By Ari Roth ’24, Ethan Cott ’24, and Doug Zeller ’24, founders, Gate TVs
In the fall of our first year, two of us — Ari and Ethan — met for the first time to recap a math test we had just taken. Instead of talking calculus, we found ourselves discussing our past businesses and a mutual desire for a better, more practical way to stay entertained in our dorms during the pandemic.
By the end of lunch, we had created a business plan for Gate TVs. Similar to the fridge and microwave rental service here on campus, Gate TVs rents smart TVs to the Colgate student body to provide a cheap and simple alternative to purchasing a TV. Students who bring their TVs from home deal with the hassle of transportation, storage, and all maintenance involved with owning a television. We provide the benefits of having a television in a dorm while avoiding the negative aspects.
During our first few months in business, we focused on surveying Colgate students and then creating the material aspects of the company based on those survey results. During this period, we built our website and established a pricing model, formed an LLC, obtained a tax EIN, opened a business checking account, worked with insurance companies, and found a supplier.
As we shifted our focus to marketing in the spring, Doug approached us. When he was in high school, he was the founder of a babysitting company that did $100,000 in revenue, so he knew a thing or two about marketing. By the end of summer 2021, our marketing campaign had been successful. The Colgate student body rented more than two dozen televisions for the fall semester and almost all customers re-rented for the spring semester. This netted us more than $5,000 in revenue.
During the fall, we worked on our marketing plans for the next semester. At Gate TVs, we refer to the middle of each semester as the off-season, when we primarily focus on our market strategy and potential avenues of outreach. This past fall, we focused on outreach to nearby landlords and the sale of other related products such as dorm lights, TV stands, and HDMI cords. By reaching out to landlords, we were able to find individuals interested in renting TVs for their future tenants and others who were interested in referring our company to their current and future renters. We received several more orders for the spring semester, putting us at more than 30 TVs rented by students, including a 65” TV rental, our largest size to date.
To support this growth, we applied for and received a TIA Incubator seed grant. The funds we received were very beneficial for maintaining a steady flow of financial operations for our company. We used our $1,000 grant to purchase TVs for customers who ordered TV rentals during the middle of the semester — which generate less rental revenue than full-semester rentals. We were also able to afford the purchase of TVs on Black Friday, taking advantage of large discounts, ultimately saving us money in the long run.
Due to the business growth that resulted from the seed grant, we are now in a position to focus on higher-quality marketing for this semester. We worked with Imaginaire Media — another venture in the TIA Incubator — to create advertisements encouraging students to buy televisions in preparation for the Super Bowl (check out our TV spot here!). We have created flyers promoting Gate TVs and also showcased our TVs to students at the Coop. We have seen strong results with orders so far this winter, and we expect to see more sales in the coming weeks.
We have big goals for the upcoming year. We want to expand our product line, both in variations of televisions offered and in other electronics, accessories, and more. We also want to expand our company to incorporate new schools. At the moment, we are researching expansion into nearby Syracuse University, boasting a student body nearly 10 times the size of Colgate. Our sales due to this expansion could be staggering. At the same time, such an expansion requires lots of preparation and risk analysis. Thanks to the help of our TIA mentors, we have received the support needed to continue this growth process.
If you would like to learn more about Gate TVs, you can visit our website: www.GateTVs.com, or email us at email@example.com. You can also stay updated by following us on Instagram @GateTVs. We are always excited to speak with you, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!