When I received an invitation to Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend about a year ago, I was excited to see that Sheryl Sandberg was headlining the weekend. As a working mother who had just left her corporate job to join a technology start up, I wanted to hear what Sheryl Sandberg had to say about “leaning in” since I had decided to take a big risk in my career. What I didn’t expect from the weekend was to be inspired by all of the Colgate student entrepreneurs and to invest in one of the student businesses that had come to life through the Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute.
While the keynote speech was interesting, it was not the highlight of the weekend by far. As I listened to the student entrepreneur pitches the next morning and spoke with some of the students, I realized how much work and passion they had put into their business ideas. One business, Chicory (formerly Recipe into Reality), resonated with me. Chicory lets users place ingredients from recipes found online directly into their e-grocery cart with just a click of a button. This idea solved a problem I had frequently encountered, as I often look for new recipes online but the process of placing ingredients in my online shopping cart was cumbersome and too manual. As I talked more with Joey Petracca and Yuni Sameshima, the founders of Chicory and graduates of the class of ‘13, I realized that beyond being a member of their target audience, I also had a lot of valuable consumer marketing experience I could contribute to help them achieve success. I was very impressed by Yuni and Joey, and started thinking about investing in their business.
The rest of the day unfolded with an informative speech by Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani, an exciting “Shark Tank” style presentation in the Chapel and a reception where I spoke with more students and some TIA mentors, one of whom encouraged me to get involved and become a TIA mentor. Did I mention I am a working mother of three young children? I thought I must be crazy to add another ball to my juggling act, but I also knew that TIA was an organization I wanted to join. It just made sense to pay it forward by mentoring students, and I had a feeling that I would get out of it as much as the students did.
At the beginning of November, I attended my first TIA weekend session at Colgate and was not disappointed. To be surrounded by dedicated and passionate students as well as business savvy TIA mentors who freely give of their time was invigorating and gratifying.
When I think back on receiving that invitation in the mail, I had no idea that it would have led me to become much more engaged in the Colgate community as a mentor and an investor. I am happy that I chose to attend since it has opened so many new doors for me and has allowed me to give back to Colgate in more than a purely financial way.
Janice Ryan ’94 is currently VP of Product and Platform at Jump Ramp Games, a well-backed pure play mobile start-up that is focused on pioneering a new mobile rewards category. Janice has firsthand experience with the fundraising process and is also an angel investor in emerging companies. Janice received her MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business and her BA from Colgate University.