Students at Colgate University have a rich history of identifying unmet needs across campus and fulfilling them, dating back to the student-founded Philomathesian Society in 1821 which maintained a library. Today, entrepreneurs who are interested in selling goods or services on campus apply to the Campus Ventures Initiative (CVI), which provides certification to operate on campus and resources to support on-campus business activity.

Apply for Certification

CVI provides student-led for-profit and nonprofit ventures with two avenues for certification: full certification and approval for non-monetary operations. A new certification level for non-monetary activities (launched by the CVI Committee in 2024) supports non-monetary activities as students move their venture from ideation through non-monetary pilot testing to formal business operations on campus.

CVI-certified ventures may receive the following benefits. CVI certification does not guarantee access, but permits eligibility:

  • Official approval from the University to operate and market on campus
  • A CVI-accredited digital medallion that your venture can add to your online presence
  • Access to reserve spaces across campus (e.g., hold a pop-up sale in the Hall of Presidents)
  • Ability to have their goods/services mentioned in official University communications channels (e.g., alumni and parent outreach by Alumni Relations and Communications)
  • Departments/organizations have the ability to contract your venture to fulfill a need (e.g., provide food for a department function) - Fully Certified ventures only
  • Access to makerspaces across campus
  • Ability to take ’Gate Card payments through a card reader (coming soon) - Fully Certified ventures only
  • Ability to submit promotional materials to dozens of digital screens across campus, and to request inclusion in promotion materials and Colgate Calendar events listings for major weekends (e.g., Family Weekend)
  • Ability to utilize services provided by University Printing (cost borne by the venture)

Venture Requirements

We encourage ventures to apply to the CVI as soon as they begin thinking about starting operations on campus. 

For ventures seeking full CVI certification:

Before receiving approval and official certification, all ventures seeking full CVI certification must have: status as a sole proprietorship, LLC, 501(c)(3) non-profit, or other entity; appropriate insurance coverage; and a business checking account. For food ventures, an appropriate food service permit from the Madison County Department of Health will be required. Ventures are responsible for researching and setting up the appropriate entity, insurance, and permitting.

For ventures seeking certification for non-monetary operations:

Ventures applying for this level of certification (for example, a venture seeking to sample a food product to fellow students before committing to formal incorporation and scale-up), may operate on campus via a non-monetary certification level for up to one calendar year. A venture does not need to be incorporated, collect sales tax (as no financial transactions are permitted under this certification), nor some other aspects of full venture start-up.

Local resources available to provide guidance and connections include The Hub in Hamilton and the Small Business Development Center in Utica and Syracuse. In addition, ventures can reach out to E&I staff for guidance.

Full requirements are listed below.

Application Process and Operating Guidelines

Yes, both entities can apply for CVI certification, and either branch: Fully Certified or Non-Monetary Operations.

The CVI Committee chairperson will distribute your application to the review committee. If clarity about your submitted responses or more information is needed, the chairperson may request this. You will then be scheduled to interview with the review committee. The CVI Committee endeavors to meet with the applicant(s) within two weeks of a submission, however, finding a time when a quorum of the committee can meet is paramount.

The interview may be in-person or via Zoom. You should be prepared to “pitch” your venture idea to the panel. This presentation should take no longer than five minutes and should be as concise and direct as possible. Please bring a notebook to take notes. Any handouts, slide deck, or other materials must be emailed to (Subject Line: CVI Application Materials) at least 48 business hours prior to the interview. Copies will be distributed to the committee.  

After your initial pitch presentation, the committee will ask questions to learn more about your venture and determine its viability on campus. Take this opportunity to share with the committee how CVI certification would benefit your venture. 

The interview will last approximately 20-30 minutes. A decision will not be made on the spot; rather the chairperson will notify you of the decision within a few days. The decision of the committee will be either “Approved” or “Further information requested.” If you have been given suggestions or requests for more information, then once you have completed those tasks you can request a follow-up interview, if requested by the committee.

Before applying to the Campus Venture Initiative, you should research insurance requirements for your industry, have an initial conversation with an insurance expert, and come prepared to answer questions about insurance requirements and the research you have done so far. While ventures seeking approval for non-monetary operations may not need insurance, those seeking full certification likely will be required to carry insurance.

