While Chris Sammons was a student at the University of Kentucky, he says his mother mailed him care packages filled with food and “other stuff” he wanted every two weeks.
The loving gesture wasn’t exactly convenient or cost-effective, though.
“Because she worked full time, it was really a pain for her to get the items, find a box, and go to FedEx,” he says.
Sammons, now 23, decided there had to be a better way. So he founded a startup, Food2Dorm, out of his mother’s Dublin, Ohio basement.
The company generated buzz among college kids and in May it was beginning to attract investors. Shortly thereafter, a local angel investor came on board and, with a leadership team in place, online grocery store Dormzy.com launched this fall.
Dormzy, which now operates out of a 20,000-square-foot warehouse just south of Columbus, sells non-perishable foods, health and beauty products, and, of course, care packages.
“We have already shipped to over 100 universities, from Maine to California,” he says. (The company projects that 8,000 to 10,000 boxes will be sold this season alone.)
Dormzy’s 800-plus offerings generally are 20 to 40 percent cheaper than items sold at typical groceries, he says, “and you don’t have to deal with the hassle of going to the store.”
That goes for students and parents.
Read our interview with Sammons, Dormzy’s CEO, to learn where he located the business between Mom’s house and the aforementioned warehouse , the “challenge” he now uses to his advantage, and his simple advice for achieving your own success.
Melanie McIntyre: First, a couple questions related to company logistics… How is Dormzy able to sell items at such discounted prices?
Chris Sammons: We buy directly from the manufacturers and through the large grocery supply chains. We have great relationships with all of our vendors and we don’t have the overhead a large grocery store or convenience store may have.
MM: Orders ship via FedEx Ground, most customers receive their orders the next business day, and shipping is free for orders that cost more than $49, correct?
CS: Yes, this is correct. We reach 80 percent of the U.S. population in two business days via FedEx ground. Our one-day shipping area is Ohio, Northern Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania, Southern Michigan, Indiana, parts of West Virginia and Chicago, Illinois.
MM: Now, the usual Metropreneur questions… When you decided to launch Dormzy, what were some of the first steps you took?
CS: I did a lot research and planning. I wanted to see who had tried this before and if they were successful or unsuccessful, what were the reasons. I also found that there wasn’t a company that focused on just college students and young professionals, and shipped nationwide. The biggest challenge was our shipping costs. I wanted to offer free shipping and we were able to do that with FedEx.
MM: Did you have any local advisers, role models or mentors that you relied on for advice and input?
CS: Yes, my investor has been a close advisor and mentor to me since the beginning. I had help from people in the very beginning. Our first office was located in Dublin −after moving out of my mom’s basement− in the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center. They gave me the opportunity to come in and provided me an office, and I met a lot of great people.
MM: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
CS: I have had numerous challenges. I think challenges are just part of starting a business. You have to be able to learn from your mistakes and overcome your challenges each and every day. I think in the beginning, it was funding. Our business is very capital intensive and needed money to grow. After the business was funded, things began to move faster and more efficiently. Another challenge in the beginning was my age. I felt sometimes people didn’t take me very serious. This is something that has changed and I now use to my advantage.
MM: What advice do you have for someone thinking of starting their own business?
CS: The best advice I can give is never give up. I always had the dream of owning my own business. After spending a year working for a large corporation, I knew it wasn’t for me and I followed my dream. Don’t ever let anyone get you down or get in your way. Your success is within yourself and you can never give up or let go of a dream.
To learn more about Dormzy, visit Dormzy.com.