Murphy Bed- The American Dream
Two men from Eastern Europe find success in the U.S. wallbed business.
Sergio Zagorodny and Aleks Diky created MurphyBed Studios. Their products allow clients to “add a bedroom for $1,000.” However, models start at $899. In 1989, the men and their families left Estonia and Russia, respectively, and moved to the United States.
When Aleks Diky was a child living in the Soviet Union, entrepreneurship wasn’t an aspiration or a buzzword — it was a necessity.
“Back in the Communist era, you had to basically do whatever to survive,” he remembers.
Officially, everyone worked for the state, but the allotted salary wasn’t enough to feed seven children. So, the Dikys grew tulips on the side, and sold them for the Eighth of March — a holiday similar to Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, in terms of demand for flowers.
“That was the only real form of capitalism in Russia — the marketplace,” Diky says. “People would actually make their yearly income from that specific holiday.”
In 1989, when Diky was about 8, his family gave up everything they had in Russia to escape religious persecution and seek better economic opportunities in the United States.
“They never knew what actually was here,” he says of his parents, “but they knew it was much better than where they were.”
They weren’t alone. In the late 1980s and ’90s, the U.S. saw a significant surge of Russian immigrants. Like many others, the Dikys were sponsored by a congregation — in their case, Faith Bible Chapel near Denver, Colorado.
Meanwhile, Diky’s future business partner, Sergio Zagorodny, was on a parallel path. Zagorodny was one of six children, and his family also sold flowers to make ends meet. The Zagorodnys left Estonia in 1989, sponsored by a church in Portland, Oregon. Eventually they moved to Tulsa.
Russian communities across the U.S. remained close-knit, especially the younger generation. Church groups often organized trips to other “pockets” of Russian immigrants. This was how Diky met Zagorodny — as well as his future wife, Zagorodny’s sister Nadia — more than 15 years ago. The two men immediately knew they were like-minded, but it would be years before they went into business together.
A decade later, Diky was living in a small house with his wife and three children. He realized square footage was at a premium for his family and many others, too. So, he approached Zagorodny about building a custom Murphy bed — a hinged bedframe that folds out from a cabinet or wall to save floor space. MurphyBed Studios was born three years ago.
Although the Murphy bed industry is a niche market, the partners’ research showed Tulsa had no other wallbed companies. On a larger scale, when the housing bubble burst in 2008, many Americans downsized. Thus, the Murphy bed — once considered old-fashioned — came back into vogue. And MurphyBed Studios was poised to capitalize.
The pair’s passion for their take on the concept was evident from the early days: They made all their sales on Craigslist and drove as far as South Padre Island, Texas, to deliver their products.
Though increasingly successful, the company remains a small operation with only three full-time employees, including the founders.
“Both of us are hands-on for every product that we build,” says Diky, now a father of four. Julie, Zagorodny’s wife, helps run the office.
Park Place, a Greenville, South Carolina, mattress company, is a new source for custom mattresses, and a major furniture retailer wants to carry all six MurphyBed Studios models.
Despite these big opportunities, the company’s founders remain grounded, crediting their parents’ bravery for their success.
“They sacrificed everything that they worked for, for a better future, for the pursuit of happiness,” Diky says. “We are definitely taking all the opportunities that we have been given. We don’t take them for granted.”