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Entrepreneurship at Colgate: Reflections on the First Decade of TIA

By Andy Greenfield '74, Founder of TIA on June 21, 2019
Andy Greenfield ’74

It was only 10 years ago, fall semester 2009, that Colgate‘s first official entrepreneurship program started in a small room in the Coop conference room in O’Connor. Actually, it wasn’t very official at that point—there was just me and eight intrepid students who wanted to go from ‘thought’ into ‘action’, and turn their ideas into reality. The real backstory was that TIA was born when Colgate reached out to me and asked how I wanted to get re-engaged with the university. I responded that I’ve been an entrepreneur and teacher my entire life, so perhaps I could combine the two into a ‘program’ to help mentor aspiring Colgate entrepreneurs. And with that, a small seed was planted that grew to become Colgate’s entrepreneurship program. And to be honest, I never expected TIA to grow and develop the way it did. Fortunately, I was soon joined by Wills Hapworth ‘07, Bob Gold ‘80, and Mary Galvez, who helped build TIA into what it is today.

Over the following years some incredibly motivated and generous alumni, parents, locals and faculty joined the program, serving as mentors to aspiring Colgate entrepreneurs. These mentors provided the fuel that powered TIA, and made the program unique in the liberal arts world.

Colgate’s TIA was truly revolutionary, and was created at a time well before any liberal arts university was promoting entrepreneurship. TIA provided students the opportunity for something that no aspiring Colgate student entrepreneur had ever had before: the chance to actually launch a new venture, while supported, coached and mentored by experienced alumni entrepreneurs who had “been there/done that.” (FYI: virtually every one of the 150+ mentors in the program has uttered the words “I wish this was here when I was a student.” Well, now it is!)

The heart of Colgate’s approach to entrepreneurship is an intense and unrelenting focus on ‘doing entrepreneurship’, rather than ‘the study of’ entrepreneurship–actually launching new ventures rather than studying how to do it.

TIA entrepreneurship is turbo-charged by taking what many believe is the most important part of a liberal arts education–critical thinking–and applying this thinking to creating new companies, non-profits, and campus or community initiatives that solve real-world problems.

We sometimes get asked about TIA’s relevance to liberal arts. We think it’s a perfect fit. As a venue for applying critical thinking skills, TIA is effectively ‘the lab for the liberal arts.’ Or if you prefer an automotive analogy: TIA functions as the ‘transmission’ that helps take the power from the liberal arts critical thinking ‘engine’, and applies that power to solve real world problems.

In the 10 years since TIA began, the core DNA of the program has not changed very much, and is still focused on the craft of doing entrepreneurship, supported by experienced entrepreneur mentors. However, the reach and impact of the program have increased dramatically. 500+ Colgate entrepreneurs have been through the TIA Incubator; 150+ alumni/parent entrepreneurs have served as TIA mentors, as have a number of community members and faculty. Local entrepreneurs and Colgate employees and faculty have participated in the program. TIA entrepreneurs have launched scores of organizations that employ hundreds of people, produce a broad range of goods and services, and most important, have changed lives and communities.

TIA now works with the Hamilton Partnership for Community Development to help grow entrepreneurship in the region. And, TIA/PCD just landed a grant from New York State for $625,000 to help support and grow regional entrepreneurship. We are also just kicking off our seventh year of the Entrepreneurs Fund that provides cash grants to 4-6 Colgate start-ups to pursue their ventures in Hamilton for the summer.

Perhaps most important for the future of the program, TIA is now part of Colgate’s Third Century Plan, and will have a home and an important role in the upcoming Arts, Design and Innovation Center.

As someone who has spent his entire life as a serial entrepreneur, being a founding member of the team that created and built Thought Into Action at Colgate has been the most gratifying entrepreneurial endeavor of my life. It has given me the chance to work alongside incredibly motivated and generous mentors, helping a multitude of talented and passionate Colgate entrepreneurs, and giving them a launch pad for turning their ideas into reality. And these Colgate entrepreneurs will help write the next chapter of American entrepreneurship, and change the world while they’re at it.

Doesn’t get any better than that.


Entrepreneurs Celebrated During Eighth Annual Entrepreneur Weekend

By Imani Ballard '18 on April 29, 2019

Last August, burgeoning entrepreneurs entered Colgate’s Thought Into Action incubator with an idea. By April 6, twenty-six teams had turned those ideas into concrete ventures, which they presented to investors, mentors, and Colgate community members during Entrepreneur Weekend, part of the Colgate Leadership Tradition at 200 Years series.

