Startup Intern: The Fashionista

Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowships are available to Penn/Wharton Undergraduates and First Year MBAs. They are awarded to students who plan to spend the summer in an entrepreneurial setting and who demonstrate both a commitment to entrepreneurship at Penn and to pursuing an entrepreneurial career. To apply, click here.

Nashwa Elangbawy W’15, 2013-14 Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow at Dagne Dover, New York, NY

This past summer, I had the immense pleasure of interning for Dagne Dover, a Wharton MBA retail start-up that aims to design and produce the answer to the prayers of every working-girl and female student alike: a handbag and wallet that can transition from day to night, all while keeping you organized. Though I believe the product to be revolutionary, the epiphany I experienced this summer stemmed not from finally having the contents of my purse organized, but rather a combination of a deep love for the industry I worked in as well as the invaluable mentorship I received from the company’s three founders.

Growing up, I had always had an innate love for fashion. The creative facility of fashion designers, large and small, astounded me—season after season, they’d churn out edgy, beautiful, and/or artistic lines that made me more and more eager to join that world. In the past two years, however, I fell prey to the investment banking and consulting tunnel vision that some Wharton undergrads adopt because it’s “normal” to. I consciously decided that I did not want to work in the retail world but subconsciously refused to write the idea off completely. And for that reason, when my roommate, and member of First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, presented me the opportunity to interview for an internship position with Dagne Dover, one of their portfolio companies, I decided to go for it. Over coffee and small talk at the MBA pub, the company’s co-founder/CFO and I hit it off instantly. I immediately knew that I needed to join their team for the summer.

During my time at Dagne Dover, it’s safe to say that no day was the same as the next. My main roles and responsibilities hovered in the finance and operations region, but the beauty of working at a start-up is that you get to take on many roles at the same time. Some days I found myself sourcing custom leather or nylon fabrics in New York’s Garment District. Other days I found myself dropping off contracts to future company event locations. Some days I found myself visiting the manufacturing site in Garment District where the bags and clutches were actually put together. Some days I found myself packing thirty or so shipments to customers. At times I was knee deep in ordering supplies and posters and gift bag items for an upcoming trunk show or even the company’s launch party. But while doing all of that, I was always working on the financial and operational aspects, helping to design a comprehensive sales and order tracking system to compile pre-sale orders and current sales in an effort to get the first few batches of shipments out. Every day, in essence, was a little surprise.

And while I truly appreciated getting to fill all of these different roles, my favorite part of my internship was receiving the mentorship and guidance of the three founders. With years of experience in marketing, operations, planning/buying, and design, every nugget of wisdom or cautionary note is forever engrained in my mind. And for that reason exactly, I highly encourage anyone who’s even contemplated working for a start-up company to truly pursue it. The experience is like no other. With the many roles I took on over the course of the three months, I honestly feel as if I fit five internships into one summer. And with that, another piece of advice would be to always be flexible. With start-ups, because they’re usually brand new and working to establish the foundations, being flexible is crucial. And in regards to acquiring that internship with a start-up, just leverage your network and contacts! Wharton’s Entrepreneurial Department is a great source for information about current start-ups.

In summary, if you hope to intern at a start-up in the near future, remember to: extract every ounce of guidance and wisdom out of your bosses, be flexible, and leverage your network.

Nashwa croppedBio:  Nashwa Elangbawy is a junior at Wharton studying Finance, Management, and Retail. She was born and raised in the town of Weehawken, NJ, and she loves fashion and shopping.