It’s a common problem for any college freshman – you bring everything you can possibly think you’ll ever need for your first year of school. Then you get there and realize that you don’t need half of the stuff you brought but need a whole bunch of things you didn’t bring! When Gabe Zetter ’15 first arrived at Colgate, there was so much he had and didn’t need and so much he didn’t have but needed, yet there was no single, comprehensive space or website where he could communicate with the community or look into buying or selling any of his stuff. This dilemma inspired Gabe to team up with Rob Carroll ’15 to create GateSwap, a safe, social, and sustainable way to exchange goods and services on college campuses – sort of a Craig’s List for colleges. Gabe and Rob have been working closely with John Pumilio, Colgate’s Director of Sustainability, as well as Matt Hames (Manager of Media Communications) and the Student Government Association to build a free service that not only connects students, faculty, and staff with buyers and sellers at Colgate, but also promotes sustainable reuse on campus.
Gabe and Rob got involved with Thought Into Action after attending the TIA presentations during entrepreneurship weekend last year as freshmen. The guys got a chance to speak with Andy Greenfield who inspired them to pursue the idea they had been developing. It also made them realize that the TIA program was a great opportunity that they hadn’t realized was right at their fingertips. They applied because they knew the mentors expertise and advice would be beneficial to their endeavor. Gabe says, “Rob and I have never worked on a project like this one before, and so far it’s been a great experience. We’ve learned a lot about the process of starting a business and what it takes to really get one off the ground. Working on this entrepreneurial endeavor has been an invaluable experience. It has taught me about business, about communities, and about myself. I’ve gained firsthand experience in founding and managing a start-up, and it has been an amazing opportunity to learn about business development, marketing, and communications, which are all fields that I am very interested in pursuing.”
Starting a business while a student at a demanding college like Colgate does have its share of challenges. According to the guys, “While working on GateSwap has been an incredibly rewarding experience, it has by no means been an easy one. We’ve learned about the patience and creativity required in managing a team and overseeing the implementation of a project, and we’ve learned that often everything that can go wrong does go wrong.” A primary challenge in undertaking this venture is that things such as starting a website take time, and more importantly, money. While the guys have received a tremendous amount of support from friends, family, alumni, and administrators on campus, they have been personally bootstrapping most of the funding necessary for the site’s development. Consequently, they will be working to secure additional funding, both to support the growth of the website, as well as themselves as they work hard on growing the website over the summer. Although GateSwap was launched at Colgate just a few weeks ago, the site already has over 600 registered users.
Would Gabe and Rob recommend TIA to other students? Absolutely! “TIA is an incredible opportunity to take advantage of if you are a student who has an idea and wants to turn it into a reality. The mentors are an amazing resource, and they truly want to help you realize the venture you are passionate about.”
GateSwap will be just one of the student ventures presenting at Entrepreneur Weekend on April 5 & 6. Come and take a look at some of the amazing ideas that our student entrepreneurs took from just a thought into a reality with the help of TIA.
Gabe Zetter ‘15, originally from Wayland, MA, is a sophomore at Colgate University studying as English major.
Rob Carroll ‘15, originally from Greenwich, CT, is a sophomore at Colgate University studying as an Environmental Studies major.