From idea to verb

Caroline Ludeman

We all know the feeling.

The aha moment, the light bulb flash of inspiration, the single most amazing idea, one so simple that it makes you wonder how it couldn’t have been done before.

For the unlucky majority of us, another feeling soon follows—that of crushing defeat after the realization that our fantastically brilliant idea already exists as a product or perhaps isn’t so great after all.

Dormify founders Amanda Zuckerman, right, and her mother, Karen.

We all know the feeling.

However, for a select group of individuals, an idea can turn into a tangible invention, and that invention can make history. For George de Mestral, the simple idea of Velcro was nothing short of revolutionary. For Sheldon Chaney, it seemed only common sense to create a faster, more convenient way of eating in the form of a drive-thru. For the creators of SparkNotes, the idea that no book should be read in full entered practically every high school classroom in the nation.

For Wash. U. senior Amanda Zuckerman, the idea for her brainchild Dormify, an online business specializing in dorm-room styling, arrived while she was walking the halls of Bed Bath & Beyond four year ago.

“[My mom and I] couldn’t find anything that was remotely cool,” Zuckerman explained. “Anything we found that was sophisticated or chic was never twin XL. We found this niche in the market that had never been fulfilled, and you know, we said, ‘Why doesn’t this exist?’”

With the help of her mother’s advertising firm, Zuckerman created her freshman year as a simple blog, highlighting dorm products and providing decorative tips from student “style advisors” on how to “dormify” your room. The blog attracted attention in preparation for the launch of the e-commerce retail site in spring 2011.

The style advisors were chosen from a student ambassadors program that began as a network of Zuckerman’s close friends. It soon included friends of friends and eventually, as Zuckerman explained, “expanded very quickly to no one that we knew.”

The program now involves more than 250 students from 100 schools across the nation. These students offer design guidance through writing blog posts, coordinating events or managing the site’s social media through Facebook and Twitter.

The company has since grown to include four full-time employees and a number of interns. The e-commerce site sells a variety of dorm room items ranging from comforter and pillow collections to Freakers (knit koozies) and Greek life paraphernalia. Although the majority of items are female targeted, there are a few items, including the “Call your mother” pillow, directed towards boys. Consultations programs are also available for those who need guidance in creating their ideal dorm spaces.

This line of work suits Zuckerman, who has been passionate about fashion and design her whole life.

“Just as your wardrobe is a form of self-expression, your room is also a very important form of self-expression,” Zuckerman said. “When you are in your hall and you don’t know anyone on your floor, the first thing they see is your room. That tells a lot about a person.”

Zuckerman, a double major in marketing and communication design and an active member of her sorority Pi Beta Phi, admitted that the undertaking was time consuming, especially during her freshman year.

“At first I wasn’t able to be as involved as I maybe should have been,” Zuckerman said. “I was involved in all major decisions, what our branding should be, what the bedding was, but I wasn’t in the whole process at the beginning.”

However, since working full time this summer in Dormify’s New York office, Zuckerman has been involved in the more intricate details of the business, including public relations, outreach and product reviews.

Zuckerman explained that the future goal of Dormify is “maintaining ourselves as a four-season company: Back to school, Greek life and rush, holiday season and graduation. Our biggest challenge is sorting out which ideas are attainable and realistic.”

Although it has only been running for the past few years, Dormify has attracted attention both locally and nationally. Zuckerman has appeared in the New York Times and is involved in a recurring feature in Seventeen magazine online.

Zuckerman offered inspiration to those who wish to run with their dreams.

“Anyone can have an idea but actually pursuing it—it’s really hard. But if you stick with it and are determined to make something of it, you can do it,” Zuckerman assured. “You can make big things.”