The Thought Into Action program — now in its 10th year — has helped 529 entrepreneurs craft 349 ventures with the guidance of 158 alumni mentors. This year, student entrepreneurs have worked to form web apps, non-profit organizations, and companies like EverTights, a hosiery brand, and EDGE, a private aviation concierge service. Matthew Glick ’19, CEO of Gipper Media, says that Entrepreneur Weekend was an amazing opportunity to see what the entrepreneurial community at Colgate has to offer.

During the Bringing Businesses to Life panel, moderated by Bob Gold ’80, CEO and President at Ridgewood Capital, alumni provided insights into the best business practices for entrepreneurs across various fields.

“A person needs to have a true sense of grit,” Alexandra Thompson ’02, founder and creative director at Persifor, said. “It really takes a certain individual who has tough skin and can keep forging ahead.”

Denniston Reid ’94, Chief Schools and Innovation Officer at Excellence Community Schools, noted, “One key thing about my work is that I have to understand that it is a business. If you don’t understand that, you lose the focus of what you’re doing.”

Dan Hurwitz ’86, P’17, ’20, chair of the Colgate University Board of Trustees and founder and CEO at Raider Hill Advisors, said, “Every time you fail at something, it helps you focus on what you are good at. When you focus on what you’re good at, you’re destined to be successful.”

“There’s an excitement in the room — almost like a buzz,” said Glick. “E-Weekend is an amazing opportunity for not only the students and alumni who have started businesses but also for people to engage, connect, and hear from the expertise of members of the panel.”

Following the panel discussion, four TIA teams pitched their ventures in Colgate’s version of Shark Tank. Chris Cervizzi ’19, of the Concussion Survival Kit, won first place and a cash prize of $2500; senior Uyi Omorogbe’s NaSo venture placed second and received $1500; while both Jack Ablon ’21 of Edge and sibling-duo Maya Dunne ’21 and Kevin Dunne ’19 with Valet Seller each won $500.

Later in the program, Robert Johnson ’94 was recognized by Thought Into Action and the Alumni Corporation as the alumnus best exemplifying the ideals of entrepreneurship and was given the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Students interested in joining the TIA incubator for the 2019–20 school year can reach out to Thought Into Action Director Mary Galvez at mgalvez@colgate.edu.


Dunne Goodwin – – Next Generation Digital Marketing Solutions

By Sheila Dunne '20 on March 21, 2019
Sheila Dunne '20
Sheila Dunne ’20

Today, everything is going digital — entertainment, retail, consumer services, banking, and even currencies. This means that businesses are also switching to digital — specifically to market their products and services online and reach a targeted, engaged audience via social media and digital advertising. A successful digital marketing strategy is central to helping businesses stay competitive.  That’s why my co-founder, Luke Goodwin and I decided to start Dunne Goodwin. Dunne Goodwin provides next-generation digital marketing solutions to drive business growth. Since founding the business 2 years ago, our team of 6 full-time employees and 4 student interns has executed digital marketing strategies for over 40 clients. The secret ingredient to our success has been the abundance of mentors and resources provided by Colgate University’s Thought Into Action (TIA) venture incubator. A great example of how impactful the TIA community has been to Dunne Goodwin is captured by our experience with the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), a global digital marketing professional learning and certification body with over 28,000 alumni members and partners in over 100 countries. 

Dunne Goodwin

Recently, a TIA mentor established a partnership between DMI and TIA, and connected us with DMI to take the Certified Digital Marketing Professional course. The course enhanced our digital marketing skills and reinforced our commitment to ongoing education as digital marketing evolves. As a result, Dunne Goodwin has been able to more effectively serve our clients thanks to the work of TIA mentors and partners like DMI. We are excited to be a part of TIA during this exciting time and contribute back to the community. 

Sheila Dunne is a junior at Colgate studying computer science and economics. Prior to founding Dunne Goodwin, Sheila worked as an Instagram influencer with over 200,000 followers. In her spare time, Sheila enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling to new places, skiing, and sailing.


