I hope you’re all staying warm (in the Northern Hemisphere). We’ve been enjoying a freakishly warm last few days here in Chicago, which no one is complaining about!
In this week’s blog, we are checking in with Dana, our resident entrepreneur, to see what she has been working on while many of her classmates are deep in summer internship recruiting for more traditional industries like banking and consulting. Be sure also to check out this week’s WIWG video where we ask students what a “typical” day for them is like at Booth – you’ll see that there really may be no such thing. Also, thanks for the positive feedback about our “Day in the Life” videos! We’re so glad that you are enjoying them and we are working to produce more to share with you in the coming weeks.
Read on to hear from Dana!
Winter quarter has been off to an incredible start – I love my classes (Building the New Venture with Professor Deutsch was worth every bid point!), I’ve become more involved in student activities, and best of all – I’ve been accepted into the Entrepreneurial Internship Program (EIP)!
Summer internships between our first and second years are critical to our professional formation. Many start-ups and small businesses have financial and resource constraints that make it difficult to recruit on-campus. With this in mind and thanks to many generous donors, the Polsky Center allows a number of full-time students to receive financial support to supplement summer internship salaries. The EIP program stipulates that students either participate in internships with companies on a traditional entrepreneurial track or within the social entrepreneurship realm. The companies can be start-ups or small businesses with less than $50 million in revenues. Students can either identify a company that they would like to work for, or they can ask the Polsky Center for assistance in finding a company that needs an intern and is in an industry of interest. In the fall after their internship, all EIP participants receive credit for their internships and take the Entrepreneurial Internship Seminar, where students write cases on the issues they faced and provide analysis or propose solutions.
While the recruiting process for traditional internships starts in the fall, the entrepreneurial internship process is on a much more delayed timeline. This is because many start-ups and small businesses cannot accurately forecast their staffing needs months and months in advance. Although my first quarter at Booth was devoid of “Corporate Conversations,” I used the fall to attend industry trade shows and build a network of entrepreneurs who specialize in Iberian importing and distribution. My winter break was spent in Spain to identify products that have the potential to sell very well if imported to the US. Because I have maintained contact with many of the entrepreneurs that I met in October, I am able to have discussions about these products and general export trends. These companies will not know their summer hiring needs until April or May, but by maintaining my relationships with importers, providing insight on products that will pique the curiosity of US consumers, and understanding each importer’s overall strategy and pain points, I will be able to better position myself for an internship opportunity and determine where I can “fit” in a particular organization.
In addition to networking with importers, I have also been meeting and speaking with the founders of many wine and food centered start-ups, such as Foodzie and Grubwithus. These organizations have much more of a “just-in-time” hiring model, but the conversations with the founders have given me perspective regarding internship roles I would enjoy. Even though Foodzie went through Techstars, one of the most prestigious seed-stage mentorship programs in the country, and Grubwithus received angel money from Ashton Kutcher, the founders are all incredibly humble individuals and willing to take time from their extremely hectic schedules to speak with aspiring entrepreneurs. It seems like a formidable task to seek an entrepreneurial internship, but when you combine the Polsky Center’s top-rate resources with a community that supports and embraces those with similar goals, it doesn’t seem so daunting.
When I excitedly entered the Polsky Center to return my signed acceptance form for the EIP program to Jonathan, he asked me about my preferred industry and my ideal internship. As I explained my interests and described a few target companies, he suggested resources within the Polsky Center to complement my search. I must have told him how much I’m looking forward to the summer at least twenty times, but it’s the truth. As I left the Polsky Center that morning, I was reminded of a plaque that hangs in the house I call home in Spain – “cada dia mellor e mellor” – which roughly translates to “every day better and better” and beautifully summarizes my Booth experience up to this point. A million thanks to the Polsky Center and the generosity of its supporters for equipping students to realize their dreams.