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Sending a Hug, ‘Gate Style

By Mary Galvez on December 17, 2013
Max Stein '17

Max Stein ’17

Have you ever wished you could just reach out, through the miles, and hug someone? Your child, a friend, a fellow Colgate alum? Well, now you can! Maybe not literally, but you can show that special someone how much you love them and that you’re thinking of them with a unique gift basket from Hamilton United Gift Shop – HUGS.

Max Stein ’17 was on campus this past summer for the freshman international student orientation (he’s from Toronto) and during that time began talking with some members of Colgate’s Institutional Advancement team about an idea he had to create an e-commerce-driven fundraising program. They recommended he develop the concept within the Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute’s student incubator. He applied to TIA, was accepted, and attended the first session in September. It was after that first meeting that he received the opportunity to take the lead of a venture begun by a group of people in Hamilton: The Hamilton United Gift Shop (HUGS). According to Max, “I quickly saw the accelerated potential HUGS could afford my existing venture and serve as a foundation for a seamless venture integration.”businesscardHUGS_back1.jpg.272x200_q100

As the new director of HUGS, Max is working to redevelop the original concept into a flourishing business. His goal is to connect the massive (and global) Colgate community to Hamilton area merchants. HUGS will be an on-line shopping site where users can order custom or curated gift packages consisting of local Hamilton products. Sending a nostalgic HUG (gift package) is a fun way to reconnect with old classmates; let friends know you’re thinking of them; or gives parents the opportunity to express care and encouragement for their hardworking child; all while supporting the vibrancy and local economy of Hamilton. To make a HUG extra personal, purchasers may submit a photo or letter to be included in the gift box.

Through TIA Max has been connected with mentors who are entrepreneurs/experts in a diverse range of industries. Every month, their constructive criticism, insightful ideas, and high expectations boil down to the tangible steps he must take to evolve his business. “The mentors ensure I am accountable for my progress – this prevents my venture from staying as a dormant idea. I have been blow away by all of the mentors’ dedication and commitment. Through almost daily correspondence, advisers like Wills Hapworth and Sharon Polansky have been especially instrumental in the HUGS development, thanks to their huge time commitment and thoughtful ideas. From legal advice to strategic marketing assessments, the TIA team has helped me launch a lasting business,” Max states.

So far, Max has spent most of  his time establishing relationships with village merchants, which is critical to the success of HUGs. Many of these merchants are bricks and mortar focused, and, as such, there is a need to brainstorm with them to help identify merchandise that they already have that would appeal to these online audiences. Expanding their retail base beyond a physical space offers merchants great potential for enhanced revenues, but it requires thinking about doing business a bit differently and adding new roles to their existing enterprise. Identifying in-house products and ensuring that local merchants maintain a sufficient inventory are first steps; later, once merchants have confidence participating in HUGs and realize that it’s a total win for them, merchandise can be expanded with creative new product development that will maximize target audience appeal and revenue.

Max’s goal for next semester is to ensure that HUGS will be fully operational. He hopes to start building a team of passionate entrepreneurial thinkers to help execute marketing goals and build a comprehensive digital inventory of both local goods and student goods (e.g., possibly club/Greek apparel or TIA launched products). Next semester he will also continue to work on product development for a select group of service businesses in Hamilton that do not have storefronts. Stay tuned for the opportunity to send your very own HUG to that special someone.

Go to HUGshopping.com to subscribe. The first 50 subscribers will have access to the pre-launch sale.

Max Stein ’17 is from Toronto, Canada. As a freshman, he has not yet declared a major; however he is very interested in economics/math. He is driven by imagination, value creation, and philanthropy and finds Colgate awesome.

Chicory founders named Entrepreneurs of the Week by Launch NY

By Mary Galvez on December 4, 2013

Dinnertime Matters Badge

The founders of Chicory (formerly Recipe into Reality) Yuni Sameshima, Joey Petracca, and Michael Francis have been named entrepreneurs of the week by Launch NY.

Launch NY works with some of the most promising start-up businesses who are shaping the entrepreneurial landscape in Upstate New York. Read the full article here.

TIA blog series: Words of advice for budding entrepreneurs by Greg Dahlberg ’98

By Contributing Writer on December 4, 2013
Greg Dahlberg '98

Greg Dahlberg ’98

The Customer Company Revolution Conference. Catchy title right? Customer Company Revolution, aka Dreamforce 2013, aka Saleforce.com’s, 135,000 person annual technology conference are all the same. How the conference morphed from a couple hundred users in 2001 to taking over much of San Francisco’s downtown is an important lesson for any startup.

How did it grow so fast? Because Salesforce.com prides itself on creating a memorable, customer-centric experience. Its part what’s trending in technology, part networking, and part entertainment.

While flying back from the conference, I wondered what the Thought Into Action (TIA) startups I advise can learn from Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff. How can small businesses replicate Benioff’s growth and success?

When you see Benioff speak, you can feel his enthusiasm. No one can deny his showmanship and passion. And that’s a quality all entrepreneurs should have. He fires up the crowd and keeps everyone entertained during his 2.5 hour keynote address on what’s new in cloud computing, the evolution of technology, and foreshadowing the Salesforce roadmap.

Benioff knows that just because his product solves a problem today doesn’t mean that it will be relevant tomorrow. Thus, he continually innovates and tries different things to keep his business fresh. Benioff’s passion is contagious to both his employees and customers.

For startups, whether it’s a product feature, a company’s personality, a logo, or name, do your best to make a mark on your customer base. You don’t necessarily have to be the best. But you do need to do something to get and keep people positively talking about your business.

Although most firms lack Dreamforce’s budget, startups can leverage their passion and follow a similar roadmap to best position themselves for growth. Some words of advice for all budding entrepreneurs:

1. Be memorable – Tell stories to positively resonate with your audience and in the process, positively position yourself to solve their pain points.

2. Engage partners – Don’t be afraid to let others know of your successes. Even better if others are doing the talking for you.

3. Get close to your customers – Every interaction is an opportunity. If the customer believes you are adding value during each interaction, then you increase the likelihood of repeat business and word of mouth marketing to help promote your business.

4. Stay agile – Constantly refresh your messaging to reflect how you solve the customer’s current problems.

Following these tips will help position your startup for success instead of becoming one of the companies that people tweet about in a few years saying “Remember them?”

Greg Dahlberg ’98 volunteers as a TIA mentor and is currently Director of Marketing at GT Nexus, the largest cloud technology supply chain platform. Greg is a proven entrepreneur with experience building result driven teams that drive revenue growth and increase brand awareness. Greg received his MBA from Cornell University and his BA from Colgate University.