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Social Entrepreneurship: How I turned my thought into action with TIA by Amanda Brown ’15

By Contributing Writer on June 30, 2015
Amanda Brown ’15 (left) talks with a student at  Entrepreneur Weekend in April.

Amanda Brown ’15 (left) talks with a student at Entrepreneur Weekend in April.

Ten minutes.

That’s all it took to raise more than $30,000 for my fledgling non-profit organization, a U.S. branch of Children and Youth First.

That works out to about $50 a second.

The money will go toward building a new boarding school for 200 underprivileged children at the Life Vision Academy in Nepal, and it’s the direct result of the powerful Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute (TIA) at Colgate University.

Specifically, this was a result of this year’s annual Entrepreneur Weekend on campus. E-Weekend, as it is fondly known, started at Colgate in 2012 when I was a first-year student. That year, our president hosted a Q & A session with Sir Richard Branson. In 2013, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivered a speech based on her book Lean In, and last year some of my friends and fellow students presented their startup ideas to an all-star panel that included Ashton Kutcher.

I’ve been a student-entrepreneur in TIA for only eight months. Participants spend one Saturday every month in group and individual workshops, learning from dozens of alumni and parent mentors who travel to Hamilton, N.Y. specifically to help us improve our elevator pitches, pitch decks, and business plans. Between those special Saturdays, we hold conference calls with our mentors and do a whole lot of going back to our respective drawing boards.

I was given the opportunity to conclude this year’s E-Weekend by pitching my venture on stage at a closing reception in the TIA incubator. I presented the pitch deck I developed at TIA, and I also showed a short video I’d put together with some of the Nepali children sending their messages of hope and thanks to the Colgate community.

As the video concluded, many in the audience were in tears. One alum raised his hand and pledged $10,000 if others would match it. Immediately, hands went up all over the room, sparking an impromptu fundraising firestorm. From the oldest alumni to the youngest undergraduates, audience members dug into their pockets. There have been entire years when Life Vision Academy didn’t see that much money. Raising so much in such a short amount of time left me speechless.

“I don’t think this could have happened at another school,” said Wills Hapworth, TIA’s alumni executive director.

That was all I could say after the event as well; this could not have happened without Colgate. Our network of alumni, parents, students, and faculty is unlike what other institutions can offer, and I would have never had the platform – or the skills and confidence – to share Life Vision Academy’s story with them if it weren’t for TIA.

The Colgate community has truly taken one undergrad’s idea and turned it into collective action. I have two favorite schools in the world, and to see the one in Hamilton, N.Y. unite like this with the one in Bhaktapur, Nepal has been unbelievable.

It’s amazing how much can change in 10 minutes.

Amanda Brown graduated this past spring with a major in Peace and Conflict Studies and a minor in Religion. She was one of the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund winners and was awarded a $15,000 grant for her non-profit. Amanda will continue working with CYFUSA while pursuing a Masters degree in either education policy or human rights.


2015 Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund Winners

By Mary Galvez on June 23, 2015
L to R: Dave Meyers, Alex Drakos, Caroline Danehy, Amanda Brown, Wills Hapworth, Shav Garg, Raffi Khatchadourian, Adam Buys, Alex Relph

L to R: Dave Meyers, Alex Drakos, Caroline Danehy, Amanda Brown, Wills Hapworth, Shav Garg, Raffi Khatchadourian, Adam Buys, Alex Relph

Congratulations to the six teams who were chosen as winners of the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund announced at this years Entrepreneur Weekend. The fund was established in 2013 to grow and advance the ventures of Colgate student and alumni entrepreneurs who are solving problems and demonstrating an ability to execute. The winners are:

 

brainstorm

Brainstorm Technologies – a wearable headset to improve learning using tDCS (Transcranial direct-current stimulation).

David Myers ’14 and Alex Drakos ’16


 

CYFUSAChildren and Youth First USA – a non-profit that works to protect young Nepalis’ right to education.

Amanda Brown ’15


 

echoEcho App – helps you and your friends decide what to do on any given night.

Adam Buys ’17 and Julian Mazza


 

Fair Harbor Clothing – an active lifestyle brand for simple living.fair harbor

Jake Danehy ’16 and Caroline Danehy ’19

 


 

indify Indify – aggregates relevant artist statistics in on easy to find place.

Keshav Garg ’15 and Raffi Khatchadourian ’17


 

 Platform Athleticsplatform – an elite online performance training platform.

Alex Relph ’09 and Sam Breslin ’09

 

 

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TIA blog series: Echo App, eWeekend, and TIA by Adam Buys ’17

By Contributing Writer on May 11, 2015
Adam Buys '17 pitches Echo App during eWeekend

Adam Buys ’17 pitches Echo App during eWeekend

Almost a month later I still get excited thinking back to Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend. From the all star panel, which included the likes of Jessica Alba and Neil Blumenthal, to the demo day that gave students like myself a chance to pitch their businesses in front of hundreds of alumni, eWeekend was an incredible experience. This capstone event marked the end of what was another great year for Colgate’s Thought into Action Entrepreneurship Institute. Since being accepted into the TIA Student Incubator back in September, I have been fortunate enough to get my business off the ground and take part in many of the great opportunities that TIA provides.