The Concussion Survival Kit

By Contributing Writer on February 27, 2019
Chris Cervizzi ’19

My name is Chris Cervizzi, and I am a senior from Boston, MA. I always heard great things about TIA, but I never had a particular idea that I felt was worth pursuing. However, this fall I decided to join the TIA Incubator, and I can honestly say it has been one of the best decisions I have made during my time at Colgate.

My venture is called The Concussion Survival Kit, and it provides one-stop shopping for student-athletes who are looking to take action in their concussion recovery. I am passionate about this product because I was forced to end my football career at Colgate due to my history of concussions. Looking back on my experiences, I always wished I could have done more than just lie around in my room and wait to get better. Thus, I created The Concussion Survival Kit so that student-athletes can take control of such a difficult situation.

The concussion crisis has changed the face of sports as we know it and it has brought to surface the incredible importance of our brain health.

— Ben Utecht, professional football player

Today, just five months after joining TIA, The Concussion Survival Kit is being given to every Colgate student-athlete that has been diagnosed with a concussion. None of this could have been possible without the Colgate mentors that provide real-world advice and connections. I would specifically like to thank John Nozell and Oak Atkinson for their guidance and support throughout this entire process. I would not be where I am with this venture if it was not for them. I would also like to thank Wills Hapworth and Mary Galvez for making this program possible. Ultimately, I would recommend TIA to any student that wants to make the most of their liberal arts education. My TIA journey has just begun, and I am excited for what’s to come.


Thought Into Action and Partnership for Community Development Receive $625,000 to Support Business Incubator in Hamilton

By Contributing Writer on February 25, 2019

HAMILTON, NY— Colgate University’s Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Incubator (TIA) and the Partnership for Community Development (PCD) will receive $625,000 in new grant funding during the next five years from the Empire State Development’s New York State Business Incubator Program.

This major funding will enable TIA and the PCD to hire a full-time staff member to support improving co-working programs, networking events, and expanded educational offerings in the 20 Utica Street location, and it will solidify the space as an official New York State Certified Business Incubator, the only designee this year for Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, and Oswego Counties.

“This is an absolute game changer for Hamilton, the PCD, and for Colgate,” said Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Career Initiatives Michael Sciola.

The PCD, a nonprofit organization that works to enhance sustainable economic opportunity and community vitality in the village and town of Hamilton and the surrounding areas, will work in tandem with TIA to implement the grant.

“We are very excited about the implementation of this grant and the impact it will have on our community,” said PCD Executive Director Jennifer Marotto Lutter. “The PCD has worked very hard over the years to create a favorable entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the expansion of co-working incubator services and staffing will take us to a new level.”

Colgate’s TIA initiative, now in its 10th year, applies the liberal arts to entrepreneurship. Since its inception, TIA has helped 528 entrepreneurs to develop 349 ventures. Last year, TIA opened its Utica Street location as a co-working space for local entrepreneurs not affiliated with Colgate. This low-cost alternative to renting an office also provides Hamilton-area startups with access to Colgate’s entrepreneurship program and mentors.

“The goal of the partnership between TIA and the PCD is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that extends beyond the village and town of Hamilton, with the incubator serving as the hub,” said TIA Director Mary Galvez. “With this grant, we want to provide resources for anyone who has an idea for a business, has just started a business, or is looking to expand or innovate an existing business.”

If you are a small business owner, or have an idea that you would like to turn into a business, and are interested in the co-working space, contact hamiltonpcd@gmail.com or visit hamiltonpcd.org for more information.


Alumnus, Parent, Mentor

By Darryl Nirenberg '81 on January 17, 2019

Nearly a year ago, our daughter, Kelly ’20, called home to tell my wife Lori and me that she had joined a Thought Into Action team and asked us to come to Hamilton for E-Weekend. As Kelly explained the program to us, we were a tad surprised.

Darryl Nirenberg ’81

We hadn’t pegged our daughter as an entrepreneurial type. Kelly is an English major who wants to become a teacher and is passionate about children, photography and the friendships she has made at Colgate. What I have learned since that phone call – as a parent, and now as a mentor – is that the TIA program is about much more than developing entrepreneurs. 

As TIA founder Andy Greenfield ’74, has pointed out, “roughly 10% of our student entrepreneurs will go on to have a full-time career as an entrepreneur, but the other 90% will emerge from the program more ‘entrepreneurial’ then they entered. . . and these skill-sets are useful for virtually everything else they do in their lives.” After my first semester as a mentor, I can see what Andy means. 

