Katlyn Grasso (W’15), interned at WomenElect in Buffalo, NY

2013-2014 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow

How did you find the position?

I was introduced to the founder of WomenElect in the summer of 2012 through the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. After learning about her vision for the company, I strongly identified with its mission and asked to join the team.

 

What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?

I have always pursued nontraditional internships because I like to put myself in challenging situations that foster personal growth. As a young entrepreneur, I wanted to learn how a successful business is built and apply those lessons to my own ventures.

 

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?

Working at a start-up is the best way to explore your entrepreneurial interests and apply what you learn in the classroom to real world business situations. The best way to find a position is by reaching out to companies and identifying how your talents align with their goals.

As a social entrepreneur, I believe that developing innovative solutions to societal problems is not only a philanthropic effort, but a responsibility of business leaders to be a force for social good. My passion in life is empowering girls to pursue their goals in the face of incessant pressure and criticism. Growing up in an environment that nurtured female leaders, I have never thought that gender dictates success. Unfortunately, this ideal is not reflected in the American political system. Although women make up 51% of the population in the United States, they constitute only 18% of Congress. Diana Cihak created the start-up WomenElect in 2012 as a solution to this erroneous problem by preparing women to say, “Yes, I want to run for office!” Interning at WomenElect allowed me to utilize my passion for entrepreneurship to address a critical topic, inequality in government.

Based in Buffalo, New York, WomenElect provides a comprehensive year-long leadership development course for women interested in running for public office. This nonpartisan program includes extensive training in public speaking, image development, media relations, and fundraising. One of the most important aspects of WomenElect is mentoring. Potential candidates are paired with successful female leaders from a variety of industries to guide them through the overwhelming process of deciding to run for a political position. Upon joining the program, women are not required to run for office at any particular time. WomenElect helps women evaluate what public offices they are best suited for and the appropriate time to enter the political arena based on their professional and personal obligations. This organization is committed to empowering women to achieve their highest potential by making a positive difference in their communities.

My responsibilities as a WomenElect intern included managing the organization’s social media presence, conducting a competitive analysis to prepare for expansion, and identifying sources of funding. I strengthened both my qualitative and quantitative skills by conducting national research on nonprofit growth and providing leads to more than 500 donors. WomenElect’s commitment to collaboration and personal growth was extended to every employee, even the interns. The best part of being a member of the WomenElect team was the creative control I had over my work. At the beginning of every week, Diana would provide me with a list of objectives to complete, but it was my job to determine the most effective ways to design and implement these projects. By working on an initiative from conception to completion, I was able to observe the measurable impact my work had on the company. The executive management team was supportive of every project I undertook and reassured me that my opinions were valued.

After working with WomenElect, the only career path I can see myself pursuing is that of an entrepreneur. I was excited to go to work every day because I felt that my contributions to the company were helping to advance the role of women in politics. Due to the support of Wharton Entrepreneurship, I was able to refine my entrepreneurial abilities and push the boundaries of social impact innovation. Currently, I am developing a female empowerment start-up for high school girls to raise awareness about leadership development.