They had heard the advice to not go into business with friends, but the four founders of AllDorm attribute their survival and success to their close relationships with each other and a growing number of universities, starting with Santa Clara.
Ryan Garman’s idea as an SCU sophomore was to provide an easier way for students to get everything that they needed and wanted into their dorm rooms. Current and college-bound students would be able to go to one Web site and purchase bed sheets, microwaves, desk lamps, posters, even laundry service. Across the hall on the third floor of the Dunne residence hall, he convinced Chad Arimura ’02 and Ivan Dwyer ’02 to come on board and register the name, AllDorm.com, as a Web site.
But starting a company takes more than just an idea or a name. “I had no idea how to manage a Web site,” Garman says. Luckily, all the founders of AllDorm had knowledge in different areas. Dwyer and Arimura knew about computers, Garman had business experience, and down the hall, Kevon Saber ’02 contributed his financial and general business knowledge. The four men had their first business meetings in their floor lounge in Dunne.
Three years later, AllDorm operates about a mile from SCU with Garman as chief executive officer, Arimura as chief technology officer, Dwyer as chief database architect, and Saber as president and chief financial officer.
But titles aren’t too important at AllDorm. The guys call each other teammates, and they say the best decisions are made when everyone comes together. All but a few of their 27 employees are SCU alumni, and the company recruits student interns from SCU to keep their market in mind. It also helps that the employees range in age from 19 to 28.
AllDorm sells to students and universities. By partnering with large universities, the company was able to avoid the problems that so many other industries suffered in the economic bust. “We’re selling a group of products to groups of people, and building long-term relationships with customers,” says Saber. “It was hard to get going at first with other universities, but they saw that Santa Clara trusted us [to form a partnership], and they followed.” After their recent expansion to many East Coast universities, AllDorm is partnered with more than 250 schools.
With the schools as their customers, the executives at AllDorm are careful of the image they put forth. They do not sell candles or other things not endorsed by residence halls, including adult material. “We didn’t want to jeopardize our integrity for a couple of bucks,” says Garman. This includes turning down an interview with Playboy magazine. “We forfeited tons of exposure and a marketer’s dream to avoid moral compromise,” says Saber.
The founders of AllDorm say they appreciate SCU’s impact on their company, from the employees it has provided to the education it gave them. “Santa Clara breeds leadership,” says Dwyer.
-Erin Ryan ’03