CLLCTVE takes real-world experience to the next level

CLLCTVE takes real-world experience to the next level

Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams started CLLCTVE to allow college students to create digital content for nationally-recognized brands while also learning business skills.
Published: November 7, 2018
Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams are founders of CLLCTVE.
Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams founded CLLCTVE to help college creatives develop business skills.

Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams crafted their pitch for the ‘Cuse Tank business competition the day before, but they still won first place and a prize of $5,000. It wasn’t a problem for Davis and Williams, though, who have been working on their startup CLLCTVE for several months. One week later on Nov. 2, they won first place and another $5,000 at the Google Pitch Competition hosted by Black Girl Ventures in New York City. It wasn’t just a conceptual plan they presented to the judges — it’s an already-functioning business.

CLLCTVE allows college students to use their media skills to create videos and digital content for brands like Coca-Cola, Land Rover and Good Uncle while also learning business skills, like how to send an invoice and communicate with clients, Davis said. Students first join CLLCTVE’s general community where they learn these skills, and then they can move on to become freelancers who work directly with brands.

“We’re really big on developing and we want to prepare people for the real world,” Davis said. “That’s something that’s really big for us so it’s like a tier system that gets you to that point.”

Their six-minute pitch for the ‘Cuse Tank competition on Oct. 26 was judged by a group of SU parents who are successful entrepreneurs themselves. The inaugural competition was sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad, a space located in Bird Library for students to meet and work on startups. SU Libraries received a donation for the prize money, said Linda Dickerson Hartsock, executive director of the LaunchPad.

Hartsock said between 35 and 40 teams applied for the competition and the LaunchPad team narrowed it down to a “sweet sixteen.” The judges then read summaries of those 16 business plans and chose an “elite eight” that got to pitch their ideas in person in front of the judges.

“The one team that really stood out — that every single parent judge voted for — was CLLCTVE,” Hartsock said. “They were just in awe of Kelsey’s charisma, intellect, presentation, vision, drive and determination and the traction she’d already accomplished and achieved with the business.”

Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams recently won the 'Cuse Tank business competition and the Google Pitch competition in NYC.
Kelsey Davis and Ryan Williams recently won the 'Cuse Tank business competition and the Google Pitch competition in NYC.

Davis, a senior television, radio and film major from Atlanta, was interested in video production in high school. As a sophomore at SU, Davis reached out to concert organizers to get free tickets and would take several trips per week to shoot videos of concerts in New York City. Right after the concerts, she would edit the videos in her car and post them online.

“It was that hustle and that grit that then got that in front of other people,” Davis said. “It started like that and people started catching a hold of it. Then I was in certain meetings with certain people and then really taking advantage of every time we were in the room.”

Davis connected with Ryan Williams, a fellow SU student and personal trainer. Although Williams didn’t have a background in business, Davis immediately recognized his ability to plan, build and execute ideas. Now Williams, who will graduate from SU in 2020, is in charge of operations at CLLCTVE.


“Ryan’s this really organized strategic thinker who will fill 15 whiteboards a day with strategy and Kelsey is just out there on the creative side, thinking how do we turn this into creative output,” Hartsock said.

Sean Branagan, director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Newhouse, taught Davis in a class last spring after meeting her at a LaunchPad event. It was near the end of the class that Davis announced she wanted to start CLLCTVE because she felt like she was struggling to find a balance between academics and her freelance work. Her goal was to create a program where students could get real-world experience and also receive academic credit. This semester, two students are getting credit for working with CLLCTVE and Davis said she hopes to start a full class next semester.

Branagan said that what makes CLLCTVE stand out against other startups is that it’s not focused solely on the idea, and that Davis and Williams are open to change.

“What really makes a difference is who executes on the idea,” Branagan said. “Good at executing doesn’t exactly mean do you know exactly how it’s gonna be and how you’re gonna do it. It’s by getting in and doing it that you can accomplish more than if you’re just sitting back working on the idea. If you’re doing something, you’re out talking to people, meeting with potential customers and you shape the idea.”

This past summer, Davis and Williams worked on CLLCTVE in the LaunchPad several hours a day, Hartsock said. It’s not uncommon for Davis to text her a question in the middle of the night, she said. After the two recent competition wins, CLLCTVE is moving full speed ahead. It’s already established on 50 campuses across the country via Handshake, and they hope to continue expanding.

Davis, who grew up an athlete, compared the experience of launching CLLCTVE to a competitive sport.

“I think the one thing that I don’t like about this start-up space is like people act like failure isn’t inevitable, that we’re not all here to learn and that anxiety is real,” Davis said. “That’s a real thing.”