Entrepreneurship Fund Summer Accelerator Spurs Inspiration and Innovation

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An all-day comfort clothing brand. A next-generation scrapbook. A fresh take on the gaming industry. A marketing company boosting youth engagement. 

These Colgate student–driven startups are advancing toward commercial viability, thanks to grants from the Entrepreneurs Fund Summer Accelerator through Thought Into Action (TIA).

The 2020 teams included CLOVO, a sustainable clothing brand; Far Owl Studios, a video game design venture; Stalgia, a software company facilitating online storytelling; and Stamp, a marketing service easing businesses’ engagement with young people. To grow their ventures, the teams shared dynamic practices while receiving exclusive access to the TIA network of mentors, experts, and advisers.

Typically, the program includes housing and workspace in Hamilton, N.Y., allowing the entrepreneurs to live and work together as part of a creative community. This year, ventures were able to participate virtually, TIA Director Carolyn Strobel explained. 

“We were able to pivot the Entrepreneurs Fund to a virtual format so that we could still offer this experience to promising, high-growth ventures,” she said. “We built community through daily virtual scrums over Zoom, weekly team-building activities, and seamless communication via Slack.”

For Megan Martis ’20, co-founder of CLOVO alongside Monica Dimas ’19, the Entrepreneurs Fund provided an avenue to navigate the business world, shaping her entrepreneurial mentality. “Through this experience, we have learned that our ideas can really come to life when having a plan, dedication, and patience,” she said. “Ultimately, our goal is to improve garments by making them more functional and sustainable to better suit the needs of people and the environment. There is simply no choice but to start creating a more sustainable future for the clothing industry as it is one of the top industry polluters.” 

CLOVO recently took first place in the Energy and Environment Track of the New York Business Plan Competition and won the Women in Business Enterprise Award. Martis described the experience as valuable and exhilarating. “We were not anticipating winning two awards that day, so it truly came as a surprise,” she said. “It helped us refine our brand and pitch.”

In an effort to modernize the way in which people digitally preserve and share memories, Eric Fishbin ’20 co-founded Stalgia alongside Jeremy Harwin ’20, Tristan Niskanen ’20, and Spencer Spitz ’21. Stalgia strives to capture the value of hardcopy journals as well as the versatility of smartphones, Fishbin explained. Leveraging technology, Stalgia offers a more convenient way to record and share memories. 

“We are amazed by the power of technology, but for some reason so many of us are limited by current social media platforms,” he said. “How many pictures do you have on your phone that you love but have never posted anywhere? How many pictures of you do your friends have that you do not even know about? There is so much up in the cloud that saves details of our lives, so it makes sense to us that there would be an app that focuses on how people log, organize, and share their experiences.”

Steven Dampf ’22 also finds inspiration in the empowerment of everyday people. When founding Stamp, he focused on offering businesses a new advertising channel that would demonstrate the mutual financial benefits of social responsibility. “Businesses have to appeal to young people so they can sell products and services and stay alive,” he said. “Stamp is here to spread positivity and empower people who want to do more good in the world.”

For Kai Davis ’23, the Entrepreneurs Fund solidified the business plan behind Far Owl Studios. Through the summer program, Davis learned to adapt the team’s creative projects to address potential shortcomings for video game consumers. 

“My venture was a creative one from the start — no business plan, no pitch, nothing,” Davis said. “I have learned how to think critically about a single goal and find ways to accomplish that goal, breaking down problems and finding solutions to the smaller problems. TIA is such a wonderful and accommodating program that I encourage people to apply to it even if their idea is muddled, because I was in the same shoes a year ago.”  

While Strobel looks forward to resuming an in-person format in the future, she noted the value of providing rewarding experiences virtually. “The feedback from the teams was very positive,” she said. “In a summer during which many job and internship opportunities evaporated due to the pandemic, this allowed us to offer a meaningful summer experience for current students and recent graduates.”

Colgate’s entrepreneurship programs help students develop solutions for the biggest challenges facing business and society — supported by a rigorous liberal arts education and dedicated alumni and parent mentors. For more information, visit colgate.edu/entrepreneurship.