What can you do with the limited space of a dorm room, or shared living space while you’re in college? Well unless you’re an interior designer for Ikea you may think your options are limited. That’s not the case thanks to the mother and daughter team of Karen Zuckerman (mom) and Amanda Zuckerman (daughter).
The Zuckerman’s have created a new Washington DC startup called Dormify that looks to serve those college age students with ideas, and tools to help transform their living space for their four years of college life. Everything from crafty ideas, to room furnishings, trinkets and even college flair can be found on the Dormify site.
Dormify gives college students everywhere the freedom to stop combing the aisles of Ikea and Target in hopes to find some idea that all the other students aren’t using.
Towels, pillows, home furnishings even stylish school supplies and sweets can be found on the Dormify website.
As you can imagine Dormify came about when Karen was helping Amanda move into her first dorm room at Washington University in St. Louis. Both Zuckerman women have been known for their creativity throughout their lives and the neon colored towels, matching trash cans, rug mats and computer chairs on sale at Target weren’t going to do the trick.
After shopping for Amanda’s dorm room at a variety of boutique shops in downtown St. Louis, a look Amanda could live with was born. The Zuckerman women realized that there is no centralized place to build looks like this, so they did what any entrepreneurs would do and built it themselves.
We got a chance to talk with Dormify’s employee #1, Nicole Gardner, who tells us more about Dormify, below:
Dormify is an online-only content and commerce brand focused on arming college students with the tools to create a space that is uniquely their own while at school and beyond. Our online boutique features a curated selection of stylish dorm and apartment furnishings, licensed sorority gear, and easy-to-ship gift packages, making it easy to find just the stylish pieces you need at any stage of college (and post-grad) life, in one place. Our complementary blog covers all things related to college style, with a focus on interior design. What makes it better? All the content is generated by the most fashionable of high school and college students, our Style Advisors, who use the experience for resume-building, networking, honing social media, writing, marketing, and creative skills, and also just for fun.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
The cofounders are a mother-daughter duo. Karen Zuckerman, is the owner and President of an established integrated creative agency, HZDG, and her daughter Amanda is now a senior studying design at Washington University in St. Louis. The first two founding employees (myself included) had previously worked at the agency and helped launch Dormify on the side before working full-time on the venture.
Where are you based?
Our main office is in Rockville, MD, right outside of Washington, D.C., but we also have space in our sister company HZDG’s Manhattan office as well.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
It’s definitely up-and-coming in the DC/Baltimore region—in a good way. People in start-ups are super energetic, and since DC is not previously known as a start-up hub, everyone is incredibly supportive and excited to help others out here. Having accessibility to NYC is also great for us, as there are even more opportunities and events there to attend when we can.
How did you come up with the idea for Dormify?
The company was inspired by a not-so-typical shopping trip between Karen Zuckerman and her daughter, Amanda Zuckerman, in the summer of 2009. Amanda was starting her freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis, and as the duo scoured shop after shop for sophisticated and stylish dorm décor, they found the task to be much harder then expected due to the lack of a centralized place to find products that fit their fashionable tastes. Both being creative, they were able to put together an amazing look, but realized that not everyone can do this, as much as they might crave it. From this, they decided to create Dormify to make it easy for style-minded people to find great room collections all in one place, as well as offering guidance and tips for dorm decorating and navigating college life.
What problem does Dormify solve?
Thanks to Dormify, college students can avoid dorm design dilemmas like Karen and Amanda faced. Anyone can turn that boring white room into a comfortable home away from home that has style and personality. We’ve made it all very easy—creating pieces that complement and coordinate with one another and packaged collections that do all the work for you. Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, we offer personalized design assistance to help you find just what you need.
What’s your secret sauce?
We know what people want, because we both listen to and understand our audience and we have learned how to think like them. We basically are them. For us, having a young staff really helps, and things like our Style Advisor and Internship programs lets us work directly with our audience on a regular basis.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
Focusing our time, big ideas, limited budget, and manpower are the hardest obstacle when it comes to growth in all areas. Coming from a creative, branding, marketing and interactive agency, our team was used to constant creative problem solving, but learning how to navigate all the new unknown factors in the business is a very new challenge. Luckily, we’re all very resourceful and determined, so we take each problem as a new area to master!
What’s the first thing you would do for Dormify with a one million dollar investment?
Invest in staff and technology. Our first year was focused on product, getting the basics in place, and testing out ideas. Now that we have proven our concept and built up buzz, we are ready to ramp up the business, which will take more manpower and an investment in better technology. We’re also working on some killer product collections for next year that we know people are going to be obsessed with.
What’s next for Dormify?
Look out for some great improvements to our website and mobile shopping experiences and a new Spring/Summer 2013 collection that is going to blow people away. We are focusing a lot of energy on adding new staff to help us grow our technologies as well as really putting a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our 2013 lines, not just our bedding but also a total relaunch of our sorority collections. We want to be the first place some one goes after getting their college acceptance letters.