My first apartment – like those of many millennials starting out after college – was a terrifying mix of Pinterest board ideas, IKEA constructions, and my parents’ old furniture. As a young graduate, undertaking interior design just seemed hard and expensive.
It’s a common perception that three GW graduates want to change.
Beatrice Fischel-Bock, CCAS BFA ’13, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Grover, CCAS BFA ’13, and Madeline Fraser, CCAS BFA ’14, are the sharp minds behind Homee, a new app that aims to make interior design easy and fun.
“Everyone wants that space that they are dreaming of and they feel like it’s not attainable, but in reality, it is,” says Madeline Fraser. “We’re trying to make the furniture buying and design process very easy.”
After downloading the app, Homee users first take a survey before they are connected with a stylist that prepares a design board based on their interests—all without stepping in the user’s home. The app is free as the company acts as a furniture retailer, and makes money when you purchase products from the site. Currently Homee focuses on designing bedrooms and living rooms, but the owners hope expand to all spaces.
“The people who come to Homee care about and are interested in style, but they’re not interested in interior design, it’s not a word that resonates with them,” says Madeline. “[Homee] is still a really personal experience and a trust does form, it’s just a different way that happens. We’re really reinventing the meaning of interior design and how you actually think of a designer.”
The trio first met in an architecture drafting class in the interior design program at GW. Madeline credits the university for bringing the trio together.
“There’s something to be said about the people you meet at GW as well as the city you get to live in,” says Madeline. “I think you’re surrounded by people from all different walks of life, who have a very inspiring backgrounds and who have interesting goals for where they want to take their life.”
The three women, who all come from different backgrounds, found they shared many common career goals and together launched ZOOM interiors their junior year. After two successful years running the company out of D.C., they found that many of their users were accessing the ZOOM website from their mobile devices. Deciding to invest in an app-based business model, they then pitched their new idea on the show Shark Tank.
Though their episode resulted in no funding from the hosts, luck would have it the CEO of Tinder, Sean Rad, was watching the episode. Intrigued by the idea, he reached out to the trio via Facebook and soon became an investor in Homee, providing support and guidance to the co-founders as they began to develop their app.
Through connections with Sean, Homee quickly secured over $7 million in funding, brought on two other co-founders Ben Broca and Ethan Gromet, and has experienced exponential growth in the one year the company has been in operation. The good fortune has continued.
“What we found is that in the first six months of developing Homee, our growth was spurred by word of mouth. Everyone loved the product and they were all telling their friends and family,” says Madeline.
They attribute much of their success to the ability to take a leap of faith in an idea they believe in. “We’ve always been risk takers from day one,” says Madeline of herself, Fischel-Block, and Grover—a character trait that undoubtedly helped the three women transform their serendipitous meeting in a GW classroom, to flourishing careers. —Kelly Danver