DormStormer: Changing the Way College Students Shop
A Truly Exclusive Sale-site for College Students that Offers a Top Brand Every 48 Hours at 30-70% off
Remember freshman college orientation when you stepped onto campus feeling like you had the world at your fingertips? You were slightly afraid of what was to come, but the excitement overrode that unpleasant emotion….that is until you looked around and noticed the clothing you wore made you stick out like a sore thumb. How were you supposed to know that the short-sleeved, plaid shirt your mom bought you was the biggest fashion faux pas north of the Mason-Dixon? Usually you would have to deal with it through the first couple of weeks hoping no one noticed the rest of your disastrous wardrobe until you knew the area well enough to get to a mall. But what if there was no mall? What if by week two you had to live, eat and breathe Advanced Calculus to even have a shot of getting a C and had no time to even think about sleeping let alone your sense of style?
This was the exact scenario Adam Gausepohl (CEO) and Bryant Laitipaya (CLO) played out in their minds two years ago in an Entrepreneurship class at The Marshall School of Business – University of Southern California. Being college students themselves at the time, they knew how important it was to be “stylish”, but how time-consuming and expensive it was to keep up with the latest trends. They wanted to come up with a platform where college students could access top brands at low prices right on their campus. They decided to take their idea outside of the classroom and ran an offline sales event at USC before spring break to gauge their peer’s response. With brands like Tyler Rose, RVCA and Rip Curl onboard they were able to profit over $5,000. They were so happy with the turn-out that they raised seed funding from four prominent investors and took their concept to the web about a year later based out of California.
They now call it DormStormer.com. It is an exclusive sale-site run by college students, exclusively for college students. Though it is free, in order to become a member you need to have an e-mail address with an .edu. Every 48 hours a new brand is featured for men and women with a curated selection of merchandise at 30% to 70% off. It features not only apparel, but also handbags, shoes, bicycles and other novelties preferred by the college demographic. They have featured brands such as American Apparel, BB Dakota, Urban Expressions, Chaser, Seychelles, Penny Skateboards, etc. These brands love working with DormStormer not only because of the spotlight they get for being the only brand featured for two days, but because the merchandise is exclusively viewed by college students. In fact, some brands have agreed to work with DormStormer and no other sale-site for that reason alone. Of course, these brands also love this new site because it is solely reaching out to such a young, impressionable demographic. What better way to build brand loyalty than to get to them as customers while they are young?
During a six-week beta test this past April, DormStormer was able to generate over 10,000 members by use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. They also built a force of over 150 college brand managers at about 50 universities and colleges across the United States. Not only are college students their customers, but they are also a tremendous driving force behind the company’s marketing effort. These socially-involved students go out each week to add members and spread the word about DormStormer around campus helping to drive the 31% email-open-rate (industry average is 13%) and the 11% click-through-rate (industry average is 3%). Due to the great results the beta test generated, DormStormer decided to spend this past summer on hiatus until the official launch at the end of October when college students are settled onto campus.
Over the past couple of months Matt Masterson (UCLA ’12), Director of Sales & Brand Relations, has been communicating with top brands for the fall launch at showrooms in Los Angeles and multiple trade shows such as Magic and ENK. Director of Member Acquisition, Andrew Mellen (USC ’12), and Baruch undergrad Akshay Singh have spent the last couple of months communicating with the current brand managers who are set to return in the fall as well as reaching out to additional students to join the force. Columbia student Chase Gausepohl (CFO), along with the rest of the team, dedicated his efforts this summer to the fundraising for DormStormer by way of Angel and Seed Investors.
Co-Founder & CEO, Adam Gausepohl with Director of Sales & Brand Relations, Matt Masterson (right)
With the funding DormStormer is looking to make the shopping experience better with more brands, more selection and new features such as a “social shopping” Facebook integration, linked accounts, overlapping sales and “The Pulse”. While the “social shopping” would take advantage of vast social networks and expand DormStormer’s reach on Facebook, the linked accounts would allow members to invite up to 5 non-.edu members such as a parent who have a greater disposable income without losing the exclusivity. Overlapping sales would provide more sales to shop from, however still focus on one brand at a time to keep the website simple and clutter-free. “The Pulse” would be editorial content that focuses around fashion and entertainment while doing cross-promotions with bloggers, media and other websites to help with public relations efforts. In fact, DormStormer has already partnered with Universal Music Group.
I can honestly say that the team at DormStormer is a great group of young professionals who truly believe in the concept they are delivering and will stop at nothing to make it the “hottest” thing on college campuses across our country. Now, I could be biased in saying this considering I have worked for DormStormer since April (which is how I scored this insider information) alongside Matt Masterson in the Buying efforts, however I’ll wager that this is just the beginning for this amazing company.
By Deanna DeChirico