Breaking Barriers: Whitman Alumni Are Redefining Workplace Roles, Leading Through Innovation and Technology and Carving Out Diverse Paths to Success
Master’s in Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises
CLLCTVE provides access to underrepresented talent in a way that allows us to democratize access to opportunity. It provides a deeper pathway for people who historically don’t have these opportunities available to them.
Whether it’s educating its students and faculty on issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion; fostering new ventures through research, innovation and entrepreneurship; or tapping into the experience, generosity and leadership of its vast alumni network, the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University is working to break barriers every day with a campus culture that continues to evolve, advance and promote its students with the support and skills they need to not only succeed in the business world but become leaders that are truly making a difference.
Uniting Creative Talent and Opportunity
Kelsey Davis ’19 (NEW), ’20 M.S. believes that talent is everywhere—but opportunity is not. This recent Whitman graduate is making great strides as the co-founder and CEO of CLLCTVE, an innovative platform that “fosters a diverse and inclusive environment and democratizes the content marketplace for all creators, regardless of race, sexuality, location or resources.”
While a student at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School majoring in television, radio and film, Davis started freelancing in video creation, working with major brands like Puma, Condé Nast and Coca-Cola. She began noticing that brands targeting a Gen Z audience could benefit from the talents of Gen Z creators, too. So, Davis began seeking out talented, creative students to work with her and soon founded CLLCTVE, a platform that connected creators with marketers.
Her idea got noticed, and she soon realized that this was her calling, making plans to pursue CLLCTVE as a career. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she decided to enroll at the Whitman School to earn a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, while using that time to raise capital for her growing business venture.
“Whitman gave me the space, an incubation year, to be in a position where I could test a lot of assumptions about my company and have the opportunity to actually work on my business while I ideated and created in real time,” she explains, noting that her master’s capstone project focused on the work she was doing with CLLCTVE.
“The goal is to help creators fuel their independent work-life journey,” says Davis, who has since relocated to Los Angeles to run CLLCTVE full time with co-founder Brendan O’Keeffe ’21 (iSchool). “CLLCTVE provides access to underrepresented talent in a way that allows us to democratize access to opportunity. It provides a deeper pathway for people who historically don’t have these opportunities available to them.”
CLLCTVE is making its mark. According to Davis, the platform has built a working team, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in venture capital and currently hosts a community of more than 3,000 creators.
“The market is hungry for what we are building right now,” says Davis. “For creators, it’s a tool in their belt to connect with brands, get a job and, ultimately, get paid for doing what they love. For brands, it’s a way to connect with fresh freelancers, creators and an endless number of really talented, innovative people who might not otherwise be on their radar.”
It’s not only the company that’s attracting attention; Davis is, too, as there is no ignoring her entrepreneurial spirit and determination to level the playing field for people of all backgrounds. Recently, she was chosen as one of 12 Black-owned LGBTQ entrepreneurs in a 2020 Forbes article celebrating Pride Month, was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2021 and has been highlighted in both Adweek and The New York Times.
“Humbly, I don’t feel surprised by that. I have always felt like God gave me the wisdom and purpose to go out and build a bridge and be a connector,” she says. “My dad always told me, ‘If you do good work and are a good person, you’ll succeed.’ I always try to serve and see how I can add value.”
“There are a lot of things that my community already knew pre-pandemic and pre-George Floyd, but world events created more urgency towards some of the realities that Black people were already living,” she explains. “These issues helped us, I suppose, as we continue to validate a lot of ideas that Black and brown founders have. Black founders can solve problems for 99% of the world. We have always lived with a higher sense of empathy and a consciousness of having to go against the grain. We’re problem solving all the time.”
Davis plans to continue to solve problems and tap into her own creative and entrepreneurial spirit while helping others bring their talents into a larger spotlight. She intends to move CLLCTVE forward by continuing to grow her team and extend the product beyond Los Angeles and across the country, and there’s little doubt she will succeed.
According to Davis, “We want CLLCTVE to become the No. 1 place where people search for creative talent, and we intend to continue to build a product that will make a real difference in the lives of millions of talented creators, while also creating new spaces for economic inclusion and equity for everyone.”
By Caroline Reff