EcoCampus, the company that was created by two Colgate students to sell environmentally-friendly paper on campus, has found another way to be “sustainable.”
Seniors Ryan Smith ’13 and Brendan Karson ’13 have sold their company to four juniors, turning the EcoCampus into what may be Colgate’s first student legacy business. They developed EcoCampus over the past three years with alumni guidance through Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) program.
Smith and Karson sold the company to their Theta Chi fraternity brothers Robert Nicholas ’14 of Berwyn, Pa., John Gabler ’14 of Fort Collins, Colo., Cameron Borriello ’14 of Sterling, Mass., and Michael Hendricks ’14 of Saint Charles, Mo.
While the sale price was not disclosed, Smith and Carson said they earned a 28 percent profit on their initial investment.
“Starting and running my first company in college was as much about learning as it was about turning a profit,” said Smith, who plans to work in real estate after graduation. “We believed EcoCampus was ultimately more important as a fixture at Colgate University for budding entrepreneurs, rather than as an ongoing post-graduate company.”
Karson, who plans to enter the energy finance industry after graduation, said his time with EcoCampus taught him “how to make a connection beyond the product, and really get to know his clients.”
TIA co-founder Andy Greenfield ’74 P’12 praised EcoCampus as a model of success for the extracurricular program that links liberal arts learning to entrepreneurial skill development. “They traveled a long way,” Greenfield said, “since the initial TIA project of using kenaf to make paper almost three years ago. They overcame adversity, dealt with many challenges, and solved almost every problem they encountered.”
New co-owner Nicholas said he and his partners plan to do as much with the company as they can in the time they are still on campus. “We bought it because it already had well-established client connections, and we saw substantial potential to grow the company,” he said. “Our new website, ecocampusllc.com, combined with guaranteed next-day delivery, will offer our clients a customer service experience that larger distributors cannot match when dealing with Colgate.”
EcoCampus currently supplies Case and Cooley libraries, two of Colgate’s largest paper users; however many smaller departments still order tree-based paper from other vendors.
Co-owner Hendricks said they, too, plan to pass the business on. “All things considered, it makes the most sense for us to keep EcoCampus as a legacy business,” he said. “There’s no telling what is in store for us after graduation, so the prospect of maintaining the company while living in different parts of the country is a lofty one.”