To make matters worse, Xulin (Tracy) Bao, Zeng’s girlfriend arrived from Beijing and life was not how he wanted it to be.
“I was so depressed, I was struggling for survival,” he said.
They needed an idea - and fast. So Bao set up a corner of the lounge and photographed each piece of furniture, while Zeng created a database and website. And I-furniture was born.
“We couldn’t sell my furniture at home so we had to sell it online,” he said.
It took one long month to make their first sale and eventually they sold all the furniture. Then Bao had to return to Beijing to finish her PhD so Zeng moved to Auckland to set up the business properly.
With years of experience in engineering, problem solving and IT, Zeng was well equipped to start an online business.
Over two years he built iFurniture so when Bao returned after graduating there was a new life and business for her to step into.
In 2009 they opened a physical store and their showroom in Onehunga is no garage. It’s a Tardis (the further you walk in the bigger it gets) with a massive range of imported furniture.
Zeng and Bao now import 200 containers of furniture a year from more than 30 different suppliers from countries including Germany, Austria, Indonesia, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Zeng’s advice for new business owners is not to rush.
“When my friends come here I warn them not to do anything for the first two years,” he said. “Just observe and learn.”
Angela Barnett is a contributing editor at BlueNotes