By Chelsea Atkins C’16
Working at a start-up isn’t working at all; it’s living and breathing the universal belief of all start-ups: We will succeed. Success is measured incrementally in units sold, LinkedIn endorsements received, and business cards acquired. Every rejection, every negative review, and every sleepless night is fuel for the fire. If you believe in anything other than the inevitability of success, go home.
As cliché as it might sound, my internship found me. I was surfing my favorite natural hair care blog when I came across Kreyol Essence. Founded by a Haitian-American powerhouse of a woman (aka Yve-Car Momperousse), Kreyol Essence promised to pamper my curls with sustainable natural products and to invigorate the economy of my mother’s homeland. I sent an e-mail, made a call, and was well on my way to an internship capable of combining my International Relations major with my love of hair products.
My first day at the home office, co-founder, COO, and IT guru Stephane Jean-Baptiste asked that I be flexible. Flexibility at a start-up means jumping from department to department without batting an eyelash and working 10 hour/7 day workweeks without even stifling a yawn. Flexibility means rethinking the mission statement and product packaging all in one day. Flexibility also means simultaneously dancing to kompa music and sweating through product fulfillment.
In the short time I’ve been an “intern” (really an inadequate word when you’re 1 of about 10 employees) I have been amazed at the stamina and passion of those around me. The Kreyol Essence team has not only accepted the requisite delayed gratification of a start-up, but also embraced it. They push themselves tirelessly to live up to the social impact title Muhammad Yunus has gifted them with and the backing the Clinton Foundation has graced them with. Yve-Car in particular amazes me every day with the resolve of an intelligent, fierce female entrepreneur. She doesn’t obsess over financial reports and ingredient lists because she wants to be fabulously wealthy but because she wants to give her customers and the world her absolute best.
Half way through my internship I have gained a mentor, ties to my Haitian heritage, connections to my curly roots, and the ability to fight ferociously for what I believe in without breaking a metaphorical nail. I have learned that every life experience, including rolling burritos at Chipotle, is relevant at a start-up. In short, I’m not going to work in the morning; I’m going to succeed.
Bio: Chelsea Atkins is the Residential Advisor of the Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship residential program as well as a senior pursuing a BA in International Relations. Post graduation, her desire is to reconcile the tension between national security and refugee assimilation, all while continuing to advocate for sexual assault prevention on college campuses.