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.”
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.