During the orientation session for new mentors, Andy reeled off the types of skills TIA builds in participating students:

  1. Understanding, managing, and optimizing one’s personal brand;
  2. Building, managing, and functioning on a team;
  3. Presenting with power, clarity and simplicity;
  4. Understanding how to make an “ask” regardless of the situation in which one finds him or herself;
  5. Learning how to deal with failure, understanding the opportunity it presents to learn, and to demonstrate resilience, persistence, courage and strength; and,
  6. Recognizing the importance of seeing the world through the eyes of people different from oneself.

In September, I participated in TIA’s first weekend of the semester. Each team with whom we met arrived with well-conceived and creative concepts. Each gave us an “elevator pitch” and were peppered with questions by our lead mentor – questions designed to elicit thought and discussion. Before closing, each team settled on “deliverables” to be performed over the coming month. 

 I met with the same teams during the December weekend and was taken aback by the progress made by each of the students. Their pitches were crisp and the presenters self-assured. It was clear each team had worked hard in the intervening months, having faced obstacles and implemented strategies to overcome those obstacles. 

During our most recent TIA weekend, it dawned on me how much I am learning from the program. I have been fortunate to represent entrepreneurs needing assistance navigating the governmental process here in Washington, D.C. Watching TIA mentors work with student teams, however, has provided me a whole new appreciation for the challenges entrepreneurs face and the special talents needed to confront those challenges.

But more important to Lori and me is that our daughter has had the opportunity to participate in TIA. We can see how it has already left her better prepared for whatever career she embarks upon – whether it is as a teacher, or as something else. That speaks volumes about the program, the alumni who dedicate their time to manage it, and Colgate, for supporting TIA and making it available to students – including those who will likely never become entrepreneurs.

For the past two decades, Darryl has been an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C. His specialty is working with startups and disruptors and helping them navigate the legislative and regulatory processes. Among the clients with whom he has worked from their early stages are Las Vegas Sands1-800 Contacts; and Pet IQ. Darryl is also proud of the fact that he paid his way through Colgate with income from a business he started.


Update on NaSo Kickstarter

By Mary Galvez on November 15, 2018

4 Days to Go!! Help Uyi push his Kickstarter over it’s goal!

Uyi Omorogbe ’19

Last month we ran an article by Uyi Omorogbe ’19 about his TIA venture NaSo. NaSo is a clothing company that creates modern, chic designs by accenting their clothing with West African prints. But NaSo represents more than just clothing. Their mission is to have a monumental impact on children’s lives all over Africa by improving their educational experience. They do this by having a percentage of all profits go to renovating schools in Africa’s rural villages so that students can learn in a safe and comfortable environment. At NaSo, they believe that every child in Africa deserves this opportunity. 

Uyi and team launched their Kickstarter campaign at a TIA-sponsored party on Friday, November 2. Well over 100 people attended the launch and NaSo raised a fair amount of money to ‘kickstart’ their campaign. NaSo has a goal of raising $45,000 by December 2.

A successful Kickstarter campaign means: 

  • The introduction of their first line;
  • The employment of local tailors in Nigeria to manufacture their clothing; 
  • The launch of a community effort by employing local carpenters and construction workers to renovate the first school; 
  • Students and teachers will have desks, chairs, proper roofing and bathrooms.

Kickstarter is all or nothing, so if the funding goal is not met, NaSo won’t receive any of the money raised thus far and everyone who backed the Kickstarter will be refunded. Please consider donating to the NaSo Kickstarter and help Uyi and his team realize their goal of improving educational opportunities in Nigerian villages. Make a difference and look good while doing it! 


TIA at Ten Years

By Mary Galvez on November 15, 2018
Incubator (EcoCampus) 2010

Did you know TIA is more than just the Student Incubator? While best known for the program that Andy Greenfield ’74 started ten years ago, we have grown TIA to include resources and programs for every stage of an entrepreneurs life. These include:

eWeekend 2012

Resource Library – A collection of general research and materials valuable to any TIA or alumni entrepreneur, or member of the Colgate community.
Entrepreneur Weekend – A celebration of all things entrepreneurial at Colgate that includes speakers, student pitches, demo day, networking opportunities and panels.

Entrepreneur Weekend – A celebration of all things entrepreneurial at Colgate that includes speakers, student pitches, demo day, networking opportunities and panels.

