EcoCampus, LLC Sold to Students, Becomes First Colgate Legacy Company


Complimenting Colgate’s desire to be carbon-neutral by 2019 and a desire for student entrepreneurship, EcoCampus, LLC has been providing campus offices with sustainable paper since 2011.

Founded by senior Ryan Smith, EcoCampus only sells paper made out of a mix of sugarcane waste fiber and plantation fiber. Compared to regular paper, 40 reams of this eco-friendly paper saves 19 trees. EcoCampus was recently sold, creating Colgate’s first legacy company.

Smith reports that through the sale, he and his business partner senior Brendan Karsen made a 28 percent profit on the intial investment.

“Historically, paper was always made from hemp and other sustainable fibers, except for the last hundred years. I thought we should get back to basics,” Smith said.

EcoCampus was created with the help of Colgate’s Thought Into Action Institute that allows student entrepreneurs to collaborate with each other as well as with parent and alumni mentors to turn their ideas into a reality. Entrepreneurship gives students valuable business experience at a school that doesn’t offer traditional business courses. Smith didn’t have an idea for a company at first, but was determined to be a student entrepreneur and eventually, with the help of Thought Into Action, realized that Colgate needed a more sustainable paper source.

“After receiving the email about [Thought Into Action] freshman year, I knew I had to be a part of it … Thought Into Action alone has made coming to Colgate worthwhile,”

Smith said.

It was through Thought Into Action that Smith teamed up with Karson. Together they incorporated EcoCampus and built up their company’s reputation. They hit numerous roadblocks along the way, such as being ripped off by paper mills and having to navigate Colgate’s administration to be able to sell directly to campus offices, but the company became a huge success and now, in a single month, Smith and Karson will receive shipments with as many as 1,200 reams of paper. However, the two seniors will soon be graduating in a few months and had to figure out how to keep their

company alive.

“We see EcoCampus as a legacy business handed down from one year to the next,” Smith said. Juniors Cameron Borriello, Robbie Nicholas, Michael Hendricks and John Gabler are now officially in charge of EcoCampus.

“I first became interested in purchasing EcoCampus because I wanted to gain first-hand business experience while at Colgate …The four of us bought the company because it already had well-established client connections with Colgate and we saw substantial potential to grow the company,” Nicholas said.

The four new owners look to build their company into an even larger paper powerhouse on campus. Already this semester, EcoCampus has been put on Colgate’s preferred paper supplier list along with big-box suppliers Staples, OfficeMax and W.B. Mason. They also look to expand their client base to additional Colgate departments as well as Hamilton businesses such as the Colgate Bookstore. A new website was recently launched that will allow customers to purchase their paper online, as well as additional eco-friendly office products that the new owners plan to offer in the future.

“We believe this website combined with our guaranteed next day delivery offers our clients a customer service experience that larger distributors cannot match when dealing with Colgate,” Nicolas said.

What started as a Colgate student’s idea grew into a company that will likely be a permanent fixture on Colgate’s campus. As he moves on to working in real estate development in New York City, Smith will remember the entrepreneurial struggles it took to make EcoCampus thrive.

“Most people are disillusioned by mounting challenges but the entrepreneur enjoys them; they become the journey that makes it all worthwhile,” Smith said. “You have to enjoy every obstacle and every ‘No’ has to make you want it even more. Otherwise, ideas never happen.”