Nick Friez finds himself visiting Target a lot lately. He looks for the aisle with Bunky - a stand for electronics and books that attaches to the side of your bed - and makes sure each one is sitting straight and "looking nice."
Such pride is well-placed.
The 22-year-old Philadelphia University senior from Springfield in Delaware County designed Bunky as part of a design studio class.
Now, Bunky is being sold at more than 1,700 Target stores and online.
The best part is that he'll receive royalties.
"I try to visit every Target in the area just to see it," Friez said, adding that he had been to seven stores since the product made its debut this month.
He is not the only one. Three more Philadelphia University students have placed the following products on the shelves at Target: an over-the-door laundry bag that converts to a tote, a desktop organizer, and a slick, graphic peg board.
They're part of the store's back-to-school collection. The items range in price from $9.99 to $19.99, show the student's picture on the packaging, and say "Philadelphia University."
"It was one of those things where your heart just drops into your stomach," said Anthony Maladra, 21, of Medford, Burlington County, describing his first glimpse of "Trig," the peg board, at Target. "Something that had come out of my brain is sitting in front of me on a store shelf."
The project came about through Lyn Godley, an associate industrial-design professor who knew the CEO of Umbra, a Toronto-based home-products design firm. Umbra was looking to design products that appeal to college students living in tight spaces.
Who better to consult than collegians studying industrial design?
Throughout the semester the firm worked with Philadelphia University students, then selected the best products to sell at Target. The effort was turned into a competition with students from several more universities; Philadelphia University won.
"Everybody's pretty giddy about this," Godley said. "It will be a door-opener for these kids to walk out with their degree and items that are already selling well."
Students at Philadelphia University have received royalties in the past, but nothing of this magnitude, said Mike Leonard, Godley's co-teacher and academic dean of the university's school of design and engineering. Leonard said the amount the students would earn depends how well the items sell. Students will get most of the royalties, he said. A small portion will go to the program.
Chloe Muller said she plans to use her royalties from "Roo," the shoulder-tote laundry bag, to help pay off student loans. Her laundry bag eliminates the need to carry a heavy basket. It has pockets for laundry supplies and is reversible: bright colors on one side, understated gray on the other.
"It's kind of a perfect circle," said Muller, 23, of Oneonta, N.Y. "I went to school. I paid for school, and now school's helping me pay back."
In an initial briefing via Skype, Paul Rowan, cofounder and vice president of Umbra, advised the 24 students in Godley and Leonard's class to think about an annoyance or organizational problem they had faced and a way to solve it.
Sam Pawlak, 21, of Big Flats, N.Y., wanted to find a way to get clutter off the desk. Out came "Cacti," a desktop holder for those loose items in a backpack.
Friez, the creator of Bunky, knew what he'd do almost immediately.
"I live in a small apartment," he explained. "There's not room for a nightstand or table next to my bed. So I always charged my phone on the floor. I use it as an alarm clock, too. So either I would fall asleep with it next to my pillow and it would crash to the floor, or I would leave it on the floor, and I'd have to reach over and look for it and grab it when the alarm went off.
"I thought, 'What if I make a stand connected to the bed that would hold my phone for me?' "
Bunky also has space for an iPad. A book can be tucked in the back, secured by a cord. A thin metal sheet attached to Bunky fits between the mattress and box spring, keeping the holder in place. The whole thing resembles a music stand.
Friez won first place in the competition, receiving a $500 cash prize and a $500 gift card to Umbra.
But nothing can compare to the reaction he got from the cashier at Target this week when he bought a Bunky for one of his friends. She looked at him, at his picture on the package then back at him.
A celebrity in the checkout line.