A year ago, Madeline Fraser, Elizabeth Grover and Beatrice Fischel-Bock spent an hour in-studio with five investors on the set of ABC's Shark Tank
. The three entrepreneurs were recent college grads who hailed from all over the country but came to Philadelphia to grow their online interior design consultation company, ZOOM Interiors
They offered up a lively presentation to Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. The trio sought $100,000 for a 20 percent stake in their company. They came out of their pitch with a deal from real estate magnate Corcoran, who offered $100,000 for 33 percent of the business. The episode aired on May 8.
"I never thought they would be so invested in the company," recalls Fraser. "They were very kind and willing to give guidance. It was such a priceless experience to have these five people give their advice."
After five months of due diligence, ZOOM Interiors and Barbara Corcoran parted ways. While Fraser and her business partners sought more of a mentor to guide and shape the business, they felt Corcoran was too busy to give them the personal attention they sought.
"She's such a busy lady," says Fraser. "I think it was a bit much for her to take on at the time. Her staff is really incredible as well. Through the process of due diligence, you're getting a business analysis from such wise people."
ZOOM Interiors was born while Fraser, Grover and Fischel-Bock were studying abroad in London. Meanwhile, their friends were getting first jobs and moving into grown-up apartments -- and emailing to ask for interior design advice. The three design school students were always notably well-dressed and people liked their aesthetic. They answered questions, did some online shopping, and helped those friends transform blank spaces into stylish homes, all through email from thousands of miles away. Turning that process into a company was the next logical step.
Since filming their episode of Shark Tank
, Fraser, Grover and Fischel-Bock have made some adjustments to the business model. They still provide a free 15-minute consultation to each person who fills out their survey. After that, customers can purchase a custom concept board (called a ZoomBoard) to start the design process for $199. If customers like what they see, they can take the next step and receive a detailed shopping list. There are other extras and room bundles available for purchase.
The biggest change to the model might be the elimination of commission on the pieces purchased. This cuts out the greatest risk with traditional interior design: that the designer is urging you to buy certain furniture and décor because they're getting a cut. ZOOM's business model has no hidden fees.
The company also sells furniture and décor through the "Shop" section of their website. The are pieces chosen because they fit the founders' high-style, minimal-effort aesthetic.
Fraser has been in Philadelphia for about a year now, and she's in love with her new city.
"We visited a few times before graduation and fell in love," she enthuses. "This is a really great place for startups."
Writer: Rosella LaFevre
Source: Madeline Fraser, ZOOM Interiors