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Student ventures receive funding during Entrepreneur Weekend

By Melanie Oliva '18 on April 30, 2018

Student entrepreneur Christina Weiler ’21 pitches her venture to a panel of alumni. Photo by Andrew Daddio

During the 7th annual Entrepreneur Weekend, more than 250 alumni, parents, students, and friends came to campus to celebrate and advance the entrepreneurial endeavors of Colgate student entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur Weekend is the capstone to the Thought Into Action (TIA) Incubator, a yearlong commitment in which students develop an idea and make it go live with the help of alumni mentors.

Last Saturday, students presented their TIA ventures in hopes of gaining further mentorship and financial support from the Colgate network. These ventures included for-profit, not-for-profit, and campus/community initiatives.

“Today is a day that can truly transform the trajectory of our students’ lives,” said Wills Hapworth ’07, a co-founder of TIA and the alumni director. “What you see here is how students turned their ideas into reality and, by doing so, begin to transform lives.”

That afternoon, during the panel discussion “Liberal Arts and Entrepreneurship,” panelists shared their experiences in entrepreneurship, highlighting the importance of establishing a good plan, being coachable, and working through failures. Panelists included: Bob Gold ’80, CEO and president of Ridgewood Capital; Jon Klein, co-founder of TAPP Media and former president at CNN/US; Jeffrey Sharp ’89, academy award winning filmmaker and president/CEO of Sharp Independent Pictures; and Katie Finnegan ’05, principal and founder at Store No. 8 and vice president at Incubation Walmart. Finnegan was also awarded the Alumni Council’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Alumni panelists highlighted the ways their Colgate education allowed them to be successful entrepreneurs.

“The liberal arts teaches you how to think,” said Finnegan, who was a history and religion double major. “It taught me how to dissect a problem and how to learn. I know how to take a situation and break it down into quantifiable parts to understand them.”

Sharp reiterated the importance of a Colgate education in fostering passion and entrepreneurial spirit. “Colgate, as a liberal arts institution and in the physical space we occupy,” he said, “offers these nooks and crannies and these places where you can go off to disappear, create, and explore your resources.”

Students then had the opportunity to pitch their ventures during a Shark Tank­–style competition for funding and other support from the panelists.

ISO Film, a creative content house that specializes in film and video production founded by Lauren Sanderson ’18 and Brandon Doby ’18, earned $1,000 and was given a chance to make a film with Academy Award-winning producer Sharp.

Loophole — a rubber ring phone grip and kickstand — and its founder Patrick Crowe ’18 earned $1,000; also, Gold and Finnegan placed orders for more than 2,000 units of branded products.

Gipper, an automated athletics communications service for high schools and colleges, earned $3,000, and Finnegan offered San Francisco office space to its founders Matthew Glick ’19, Jack Zamore ’20, Ruchit Shrestha ’20, and Abby Waxler ’19.

UCan, a social recycling system for colleges and universities that channels generated funds toward local anti-poverty organizations, earned $4,000 to expand its operations. Finnegan offered to connect UCan’s founder Christina Weiler ’21 with Walmart’s operations team to expand the project in Walmart retail stores.

“This money means so much to UCan, not just as an organization, but as a movement,” said Weiler. “Having this money will allow us to increase the quality of life for people across the country and increase recycling rates. The opportunity to involve communities around the country will help us facilitate that.”

Colgate’s leadership in liberal arts entrepreneurship was powerfully represented by the Thought Into Action student entrepreneurs who continue to illustrate the strong connection between liberal arts and entrepreneurship.

Over the past nine years, more than 500 Colgate entrepreneurs have gone through the TIA Incubator and launched their ventures, guided by more than 140 alumni, parent, and community mentors.

“Today’s economy requires people who not only get answers right, but more importantly, ask the right questions,” Michael Sciola, associate vice president of Institutional Advancement and Career Initiatives, said. “The TIA experience allows Colgate students to identify a problem and then create a solution that works. Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts, together, are powerful partners for future success.”

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