Professional Network event 2014

Entrepreneur Professional Network (EPN) – A network of alumni entrepreneurs that leverage Colgate’s entrepreneurial spirit across the entire Colgate community, and across the US. EPN includes events and workshops; introducing students and alumni to fellow Colgate community members working throughout the field.

Incubator Kickoff 2016

Summit Series – A yearlong series of of campus-based workshops and speakers covering broadly relevant entrepreneurial topics, open to all students and the broader Colgate community.

Student Incubator – The signature year-long incubator for launching Colgate ventures of all shapes and sizes (for-profit/social entrepreneurship/campus enrichment) powered by a network of alumni, parent, and community mentors involved in all aspects of entrepreneurship.

eFund 2017

Entrepreneurs Fund – A summer incubator for advanced ventures, providing seed funding, incubator space, and mentorship. The fund is open to students and recent alumni from the Colgate community.

TIA Incubator 2018

TIA/PCD Co-Working Partnership – A collaboration between TIA and the Hamilton Partnership for Community Development to stimulate entrepreneurship in the region through the support of a new co-working space in downtown Hamilton.

TIA works with students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members – all aspiring entrepreneurs who have an idea and would like to turn it into something viable, sustainable – REAL. TIA helps all who walk through our doors turn their thought. . .into. . . action. The seed that Andy planted ten years ago has grown and is spreading its roots to all corners of the campus, community and greater Colgate ecosystem. We’re excited to see what the next ten years bring!

Thank you all for your continued support of TIA and entrepreneurship at Colgate!


TIA Welcomes Wiley Cerilli: Founder of Seamless and Good Uncle

By Tara Hildabrant on October 29, 2018

Thought Into Action recently welcomed Wiley Cerilli to campus to share his experience with entrepreneurship. Known best by Colgate students for founding Good Uncle, a popular campus food delivery service, Wiley has been involved in the business of food startups for years and had plenty of advice to give current and future entrepreneurs.

Students who attended Wiley’s talk got a firsthand look into his life, both personal and professional, and they learned more about how he got involved with food startups. He explained that he first entered the world of startups to help support his family; since he dropped out of college, entrepreneurship was a practical way to make good money at a young age. He was sure to point out that, while dropping out of college seems to be the “cool” thing to do these days, that isn’t exactly the case. He then explained the trajectory of his career, connecting the dots from his humble beginnings to his success with Good Uncle. Students really appreciated his honesty and candidness in telling his story.

Wiley also gave students plenty of good advice, business-related and otherwise. In terms of startup advice, he told students to pursue ventures that give them energy. He told the crowd that he isn’t necessarily passionate about food, rather he thinks that the problems in the food industry are exciting and solving them gives him energy. He also pointed out that in the world of entrepreneurship, it is crucial to seek constructive criticism and to learn from mistakes. He explained the various mistakes he and his coworkers made throughout his career and how they were able to correct and learn from them. Beyond business, Wiley advised students to establish a lifestyle “board of directors” full of trustworthy people to turn to for advice. He cited his personal board of directors as crucial to his success (and sanity). He also stressed the importance of accepting the “no’s” in life, as he saw just as much struggle as he did success.

After the talk, a group of students were able to have dinner with Wiley and continue the conversation. He talked about his volunteer work with Experience Camps, summer camps for kids who have lost close family members or caregivers. He explained how rewarding it is to be involved in giving back to his community, telling the heartwarming story of the “Wiley” beaded necklace around his neck. Each bead represents a year spent at camp, and each attendee wears a necklace. Wiley said wearing the necklace is a great way to remind himself of the importance of giving back, and it often sparks conversation about the camp when people ask why he wears it.

Click here for the full talk.



TIA Mentor Ram Parimi Celebrates Sale of Social Tables

By Mary Galvez on October 25, 2018

Ram Parimi ’05

Congratulations to Ram Parimi ’05, TIA mentor and member of the founding team of Social Tables. Social Tables, an award winning hospitality platform, was recently acquired by Cvent Inc., a leading meetings, events, and hospitality management technology provider. The deal would combine the 110 employees and 5,000 customers of Social Tables with the 3,500 employees and 25,000 customers of Cvent to create a suite of complementary products focused on event management and venues. Social Tables will continue to operate as an independent business unit from its Washington, DC headquarters.

See the full article here: https://www.socialtables.com/blog/event-planning/cvent-acquires-social-tables