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Winner Tag

Location: Rockville, MD
Industry: Online retail/lifestyle brand


Nicole Gardner
Years in role: 5
Years at company: 5

OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCIES: Having started Dormify from the ground up, COO Nicole Gardner has built and rebuilt processes and operations countless times to match the company’s growth spurts, pivots and staffing changes. “Being a small team with a lot of ambition and not a lot of resources has meant driving processes that enable [us] to do a lot with little, to move fast across all areas,” says Gardner. Over the course of Dormify’s journey so far, Gardner has revamped performance reviews to focus more on professional development, led changes to a new promotional planning process and restructured Dormify’s content creation strategy. 

STRONG CULTURE: “As a business started by a mother-daughter duo with a small, young team [and] the mission to help students style their small spaces, our culture has always been centered around creative risk-taking,” says Gardner. This past fall, Gardner established Dormify’s core values, mission and vision statement at the company’s annual retreat. The entire team got to be a part of the process, and now these new elements of culture are evangelized throughout Dormify’s ranks.

FUN FACT: “I’m an avid skier, learning to master the slopes as young as four years old, and continuing to crave that adventure each year.”

DAY-TO-DAY BALANCE: Maintaining a balance between operational activities and the overarching mission has been especially challenging in a small-business setting, says Gardner. “Carving out time to work through bigger-picture strategic initiatives is critical to not losing sight of the vision and long-term outlook.”