My venture is called Echo. Echo is a mobile application that looks at a user’s location and then generates a list of events happening around the user on that day. Since its conception, we have developed the application on multiple platforms, created extensive marketing plans, and have been fortunate enough to secure $15,000 in seed funding from Colgate’s Entrepreneur Fund. I can confidently say however, that none of this would have been possible without TIA. While developing the technology of the app, we were mentored by alums that were founders or cofounders of tech startups themselves. While planning Echo’s business model, we spoke with dozens of TIA mentors who invest in and mentor early stage startups to learn about what often works and what doesn’t. I realized very early on in TIA that a fifteen-minute conversation with someone who has already been in my position can save weeks of time that would otherwise be lost trying to solve a problem that someone else has already encountered and solved.echo

The unique advantage of TIA compared to entrepreneurship programs at other schools is the level of commitment and success of the mentors who take the time each month to come back to campus and mentor student entrepreneurs. One of the first things I found while starting Echo was that I knew almost nothing about how to build a business. The mentors in TIA have helped bridge the knowledge gap by providing hands on advice for everything from filing legal documents to thinking strategically about how to get the app in front of as many people as possible. I would strongly encourage any Colgate student with an idea for a business or not-for-profit venture to apply to TIA. Don’t let a fear of not knowing the next steps hold you back.

Adam Buys ’17 is a sophomore at Colgate majoring in Mathematics with a minor in either Computer Science or Philosophy. In his free time, Adam is an active member of the Colgate Debate Society. He is currently the president of the team and has won several tournaments including the novice national championship. His business partner is Julian Mazza ’18, a student at the University of Arizona and a Tucson native, also Adam’s hometown.

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Apply to Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund 2015 for a chance at $15K

By Mary Galvez on February 25, 2015
Recipients of funding work in the incubator space that occupies a former hardware store in downtown Hamilton.

Recipients of funding work in the incubator space that occupies a former hardware store in downtown Hamilton.

The TIA team is THRILLED to return with the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund. The fund was established in 2013 to grow the ventures of Colgate student and alumni entrepreneurs who are solving big problems and have demonstrated an ability to execute. A grant of $15,000 is given to each of the winning teams to help bring their ventures to commercial viability while incubating in Hamilton, NY.

The awards are decided based on the quality of the venture and team. The fund is open to for-profit ventures and must have at least one Colgate member on the founding team.

Over the past two years, eleven teams have been awarded $165,000. Many of these teams have gone on to raise additional rounds of capital, have been part of esteemed programs such as TechStars, and achieved profitability with their ventures.

Ventures are judged by a panel of alumni and parent entrepreneurs on a number of different criteria, including; ability to execute, team, commercial/social impact, impact of problem being solved and solution proposed, viability of bringing the project to fruition, stage of development, etc. We are seeking more than just an idea; prototypes and customers are a plus, as is additional interest and support from outside investors.

More information about eligibility, award benefits, & judging criteria, can be found HERE.

At least one member of the founding team must reside in the village of Hamilton for the full six-week duration of the incubator. Awardees will have access to entrepreneurial mentors in the Colgate community and the regional startup ecosystem in Central New York, and will be introduced to potential investors. Teams maintain all rights to their intellectual property and are provided with office space.

Applications are now open and due by March 20, 2015…but don’t procrastinate. APPLY TODAY!

Awards will be announced on April 11th @ Colgate’s Entrepreneurs Weekend.

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Chicory, founded by Joey Petracca ’13 and Yuni Sameshima ’13 featured in Wired

By Mary Galvez on October 6, 2014
The Chicory team, from left: Joey Petracca, COO; Yuni Sameshima, CEO; Adam Donahue, CTO Chicory

The Chicory team, from left: Joey Petracca, COO; Yuni Sameshima, CEO; Adam Donahue, CTO Chicory

Joey Petracca ’13 and Yuni Sameshima ’13 continue to make strides with the venture they began in the Thought Into Action Student Incubator. Their startup, Chicory, is a site that connects recipe-hunting consumers to on-line grocers. They recently graduated from NYC’s premiere business accelerator program Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, where they worked with a number of experienced mentors whose advice led them to pivot and make some changes to their original vision for the company.  On Tuesday September 30th, Yuni presented Chicory in front of over 850 investors from NYC and all over the world. At the pitch Chicory announced major partnerships with Time Inc and the Daily Meal to get over chicory65 million impressions a month on their technology. Both myrecipes.com and thedailymeal.com are installing Chicory’s “get ingredients” button and testing out Chicory’s technology that links recipe content to online grocers. Read the full article in Wired.


