There are finals, and then there are finales.
Colgate launched its Entrepreneur Professional Network on April 11, the grand finale in a series of network launches that have taken place throughout the academic year.
The reception took place backstage after Colgate’s Entrepreneur Weekend all-star panel, and hundreds of alumni and guests were in attendance.
While previous network launches were held in cities across America, the entrepreneur network marked its beginnings on campus in Hamilton, where President Jeffrey Herbst has made entrepreneurship a strategic priority and the Thought Into Action Entrepreneurship Institute (TIA) has become the umbrella organization for all of the university’s entrepreneurial efforts.
President Herbst honored TIA’s founder, Andy Greenfield ’74, P’12 during the event, saying “Without Andy’s drive, without Andy’s energy, we would not be where we are today with entrepreneurship at Colgate.”
While TIA still provides an important avenue for alumni and parents to engage with the university and with students, the new network increases the number of potential connections. Developed by the Office of Alumni Relations and the Center for Career Services, the network is driven by its members and led by Katie Finnegan ’05.
Finnegan knows the power of Colgate connections. At the first Entrepreneur Weekend in 2011, university alumni provided the impetus she needed to leave her day job and work full time on Hukkster, a disruptive online shopping venture that now boasts 250,000 users.
“The support of the Colgate network, Colgate infrastructure, the Colgate faculty, is what helped get us there,” said Finnegan. “What I’m excited about with this network is bringing that infrastructure to alumni elsewhere.”
Like all of Colgate’s professional networks, the entrepreneur network will provide a forum in which alumni can connect around issues related to their particular industry. It will also help to highlight the Colgate community’s impact on the world, facilitate mentorships and internships for students, and remind alumni that their generosity can shape lives.
“Given what we know about the changing nature of the workplace, Colgate graduates are going to have to invent and reinvent their own career paths to be successful,” Career Services Director Michael Sciola said during a network panel conversation on Saturday morning. “Whether it’s called entrepreneurship or survival, we have a responsibility to make sure that students are ready.”
When it comes to survival, entrepreneurs rely heavily on their networks. “At Colgate, everybody knows somebody,” said Swagger New York founder Sian-Pierre Regis ’06. “So if you connect with one Colgate person, they can connect you with ten others who can help you solve the major problem within your business.”
Surmounting problems while doing what’s never been done before — that’s the entrepreneur’s calling card. Thanks to the new Entrepreneur Professional Network, hundreds of Colgate graduates are one step closer to the answers and connections they need.
“I’m so excited that this network has been formed,” said TIA member Joshua Lasker ’14. “I want to be an entrepreneur for life, and I want to be a part of the Colgate community for life. If we can blend those two together, that’s so powerful.”