The Mother-Daughter Duo Behind Dormify Are Expanding Into Millennial Apartments
When Amanda Zuckerman and her mother Karen Zuckerman were shopping for Amanda’s freshman dorm room, they had a hard time piecing together stylish décor. The duo became frustrated going store to store and realized there wasn’t a destination for stylish dorm room shopping. In 2012 the mother-daughter team launched Dormify, a website offering style-minded college students an easier way to decorate their new spaces.
“When my mom and I were shopping for my freshman dorm room we realized first-hand that creating a space of your own, your first home-away-from-home, was a big deal,” Amanda Zuckerman said. “The problem, though, was that it was not easy to do so. We had a ton of questions, like what exactly do I need for my dorm room? Where can I find it? What is the best way to maximize the small space? Can I decorate my dorm room in a way that is comfortable for me but affordable?”
The Zuckermans found that at the time there was little to no guidance in the dorm décor space, and there was no destination for content or commerce focusing on dorm room shopping and organization.
“Once we finally figured out that my dorm, and most dorms, had rare sized beds that required Twin Extra Long bedding, it was almost impossible to find,” Amanda Zuckerman said. “Another issue was that the product offerings that we did come across in this size were not sophisticated or representative of my personal style.”
When the duo noticed that Amanda’s peers were running into the same obstacles, they realized there was a big opportunity and the idea for Dormify was born.
“With the Dorm Furnishings market being a $6.05B industry, we realized there was a big opportunity,” Zuckerman said. “After our personal experience with decorating our dorm room, we were able to figure out the exact pain-points in the process. While I had not yet had experience launching a brand or manufacturing a line of home decor, I knew exactly what college girls needed and wanted, and I had access to an entire focus group, all of my friends, who were going through the exact same thing as me. My mom, President and Chief Creative Officer of HZDG, a creative agency, had plenty of experience in launching brands for her clients. So together, we got to work in bringing our idea to market.”
The duo bootstrapped and after proof of concept, they received a seed round of investment from friends and family.
“A few years back in August, we saw that Instagram was flooded with photos from move-in week from college campuses across the country,” Amanda Zuckerman said. “Students were showing off their newly decorated dorm rooms, and an overwhelming amount of photos were filled with Dormify products!”
But even with year-over-year growth, launching Dormify hasn’t been without it’s challenges for the Zuckermans.
“Upon launch, we established Dormify’s mission would be to offer high quality yet affordable, stylish and sophisticated products for styling small space,” Zuckerman said. “We decided early on, that in order to do so, we were wanted to design and manufacture our own collection, which served as a big undertaking and challenge. A lot of our resources, in regards to time and money, were spent on this initiative in order to do it right. While Dormify is a multi-brand commerce experience, to this day, the Dormify branded products yield the highest revenue, margins, and are one of our biggest points of differentiation.”
“Another big challenge with our ecommerce business was to achieve the level of service that we want our customers to experience. We wanted to surpass the level of service they would get from a brick-and-mortar shopping experience, but to do this online would take some creativity. This challenge helped establish and shape our online customer experience. Today we offer our customers innovative Design Services including our Design Plan Application, a live chat feature, and offer customer service and design consultations through unique channels like texting and social media.”
The mother-daughter duo believe their relationship is integral to their success with Dormify and are fortunate to be working together.
“Our core customers are the incoming college freshman shopping for their dorm room, plus the parents who are typically the ones paying for it,” Amanda Zuckerman said. “So to have the perspective of both myself, the student, and my Mom, the parent has been incredibly beneficial to our business. We know our customers because we are our customers. Plus, it is so cool getting to work with my mom!”
Dormify plans to continue to expand their market share, and has recently launched new categories to their ecommerce platform.
“Although we remain committed to our beginnings, we are responding to the opportunities in the marketplace including serving the college ‘guy’ market and graduating with our customers into their first apartment,” Amanda Zuckerman said. “We are excited that our 2016 collection, which just launched in April, has products for both apartment dwellers and for college guys. Dormify wants to be know as the go to resource for small space styling for the millennial market.”
All images courtesy of Dormify