Aggie pioneers one-stop dorm shop
Former student finds entrepreneurial risks can reap rewards
Published: Sunday, August 25, 2013
Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013 23:08
One of the first memories Shanil Wazirali, Class of 2012, hasof Texas A&M is the memory of sweating while driving back and forth to stores with his parents, trying to get all of his dorm room supplies together.
When he started comparing notes with his friend, Sagar Hemani, who was attending Missouri University at the time, and he found out Hemani was experiencing similar struggles, the two freshmen began to hatch out a business plan.
Five years later, Wazirali and Hemani are co-founders of Dorm It Up, an online business that allows customers to personalize their dorm supplies and purchase them all at once.
Wazirali said the main motivation in founding the company was a feeling of being cheated out of time and money by local marketing.
“We wish that there was someone who had guided us to what we actually do need, because when I went to all of these local stores, I bought things that were not really fit for the dorm,” Wazirali said. “The way they marketed it, the things were all dorm room supplies, but when I put it in my dorm room, it didn’t actually fit.”
Wazirali said he got his first taste of actual entrepreneurship at A&M when he came up with the idea to sell Aggie-themed wristbands with the phrase, “Hump it, keep the spirit alive,” as a means of raising money for his a cappella group, Swaram A Cappella.
During his wristband venture, Wazirali was able to sell more than 2,000 wristbands.
“I was always an entrepreneur at heart, but I never got real life experience,” Wazirali said. “When I created the ‘Hump it’ bands, it was a craze on campus. The first time we sold them, we sold out. I had never done anything like that before, and to know that everyone on campus, even the stores, wanted to buy my bands, it gave me a lot of confidence. ”
Hemani and Wazirali said, regardless of that was going on in their lives, they had the Dorm It Up business model on their mind during their years in school. Hemani said they were able to gather information on student opinion at their respective universities by passing out surveys, which asked students about their dorm room color preferences, brand names and costs.
Wazirali said he has high hopes for the future and encourages students in today’s world to use their time in college to think outside of the box when considering careers.
“I think people are so caught up in ‘I have to go to college and get a corporate job,’” Wazirali said. “People get so caught up in that that they aren’t really following what truly makes them happy. I really recommend that whatever path you choose take, you do something that you know you will be proud of in years to come.”
Both Hemani and Wazirali said that starting up one’s own business is a matter of finding a passion and working hard.
“Freshmen year, this idea came up, and it was just an idea, but what I would say is just don’t ever let something go,” Hemani said. “If you’re going to work for something, make sure you keep working at it. Never let it slip your mind.”
Timothy Todd, senior political science major, said he thinks that while starting a business is more high risk then people usually let on, it is an admirable action to a degree.
“I applaud their initiative to start up a business while still in school,” Todd said. “Regardless of whether or not the business is a success or failure, just the experience of running your own business and all the responsibilities that comes along with that will give one a valuable business experience for down the road.”
Despite an emphasis on hard work, Wazirali said that the newness of a company can scare people off, and as a consequence the hardest part of the new business has been getting name recognition.
“It’s hard to convince people about any new idea,” Wazirali said. “No one is used to any changes, so when someone creates a company that eliminates you from going to stores and saves you money, people always question ‘Is this real?’”
Wazirali said he is excited to see purchases from College Station and hopes to further establish a presence with an exclusive partnership with A&M, the place where is all began.