Entrepreneurial Fordham Roommates Cash in on Dorm Lifestyle

By Jeanmarie Evelly on November 13, 2012 7:01am 

FORDHAM — They saw a business opportunity in a borrowed air mattress.

Two enterprising sophomores at Fordham University in the Bronx are capitalizing on the college lifestyle with their own on-campus business, renting out dorm-friendly items to fellow students for a nominal fee.

Alex Bourland and Ross Garlick, roommates and Fordham business undergrads, run FURI Rental, where they loan Swiffer wet jets, air mattresses and laser light projectors to fellow students who don’t have room to stash the goods in their own cramped dorms.

“Whether you are raving or behaving, FURI Rental has you covered,” reads the company’s website, which also includes an introductory YouTube video "for those who can't be bothered reading."

Each item they offer is geared toward students looking to entertain weekend visitors — a laser light for the dorm party, an air mattress for friends to crash on, then a Swiffer to clean up the room the morning after.

“We’re kind of marketing it as the perfect ‘guest’ experience,” Garlick, 20, said.

FURI, pronounced “fury," was originally dubbed Fordham University Rental Initiative, but they shortened the name, saying they didn’t want to limit their plan to just one school.

Customers can get any rental item for up to three days in exchange for $4 or $5 by e-mailing FURIrental@gmail.com. Bourland and Garlick respond to the requests via text message, then personally deliver the goods. They even blow up the air mattresses free of charge.

“We just want the whole process to be seamless,” Bourland, 19, said.

The venture started up during their freshman year. Bourland, originally from New Jersey, had high school friends who lived a mere bus ride away and would often come visit on weekends. With nowhere for them to sleep, they kept borrowing an air mattress from their only friend who happened to have one.

“By the third or fourth time, we kind of felt bad, and she was like, 'Get your own air mattress,'” Garlick recalled.

The scenario gave the two aspiring entrepreneurs an idea — start a business that provides items most college students need, but don’t often have on hand.

“You don’t want to throw your best friends on the hard, linoleum floors of your tiny dorm,” Bourland said. “We looked at that and we saw a business opportunity.”

Soon, the pair was renting out an array of goods in exchange for a few bucks — vacuums, DVD players, tea kettles, umbrellas and even irons and ironing boards for students who needed to look sharp for an internship interview.

They’ve since refined their product line.

“An air mattress — it’s something that everyone uses on a semi-regular basis,” said Garlick,  who came to Fordham from Manchester, England. “It’s quite bulky, so people don’t want it cluttering up their room, their small dorms.”

KC Schmitz, a 19-year-old Fordham sophomore, says she’s rented two air mattresses and a Swiffer from FURI.

“That’s the kind of thing you only need every few weeks, once a month or something,” she said. “It’s nice not having to keep it in your own closet.”

Garlick and Bourland are both students at Fordham University’s Entrepreneurship Program, which recently partnered with the city’s Department of Small Business Services to launch a business incubator on Fordham Road, which will provide office space and mentorship resources for students looking to launch their own startups.

The roommates are also both part of the selective Compass Fellowship, a student-run, international entrepreneurship program that helps college freshman get their business ideas off the ground.

“There’s no better time to start a business than in college,” Garlick said. “Because then it’s kind of okay to fail.”

FURI has had 46 customers so far this semester. Garlick and Bourland hope to expand their reach this year, promoting their services on Facebook and Twitter. They have arrangements with students in other housing halls (“friends of FURI”) who’ve agreed to store some of their inventory, and just started renting items to students at Fordham's Lincoln Center Campus in Manhattan.

In their own dorm, they’re currently stashing nine air mattresses.

“We’re lucky,” Bourland said. “We lucked out with a big room this year.”

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