Gate TVs: “For Students, By Students”

Gate TVs is a student-run business that aims to provide Colgate students with television rentals in a convenient, affordable and personal way. Students are able to order TVs online and have them delivered to their dorms, apartments or off-campus housing. The business began spontaneously last fall amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when the co-founders, Ari Roth and Ethan Cott, went to lunch after a calculus exam. Both first-year students new to Colgate at the time, Roth and Cott began discussing the challenges of staying entertained in their dorm rooms due to the limitations of COVID-19 protocols. By the end of their lunch, they went from classmates to business partners after Roth proposed his idea to begin a business that would enable students to rent TVs for their rooms. That spring, Douglas Zeller, another first-year, joined Roth and Cott in the business venture to complete their team. 

The founders’ identities as Colgate students are central to Gate TVs’ mission, marketing strategies and goals for the future. Roth, Cott and Zeller each play critical roles in reaching their target customers — Colgate students. On their website, they emphasize their motto: “By Colgate Students, For Colgate Students.” 

Cott manages the communication side of Gate TVs by acting as the bridge between the school and the business. His work also involves scheduling deliveries, reaching out to the company’s mentors, looking at business analytics and student outreach. Cott explained the importance of establishing the Colgate community as the business’ top priority. 

“We originally chose the name ‘Dorm TVs’ but over time we realized that it seemed distant and not personal enough. One of the best things about Colgate is the tight-knit community. The people at this school love it, and love to rep Colgate. We transitioned to ‘Gate TVs’ because it makes us feel more connected to the students, faculty and town of Hamilton.”

The founders’ vision for the brand, such as the Gate TVs logo and website, were created to appeal to Colgate students. Roth worked closely with his cousin, a graphic designer, to finalize the maroon and white logo, displaying Colgate pride. Roth was well-equipped to build the company’s impressive website after his experience designing the website for his father’s company in high school. Roth explained that when he, Cott, and Zeller need assistance with marketing, they turn to other Colgate student-run ventures instead of outsourcing to larger companies. Their goal to be as connected to the Colgate community as possible is reflected in their customer service strategies. 

“We really make an effort to get to know the students. For every delivery I have done, I have given the customer my personal phone number and I tell them to feel free to call or text me with any questions they have with set up. We want to be accessible at all times,” Roth said. “I think this is a benefit we have over traditional TV purchasing. If the TV is defective, we are going to be there the next day with a replacement. It’s more of a student-to-student relationship than a student-to-corporation relationship.”

As entrepreneurs, Roth, Cott and Zeller are always thinking about growing and improving Gate TVs. Zeller specializes in the marketing sector of the company and works to figure out effective strategies for reaching Colgate students, whether it be by setting up a table outside of Coop, sending out promotional emails or posting on social media. Their most recent initiative, the Super Bowl commercial that they promoted on their Instagram page, was a big success, with about 2,000 views on Instragram. The founders of Gate TVs reached out to senior Chase Hirt, the founder of Imaginaire Media, to help direct and film the commercial. The commercial, which took an entire day to film, featured their friends from the Colgate basketball and football teams. 

The key to Gate TVs’ success has been their ability to work as a team. At first, the hardest challenge to overcome was fairly dividing the work. Zeller recognizes the benefit of each team member taking on specialized roles.

“The creation of roles within the business was really important. Before we would have something to get done as a team and either all of us would do it at the same time or none of us would end up doing it,” he said. “When we created set divisions of roles with specific responsibilities, it made it a lot easier to delegate work.”

As Colgate students, each member of the Gate TVs team works to balance their academic lives, extracurriculars and the business. When they have an overwhelming week and need to focus on school, they count on one another to help complete their tasks and maintain the business. 

Roth, Cott and Zeller have a vision for the future of Gate TVs; they are constantly planning for what is to come next. Due to the success of their Super Bowl commercial, they are currently working on an advertisement for the upcoming March Madness. At some point, they hope to expand the product inventory to include an array of appliances and dorm room items. 

In the meantime, though, they are working on increasing their customer base and providing TVs to Colgate students in the easiest way possible.