Entrepreneur Weekend Showcases Student Creativity

Kerry Houston

On Saturday, April 6 the culmination of months of planning that brought Colgate’s second Entrepreneur Weekend to campus came to life. Beginning with the keynote address on Friday afternoon by Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, the weekend was filled with various events designed to connect student, parent and alumni entrepreneurs.

Program Coordinator for the Thought Into Action Institute (TIA) Mary Galvez and Alumni Director and Co-Founder of TIA Wills Hapworth ’07 played a significant role in planning the TIA student demonstrations on Saturday morning in the Clark Room of the James C. Colgate Union. Last spring, approximately 50 students developed project outlines and applied to TIA, a program on practical entrepreneurship where passionate students collaborate with parent and alumni mentors with genuine entrepreneurial experience. Through TIA, students learn to take their ideas and turn it into action by using practical knowledge and survival skills.  There were 25 students with 16 projects who participated in the TIA student demos as part of the weekend.

“Colgate has a long, rich history in entrepreneurship, specifically in a liberal arts context … There has been a lot of coaching, a lot of failure, and a lot of success; it’s a learning process,” Hapworth said.

Students involved in TIA develop a variety of skills while working on their projects, a time commitment that can require more hours of work than a typical Colgate class. The student ventures range in scope from profit and non-profit ventures, to campus-enrichment projects.

TIA’s main goal is to teach ambitious students the skills they need in order to make their project come to life. Students especially work to develop strong communication, social marketing and negotiation skills. They also learn how to benefit from a process of trial and error and to problem solve more effectively.

“A lot of people have ideas, but not everyone can turn them into reality,” Galvez said.

One of the many challenges students faced was the process of condensing their ten-minute project presentations into 90-second pitches for ten alumni mentors during the week before Entrepreneur Weekend. These alumni heard all the project pitches and then selected the best five projects to be presented at the student demonstrations.

All sixteen student venture projects were displayed on Saturday morning in the Clark Room. At noon, the five groups of TIA students pitched their venture projects to the audience of parents, students, faculty and alumni.

Senior Cody Breene presented the first student venture, Giggity.Co, which is an online booking platform for universities and independent performers that works to eliminate the hassle of dealing with booking agents.

Sophomore Colin Shipley followed with his ideas to expand Colgate’s Aviation Club by bringing more exciting and educational aviation-related activities to campus.

“GateSwap,” a safe, social and sustainable way to exchange goods and services on college campus, was the third project, developed by sophomores Rob Carroll and Gabriel Zetter.

Senior Courtney Mills then introduced her non-profit “Read With Me,” a website that encourages people of all ages to submit clips of themselves reading stories so preschool-age children have a greater access to the joys of reading.

Senior Yuni Shameshima concluded the presentations with “Recipe Into Reality,” a software company that connects supermarkets and recipe websites to allow customers to search recipes and pick up ingredients in store.

Entrepreneur Weekend activities resumed later in the afternoon at 2:30 with a discussion in the Colgate Memorial Chapel entitled “Little Talks, Big Ideas.” The session, introduced with a 30-minute conversation led by David Fialkow ’81, involved seven alumni and one current student, senior Maggie Dunne, who have all found great success  with entrepreneurship in the business world. Dunne’s presentation caused Fialkow, co-founder of General Catalyst Partners, and Mike Ellenbogen ’86, an entrepreneur in residence at General Catalyst, to commit $22,000 to Dunne’s nonprofit and solicited at least $3,000 more from the audience. A networking reception for students, alumni and parents in the Hall of Presidents immediately followed the discussion.