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Madeline Fraser

Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder, Homee

Los Angeles, CA

Leaning in together, we learned to continue to have each other's backs, rather than breaking our backs on our journey with a business we love.

It was 2013, our senior year at George Washington University, and I was running a business out of dorm rooms and apartments with my two best friends. We were all Interior Design & Architecture majors. We met in a drafting class and hit it off. Beatrice Fischel-Bock, Lizzie Grover, and I became fast friends, and then business partners.

As all of our friends started moving into their first apartments, they asked for our help with design. But we weren't only designing, we were assembling, and installing, breaking our backs, almost killing each other with tools, and barely making a profit.

This was our first Lean In moment. We knew there was a huge opportunity to market to millennials who are accustomed to buying everything virtually (our friends were proving it). Millennials tend to live lives as impermanent as the apps they download and delete on the daily. They were hungry for interior design, but they wanted it fast, easy, and affordable. Being big believers in the power of a beautiful space, we wanted to be the women to provide killer interior design to the 99 percent. It was time for us to go big, or stop literally breaking our backs trying.

Zoom Interiors was officially born, and we took our design business on the web –– instant gratification for millennials. We ended up on Shark Tank right out of college. We watched Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner pass on us at the ripe old age of 23, even though we thought we were incredibly prepared. Barbara Corcoran invested, and it was very affirming knowing we were onto something big.

We learned a lot from Barbara –– including that you have to work hard and follow your instincts. In time, we realized that we had to learn how to scale, and we had to learn fast if we wanted to survive. It became clear that we would have to part ways with Barbara to do this. She understood that we felt it was what we needed to do to grow our business, but it was still a gut-wrenching decision.

The response to our Shark Tank episode was fantastic. And it led us to our next big Lean In Moment. Sean Rad had seen our Shark Tank episode and reached out to us directly. He had long been wanting to crack the furniture industry. He wanted to help us evolve and go completely mobile, a vision we had always seen clearly, but to do so, we would need to completely rebrand.

This was our next big Lean In moment. Did we give up the branding and original concept of the company we worked so hard to build to partner with Sean? For us, it was a no-brainer. There was never really any ego with the three of us as business partners (maybe it comes with the territory of being women and best friends), but we always had the same end goal –– to see our business succeed.

We partnered with Sean Rad, added a few amazing men, Ben Broca & Ethan Gromet as Co-Founders and we just raised our Series A officially as Homee-- a free mobile design app that makes interior design as easy as texting with a friend.

The idea of going completely mobile was so exciting to us. If re-branding meant giving people the power to have an interior designer in your pocket, we were all in. With our re-branding, we now felt the energy, excitement and possibility to disrupt the furniture and interior design industry by transitioning from a web-based business to a mobile app.

While we're now operating on a much larger scale, our core values remain the same: we want everyone to have easy access to interior design, because we all deserve a beautiful space. Leaning in together, we learned to continue to have each other's backs, rather than breaking our backs on our journey with a business we love.