Read more about Chicory and the Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute


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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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2014 Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund Winners

By Mary Galvez on April 18, 2014

Congratulations to the five winners of the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund announced this past Saturday at Entrepreneurs Weekend. The fund was established in 2013 to grow and advance the ventures of Colgate student and alumni entrepreneurs who are solving problems and demonstrating an ability to execute. The winners are:

 

HugsHUGS (Hamilton United Gift Shop)
Connecting the Hamilton business community to the global Colgate community, one “hug” at a time.
Max Stein ’17

 

 

LateDateLate Date
The best place to find the perfect date for your next event!
Katie Rydell ’14 and Amara Wilson ’14

 

 

prettier pleasePrettier Please
Professional hair and makeup services delivered to you at home.
Olivia Cranin ’07 and Rachel McLaughlin

 

 

Sapling

Sapling Advisory
Like eHarmony* for financial advisors and prospective clients.
Josh Lasker ’14 and Daniel Swiecki ’14

 

 

VernVern Clothing
A socially responsible apparel brand that works with artisans in Guatemala to produce handmade fashion accessories.
Viktor Mak ’14 and Matthew Kordonowy ’14 (Washington and Lee University)

 

Each team was awarded a grant of $15,000 in start-up funds, incubator space for the summer in Hamilton, and intellectual resources from within the Colgate community.  The fund was created and initially funded by Dan Rosensweig P’15, ’17.

Read our archives.


Apply to Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund 2014 for a chance at $15K

By Contributing Writer on February 18, 2014

The TIA team is thrilled to return with the Colgate Entrepreneurs Fund.

The fund was established to grow and advance the ventures of Colgate student and alumni entrepreneurs who are solving big problems and demonstrating an ability to execute. Last year six teams were selected from a highly competitive pool of over 40 student and alumni ventures. Three of the teams have gone on to raise additional capital and another team is currently in the process.

A grant of $15,000 will be given to each of the winning teams to help bring their ventures to commercial viability while incubating in Hamilton, New York. The number of awardees will be decided based on the quality of the venture and team, not based on a quota. The fund is open to for-profit and not-for-profit ventures with at least one Colgate member on the founding team.

Applications are now open and due by March 18, 2014…but don’t procrastinate. To learn more about Eligibility, Award Benefits, & Judging Criteria click HERE. APPLY TODAY!

Please share this message with ANY Colgate students and alumni that you know who are out there taking big risks and creating new ventures.

Read our archives.


Colgate’s Entrepreneurs of New York Fund winners continue to make news

By Contributing Writer on November 7, 2013

The Colgate news page recently featured an update on the ENY Fund winners on their website. It gave an update on the six businesses that spent six weeks in the Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute at Colgate University this past summer. Link here to the full article.


TIA blog series: Yuni Sameshima on Recipe into Reality, TIA, and ENY

By Contributing Writer on September 12, 2013
Yuni Sameshima '13

Yuni Sameshima ’13

Life at Colgate has the tendency of making students feel as if they are in a bubble, isolated from the “real world”. Students identify themselves as being “students” and nothing more. Have fun, make friends and get good grades are some of the things at the top of their priorities list.

My good friend, Joey Petracca, and I were same way until our senior year. During the summer of 2012 we came up with the idea for starting a technology company called Recipe into Reality. We decided that we were tired of just reading textbooks, writing essays, and taking exams; we were ready to create a change in the real world.

Enter Colgate’s new entrepreneurship initiatives.

The Thought into Action Institute (or TIA for short) connects student entrepreneurs with successful alumni from all different backgrounds. Mentors range from artists to investment bankers to seasoned entrepreneurs, and the best part is that they are all passionate about helping students grow and succeed.

We walked into our first TIA session in the fall of 2012 and our lives have never been the same.

Over the next 12 months, we have accomplished more than I could have ever thought was capable for mere “students”. We raised our first round of financing, were finalists at the New York State Business Plan Competition, talked with executives at dozens of major grocery chains and publishing companies, and were awarded the Entrepreneurs of New York (ENY) Fund from Colgate.

The ENY Fund was an incubator program that provided 6 teams, including us, free office space in Hamilton, a $15,000 cash grant, access to alumni mentors and the chance to pitch at General Catalyst, one of the leading VC firms in the country.

It was an incredible program. The 6 teams were always present in the office space from 9am-12 midnight and we had roundtable discussions every week to help one another solve problems. And to top it all off, we all pitched our companies to associates at a top VC firm.

By far the most helpful aspect of these programs has been the network of mentors. As young entrepreneurs, we lack the business experience, critical in creating a successful company. To compensate, we have surrounded ourselves with over a dozen Colgate mentors that we are constantly in touch with that not only help grow our business, but help us to grow as entrepreneurs and as people.

Yuni Sameshima ’13 started Recipe into Reality with fellow Colgate alum Joey Petracca ’13 during their senior year at Colgate. Yuni and Joey participated in Thought Into Action where they brought their venture to fruition and in the spring applied for and were awarded an Entrepreneurs of New York (ENY) Fund grant to continue work on their startup. Yuni serves as the CEO while Joey is the COO. Through the ENY funding, they were able to hire Michael Francis, CTO, to further develop the technology of their website. The three continue to work out of the ENY/TIA incubator in the village of Hamilton.

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