Volume 75, Number 40 | February 22 -28 2006

Roy Laniado is a junior at New York University while also running a beer-merchandise company.

Business student’s e-business got him busted from N.Y.U. dormitory

By Travis Carter

As 20-year-old New York University junior Roy Laniado walked up to the mail desk of his residence hall on a Friday morning last April, only the woman working the desk stood between him and a package he expected to receive. Laniado was eager to pick up the box. It was a shipment of T-shirts — new stock for his online beer merchandise company.

“She said, ‘We know you’re running a business. We sent your package back,’” Laniado recalled. The episode almost destroyed Laniado’s budding career as an entrepreneur.

Like many universities, N.Y.U. prohibits running a business for profit out of a dorm room.

“The policy is longstanding,” said Tom Ellett, assistant vice president of Residential Education. “The dorm is not equipped to be a business.”

Other colleges, including Catholic and Syracuse universities, have similar bans. Some schools, including Northwestern University, permit businesses in residence halls but require students to obtain special permission.

Gerry Hills, chairperson of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, notes that dorm commerce policies have become an area of frustration for some student entrepreneurs. “They are typically oriented to keep commercial enterprises under control and off campuses,” Hills said.

Laniado and his friend Doug Wallach started wearyourbeer.com in the fall of 2004, after they had a run of success selling Corona-related merchandise, including T-shirts, towels and bathing suits, on eBay. From the site, they began selling similar gear for other beer brands. By March they’d broken even. But as product shipments flowed into Laniado’s dorm, N.Y.U. caught on to the enterprise. The university expelled Laniado from on-campus housing, for running the business and for verbally threatening the woman working the mail desk.

Laniado is used to adapting to change. His family moved from his birthplace of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Israel, where he lived through the Gulf War. The family then moved to crime-ridden South Africa, where they lived in a heavily guarded home.

At 18, Laniado returned to Myrtle Beach, where he worked at a beachwear store co-owned by his father. A year later he enrolled in the N.Y.U. Stern School of Business, knowing he wanted to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. Using the licensed suppliers that his father had contacts with, Laniado now has sole ownership of his company.

After being bounced from N.Y.U. housing, Laniado was able to keep his business going. He relocated to Astoria, Queens, and ships out 300 to 400 items a month from his apartment. But success has come at a price.

“My spending time with him is volunteering to help him with the business,” said Anna Graci, his girlfriend of two years. Graci helps Laniado choose the merchandise, and he’s convinced the site’s strong selection of products accounts for its success.

Most of his sales, he says, are to college students and middle-aged individuals going on vacation. He ships his products all over the world, but sells more in California and Florida than anywhere else.

Laniado is still attending N.Y.U., and so far he’s managed to balance school and work, keeping his grade point average above 3.0. That’s the easy part, he says. He says that just doesn’t compare with loading up a 24-foot rental truck to move all his products from New Jersey to his new apartment and driving it across the frenetic streets of New York City. When he arrived on his new street, Laniado thought he was finally home free. Then on the final turn, he took off the front end of a car parked near the corner.

Said Laniado, “That is the most difficult thing I have done in my entire life.”

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