It is the policy of Colgate University that before any outside party can sell a product, conduct an event, commence construction or repair work, supply leased equipment, or utilize Colgate University premises, a Certificate of Insurance must be received by the Office of Accounting and Control; proof of liability and insurance coverage will be required before the venture is approved and resources are made available by CVI. Coverage and limits will vary depending on the nature of the venture. (A minimum insurance liability policy will be required.)

“Colgate University is committed to environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality by purchasing goods and services from manufacturers and suppliers who demonstrate leadership in environmental stewardship.” Therefore, applying ventures should be prepared to share with CVI committee members how it uses (or has looked into using) environmentally-sensitive products, materials, and sources whenever practicable.

As set forth in goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Colgate University’s The Third-Century Plan, the University encourages “the consideration and use of minority-owned or women-owned companies and vendors,” and to this commitment the CVI committee will ask prospective ventures to share their DEI efforts (e.g., purchasing raw materials from a minority-owned company).

Additionally, CVI applicants may be required to submit (or discuss during the interview):

  • Local, state, or federally-issued documents that permit the operation of their business (e.g., food service license)
  • Environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality efforts
  • Safety/hazard mitigation and crisis management plans
  • Business hierarchy/organizational chart
  • Background checks of employees/subcontractors
  • Professional references (≥2) (e.g., an organization you have done business with, a recognized student organization, a TIA mentor, a Colgate faculty member)
  • Completed Vendor Profile Form and W9 - For fully certified ventures only

While our goal is to make operating a student business as easy as possible at Colgate, there may be circumstances that might interfere with implementing your idea. Some examples include:

  • Ventures that interfere with contracts that outside vendors have with the university.
  • Ventures that pose a risk to the University, its faculty, staff, or students.
  • Ventures that conflict with existing university policies.
  • Ventures that conflict with village of Hamilton, state of New York, and/or federal laws.
  • Ventures that would require University staff time and resources in order to operate.
  • Ventures that are franchise businesses will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

These circumstances are usually rare and would be discussed in more detail in the interview. 

Once you are accepted for Fully Certified operations, you may receive access to a ’Gate Card terminal for processing payments that you can reserve through E&I when operating on campus. (Currently, the ’Gate Card terminal requires a hardwired internet connection. E&I is looking into a device operating on a cellular connection.) You will need a business checking account in order for the Accounting Department to transfer the money to you. You will be expected to collect sales tax as a business in accordance with the applicable laws for you business.

If you are approved, you will receive a certificate of operation that indicates you are an approved business with contact information on who to reach out to if any issues should arrive. Additionally, you will receive a digital medallion that you can post to your online presence (e.g., website, Instagram).

Ventures that receive CVI approval will need to renew their certification under the following circumstances:

  • At the beginning of each academic year
  • When the main contact person for a student-run venture/business changes
  • Whenever insurance certification or other paperwork changes

Renew your certification here.

Certification for non-monetary operations is for a maximum of one calendar year. Under extreme extenuating circumstances the CVI Committee may consider granting a venture and additional six months of certification for non-monetary operations. An individual may apply for multiple non-monetary operations certifications during their years at Colgate as long as the applications are for different ventures.

If you are approved and become a venture approved to operate on campus, recognize that you are still an independently-operated venture and Colgate does not profit or benefit in any way from the proceeds. As such, you will be held to the same standards as an outside vendor. Additionally, receiving CVI certification for your venture does not exclude the University from allowing or actively seeking competition from other sources. Finally, the University reserves the right to terminate recognition at any time upon written notice without necessity of demonstrating cause.

By approving a venture through CVI, Colgate is in no way endorsing nor promoting this business over any other approved vendor.

Campus Venture Initiative Committee

Assistant Vice President for Risk and Strategic Analysis
308 James B. Colgate Hall
Associate Vice President, Controller
James B. Colgate Hall
Assistant Director, Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Associate Vice President for Community Affairs and Auxiliary Services
Director of Sustainability
Director of Environmental Health and Safety
Director of Purchasing
Service Building
Director for Campus Culture and Inclusion
205 Lathrop Hall
Assistant Vice President for Residential Planning and Programs
Director of Campus Safety