not looking to be millionaires," he said, "Laleh reminds me that we're doing this to have fun."

Visit SOBU at:

About: Grace Nasri is the Assistant Editor at Iran Times International, a Huffington Post blogger and an Editor at the comparison engine

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