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TIA Student Incubator Launches 6th Class

By Contributing Writer on September 25, 2014
Andy Greenfield '74 presents to the class

Andy Greenfield ’74 presents to the class

Colgate University’s 6th annual Thought Into Action (TIA) Entrepreneurship Institute Student Incubator class of 2014/15 recently kicked off with great enthusiasm from both entrepreneurs and mentors. The new crop of startups combines fresh ideas with ambitious growth plans.

Bob Gold '80 networks over lunch with Daniel Luntzel '17

Bob Gold ’80 networks over lunch with Daniel Luntzel ’17

TIA helps entrepreneurs master the “craft of doing” and transform concepts into enterprises. Most important to the ‘culture of doing’ is stressing to entrepreneurs that even if they are on the right track, they are going to get run over if they just sit there. TIA founder Andy Greenfield ’74 credits the program’s success and rapid growth to the incredible commitment of the alumni, parent, and community mentors. He often reminds participants that “a one person band makes limited music … the TIA mentors enable entrepreneurs to turn ideas into reality.”

The incoming student incubator class consists of 91 entrepreneurs comprising 40 new and 10 returning ventures. They each hope to build upon TIA’s past successes including the acquisition of Trupoly by a publicly traded company, the acceptance of Chicory into the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, and the growth and accomplishments of Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc.

The returning ventures in this year’s class are:

Rachel Rosensweig '15 and Kirsten Halvorson '15 pitch to the class

Rachel Rosensweig ’15 and Kirsten Halvorson ’15 pitch to the class

  • Age Together is a website that makes it easier for seniors and their families to find the resources necessary as they age.
  • Aviation Club provides exciting and educational aviation activities to Colgate students.
  • Eco Campus provides carbon-neutral paper at a competitive price.
  • HUGS provides alumni, students, and parents the opportunity to purchase local merchandise and gift packages.
  • On Giants’ Shoulders (OGS) utilizes videoconferencing to match high school/college student mentors with elementary and middle school students in underserved neighborhoods.
  • Sapling Advisory revolutionizes the lead generation space starting with financial advisors.
  • Scholastic TVs is a television rental business serving the college market.
  • Space Race will change the way study space is reserved on campus.
  • The Clothes Line is a consignment store for college campuses.
  • Vern is a socially responsible fashion brand that hand makes apparel using traditional weaving techniques.
Greg Dahlberg works with Viktor Mak '15 on Vern

Greg Dahlberg ’98 works with Viktor Mak ’15 on Vern

Greg Dahlberg ’98 is a TIA Mentor and leads the marketing team at a VC backed SaaS technology company that was acquired in 2013. He is a proven entrepreneur with experience building results driven teams that drive revenue growth, increase brand awareness, and create engaging content. Greg received his MBA from Cornell University and his BA from Colgate University.

 

 

 

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Go for it @ TIA by Maggie Dunne ’13

By Contributing Writer on September 17, 2014
Jasmine Mans, Maggie Dunne, Jody Williams in Pine Ridge for the 2014 Writing Contest Award Ceremonies

Jasmine Mans, Maggie Dunne, and Jody Williams in Pine Ridge for the 2014 Writing Contest Award Ceremonies

In high school I founded Lakota Children’s Enrichment (LCE), a small nonprofit that provided coats, boots and books to children on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota Nation. Today, Lakota Children’s Enrichment provides thousands of Lakota youth with opportunities for expression in arts, sports, and literacy and also provides leadership and mentorship training.

When I joined TIA in my sophomore year, I wanted to take Lakota Children’s Enrichment to the next level. By the end of that year I planned, funded, and ran a pilot sleep-away camp, and raised enough money to bring along an enthusiastic team of Colgate students and representatives experienced in running Native culture camps.

In my junior year, the TIA team helped me hone a 3-minute pitch, and encouraged me to implement programs to expand LCE’s impact. LCE’s online presence continued to gather momentum and later that year I was awarded the grand prize in Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women Contest. I earned a $20,000 prize, which I donated to LCE.

The week after the Glamour award, TIA mentors invited me to a closed Q and A session with Sir Richard Branson. When Richard called on me, I gave a one minute pitch, used an oversized Glamour check as a prop, and asked if he knew a philanthropist who might be willing to match my own donation to LCE. Richard offered to match, on condition that a Colgate alum who was in the audience also match my donation. Within a few weeks LCE received over $60,000, which in turn, allowed us to expand our programs and scope.

The year since graduation has been a period of exciting growth. We formed a youth advisory board of Lakota teens who have proposed great ideas of their own– and LCE is turning those ideas into action! We produce youth summits that engage youth in service and challenge them to think critically about their future. Our mini-grant program helped fund a college tour for high school students, a math camp and we’ve collected over 18,000 books for schools and community organizations.

Last year, participation in our annual Writing and Spoken word contest grew by 200%, and we welcomed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams onboard as a judge, along with a host of other impressive authors and poets including Colgate’s own Professor Peter Balakian.

On Saturday September 13, LCE held its’ inaugural fundraiser at Westerleigh, a private residence in Greenwich, CT. Our hosts covered all costs to ensure that all money raised went to LCE. Honored guests included Nobel Laureate Jody Williams and the CEO of Steiner Sports, Brandon Steiner — and Professor Balakian spoke at the event!

