Sam Hanson `11 and Hartley Brody `12 are the Co-Founders of Rompbomp, an online social network designed for social shopping and fashion discovery: rompbomp.com
1. What is Rompbomp?
[Sam]: Think Twitter and Pandora for fashion. It’s an online social wardrobe that lets users shop with, through, and for their friends.
[Hartley]: You’ll never shop for clothes the same way again.
2. Weren’t you guys “Drobe” before? Why the name change?
[Sam]: It turns out we’re not the first people to abbreviate the word “wardrobe” on the internet.
[Hartley]: As fun as being sued sounds, we’re sticking with our lawyer’s advice on this one.
3. What was your inspiration to start Rompbomp?
[Sam]: I spent last summer working in Los Angeles, where I was constantly ridiculed for my distinctly New England look. Until then I had never considered the way I dressed to be an important part of my identity, and as I adjusted my wardrobe to fit LA, I began thinking about the way we make our fashion decisions and how dependent our choices are on our friends and our environment. I looked at what other people were wearing and if I liked something I’d either ask what it is or find it myself. So the sharing of fashion ideas between friends already happens, Rompbomp just makes the exchange of information easier by putting it online in one collective social wardrobe.
[Hartley]: Sam and I have lived in the same dorm, on the same floor all year but didn’t know each other until he reached out with the idea in February. When he first pitched it to me, the idea was so grand that I was a bit skeptical at first -- how could two kids change the way the world shopped online? But it had so much potential and Sam had such a strong vision for the site that I couldn’t say no. It all just kinda clicked very quickly and we haven’t looked back.
4. Have you always been interested in fashion?
[Sam]: Until my summer in LA, I never thought the word “fashion” applied to me. I just dressed the way I saw others dressing at the New England boarding school and college I went to. What happened in LA was that for the first time I became conscious of having a particular “style” or “look,” which more than anything revealed to me that we’re all interested in fashion insofar as we all make choices about what we wear. For some people that means reading fashion magazines and following designers, and for others it just means not tying the laces on their Timberland boots.
[Hartley]: You don’t have to be a fashionista to use Rompbomp. The best part -- I think -- is that we’re not editorializing or trying to tell people what’s cool, like most fashion resources do. Instead, we’re building a platform to let people exchange their own fashion ideas. If Rompbomp were just Sam and I telling you guys what to wear it’d be the worst site ever.
5. What are your hopes for Rompbomp?
[Sam]: We hope that Rompbomp can improve the online shopping experience, and in particular make it more social. Hartley and I have spent a lot of time talking to people about the way they shop, and what we’ve heard again and again is that shopping has fundamentally changed; we all used to pile in the car with our friends and go to the mall together, but nowadays more and more of us are shopping and browsing alone behind our computers. Rompbomp lets us enjoy the benefits of both experiences – the convenience of online shopping and the social element of going to the mall with your friends.
[Hartley]: I’d love to be a part of something that fundamentally changes the way people shop. It’s something we all do, and right now, online shopping sucks. If our hypothesis is correct -- that people want more social information when they’re shopping -- then we have the chance to change the way millions of people perform a mundane task. That’d be pretty dope.
6. What has the process been like so far?
[Hartley]: It’s been a lot of fun working with girls who are really into fashion. Everyone has been excited about the idea and all of the feedback has been awesome. People don’t realize it but we take every little comment into consideration as we’re designing the experience. There’ve been times when someone has made an off-hand comment about the site where we’ve gone back and spent hours talking about that and working on making it better. Even as we’re explaining the site to people, we’re looking for the features that really make their face light up, and which ones they’re kinda “meh” on. Every interaction helps us figure out what people want so we can make the experience awesome.
[Sam]: It’s been a blast. Between shuttling to Boston for MassChallenge events, meeting with Bowdoin alums in the tech start-up world and in venture capital, and reaching out to fashion-minded students and entrepreneurs on campus, we’ve met more cool people in the last three months than we ever would have otherwise. It’s also been exciting to see people getting involved on social media, and we’re really grateful for the Bowdoin community for the positive response to our Facebook –www.facebook.com/thesocialwardrobe- and our Twitter @Rompbomp and for all the MassChallenge votes we’ve received athttp://masschallenge.org/profile/drobe.
6. What is your target audience?
[Hartley]: Girls who read hercampus.com
[Sam]: Rompbomp is built for students in college and high school, but what’s cool about Rompbomp is that it’s valuable to people for different reasons. Some people want to use it to follow other people’s fashion, some people want to use to share their own fashion, some want to benefit from the preference-generated recommendations, and some just want to see someone’s wishlist so they can know exactly which shoes to buy them for their birthday. That said – Rompbomp is going to start privately at Bowdoin and only expand through user-to-user invitation so that we can build an online community of users we know and trust.
7. Are there ways for Bowdoin students to get involved?
[Hartley]: When the site launches, Bowdoin students will be the first with access, and will be instrumental in helping us iron out any kinks. I wanna be able to walk back from class and have someone stop me on the quad with an idea or feature suggestion. The Bowdoin community has been -- and will hopefully continue to be -- an excellent resource for that. Bowdoin students will also play a huge role in building the community. They’ll be able to invite their friends at other schools with custom invite links and have a huge influence over what groups of people have access to the site.
[Sam]: We have entered Rompbomp in the 2012 MassChallenge start-up accelerator (started by Bowdoin `95 alum John Hawthorne) and would love your votes to help us get in:http://masschallenge.org/profile/drobe(still listed as Drobe). We’re also using students to give us feedback on the site, so email us to be in a user test session at email@example.com, sign up on rompbomp.com, or just stop us around campus and tell us what you think. Rompbomp is a site designed for Bowdoin students, so the more Bowdoin students we have involved in its creation, the better it will be.