Erik Rueda Design Lab


“Managing a group of 156 soldiers during a year-long deployment in the Middle East was, in a way, a crash course in running a mid-sized business. You deal with all the operations, HR, payroll, and logistic challenges that one finds in the commercial sphere.”

As a child, Erik Rueda always enjoyed helping his father with carpentry projects, building things from scratch, and working with his hands. That creative impulse led him to enroll in the architecture program at Northeastern University, enlist in the U.S. Army Reserves as a construction engineer, and eventually launch his own company: Erik Rueda Design Lab (ERDL). ERDL is a custom furniture and millwork design, manufacturing, and consulting company that integrates design with technology to create functional, tech-infused furniture and installation pieces. When Erik decided to launch a co-working space for the Boston design community within ERDL, he received a $50,000 small business loan through LISC’s Impact Lending program.

Based in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a neighborhood just north of Boston, ERDL creates everything from conference tables to wall installations, kitchens to works stations, and signs to media centers. Erik believes in creating pieces that are “locally designed, locally built,” and collaborates with Boston area suppliers and designers whenever possible. After more than four years in business, ERDL decided to increase its commitment to the local design community by creating a co-working space on the second floor of its building. Erik hopes the co-working space will yield both collaboration and revenue.

“Small companies struggle to build a client list,” says Erik. “If you have in-house partners that throw work your way on a consistent basis, you can grow along those lines.”

The affordable financing through Impact Lending will improve the business’ cash flow as Erik finishes renovations on the co-working space. An initiative launched by Northeastern University and LISC, Impact Lending helps small businesses in the greater Boston area access affordable capital.

“As a growing business, cash flow is our number one concern,” explains Erik. “With a small infusion from LISC and another banking partner, we were able to accelerate our project timelines.”

ERDL is the perfect amalgamation of Erik’s strengths and interests, blending his childhood passions, design expertise, and the leadership skills he honed in the military. Erik attributes the discipline he learned in the U.S. Army Reserves as key to his success as an entrepreneur.

“The Army gives an incredible amount of responsibility to young officers,” says Erik. “Managing a group of 156 soldiers during a year-long deployment in the Middle East was, in a way, a crash course in running a mid-sized business. You deal with all the operations, HR, payroll, and logistic challenges that one finds in the commercial sphere.”

Receiving financing through Impact Lending is especially meaningful to Erik, a Husky alum.

“Impact Lending is a great use of Northeastern’s endowment,” says Erik. “It is a real, and nearly immediate, way to drive innovation and growth within the alumni community and Boston.”

Launching the co-working space is just one of the many ways that ERDL plans to grow and lead the design industry in 2017 and beyond. ERDL already produces work for clients across New England, including the travel tech company Kayak and the Boston Celtics, and Erik has plans to serve new clients in Iceland and the United Kingdom.

“We are chasing some of our most interesting and challenging projects yet,” he says. “We’re aiming to open up new revenue streams with some standardized prototypes derived from our best designs to date.” 

With the co-working space, Erik will encourage collaboration, innovation, and creativity in the Boston community and beyond. 

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