Nobel Laureate Williams said, ”I [am part of the LCE movement] because I think it is of fundamental importance. I’ve traveled to 75 countries in the world in my lifetime, and the degree of poverty and neglect in Pine Ridge is really horrifying. And the fact that … Maggie Dunne decided to do something about it, [to] work with the young people to help them understand that what they think and what they say matters, is very impressive to me… and I am glad that I am [involved].”

My work has continued to receive national recognition. I was named a 2014 Ariane de Rothschild Fellow, a 2014 Cordes Fellow, a “Next Generation Leader” by the Women in the World Foundation, a “Woman of Achievement” by Tri-Delta, and I accepted a position on the Leadership Council of Convergence Center for Policy Resolution.

When I look back at the journey, I am thankful for the generosity of the Colgate community and I am reminded of the importance of the Thought into Action Entrepreneurship Institute.

Brad Keywell of the Wall Street Journal’s Accelerator Blog said about the hiring process: “Too often people … focus on the tasks they have completed for their managers or the skills they picked up at business school. However, great entrepreneurs aren’t marked by their MBAs… they have a knack for identifying opportunity and turning ideas into reality.”

Taking risks is the essence of entrepreneurism and TIA mentors encouraged me to persevere, to treat everyone as a potential employer and– if it feels right — ignore the critics and plow ahead politely, but fearlessly. It’s okay to fail as long as you think big, put forth your best effort, and learn from your mistakes.

If you’ve got a dream but you’re not sure what to do with it, then get onboard with TIA.

To contribute toward our LCE campaign, click HERE. To watch a video of our call to action, click below.

video

Maggie is a 2013 magna cum laude graduate of Colgate, where she earned Excellence and Honors in Native American Studies, minored in Religion, and received the highest award for a graduating senior, the Colgate Alumni Corporation’s 1819 award. She also received a Voice of Conscience Award, the Dean’s Award for Community Service, was named a Dana Scholar, a Cobb Scholar, and received many other awards. Maggie is founder and president of Lakota Children’s Enrichment, Inc. and has worked in the Pine Ridge community for almost seven years building partnerships across the reservation with schools, community organizations, a youth advisory board, and parent volunteers. LCE engages a global VolunTEAM, which participates in projects to support youth on Pine Ridge.

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Viktor Mak Strives to Make Real Changes Abroad

By Contributing Writer on September 12, 2014

With his new company, Vern Clothing, Viktor Mak ‘15 builds for stability in the Guatemalan highlands

Viktor Mak '15

Viktor Mak ’15

In 2013, Viktor spent the summer in the highlands of Guatemala and fell in love. He fell in love with the incredible Santiaguito and Santa Maria volcanoes, the colorful open-air markets, the picturesque Lake Atitlan, and the vibrant culture. But most of all, he fell in love with weaving – the handmade textiles, the backstrap loom, and the story each piece told.

But among the beauty, Viktor also became acutely aware of the harsh realities and challenges of Guatemalan life. These weavers were hard workers, putting in countless hours at their trade; but even so, they still face extreme economic uncertainty, discrimination, and underdevelopment.

That’s why Viktor decided to found Vern Clothing, a socially responsible apparel company that partners with Guatemalan weaving cooperatives to provide fair wages and economic stability in their communities.

“We were touched by the story of the Mayan weavers. After the Guatemalan civil war took the lives of many indigenous men, the women turned to weaving beautiful and elaborate textiles to support their families. Our mission is to share their talents with shoppers in America while providing opportunities for indigenous weavers,” said Viktor.

This July, the apparel startup caught the attention of the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund. The venture capital fund awarded Viktor a $15,000 grant and summer office space in Hamilton to grow his company. With the support of the CE Fund, Vern made huge strides in marketing strategy and production.

But more than just growing the company, Vern founders were careful that the money circled back to what was really important: the people in Guatemala.

“When we got the grant, we were excited to make some huge leaps in the functioning and scope of Vern, but what was most important was how we could grow that money to send even more back to our communities. Thanks to the push we got from Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund we are not only economically empowering our workers, but also directly investing in two community projects, the Clean Stove Building Project and the Education Fund,” said Viktor.vern

This July, Vern was spurred to action by the border crisis – thousands of child refugees from Latin American countries fleeing violence at the U.S. border. The company held an official launch, but also paired it with a fundraiser and sale in hopes of sending even more back to Guatemala, the country of origin for over a third of the children.

“That day was probably the craziest we have had. But when we closed up shop that night and were going over numbers, I remember having my jaw drop when I realized that, on top of all of the money we were sending back to the workers, we were also going to be able to send 5 kids to school through the Education Fund,” Viktor commented. “So much work still needs to be done, and we are heartbroken by the current immigration crisis, but with our partnerships and contributions we hope to provide Guatemalans with economic and educational opportunities, which will hopefully incentivize them to stay,” he added.

Vern sells their apparel downtown at 20 Utica Street and online at http://www.vernclothing.com.

Viktor Mak ’15 is a student of Global Studies and Philosophy at Colgate.  He started Vern last year in the TIA Student Incubator with his business partner and high school friend, Matthew Kordonowy, a student at Washington and Lee University. In addition to TIA, Viktor is involved with  SGA, Konosioni, the Benton Scholars, and the Open Society. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, learning, and leaving a place just a little better than he found it.

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