THE 2010-2011 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient:
How did you find the position?
I found the position fairly last-minute, late April, through the MBACM website. It was a position advertised by WEP.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I came to Wharton wanting to learn more about entrepreneurship. I worked on several (unsuccessful) business plans over my first year at Wharton, and felt that I needed to experience work at a start-up which had actually been launched to understand the challenges better. A lot of what I learned throughout the summer has helped me improve the latest business plan I have been working on.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
First, think hard about the reasons why you want to work at a start-up. Do you want to experience work in a fairly unstructured, more relaxed work environment? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to do a little bit of everything over your summer?
Second, make sure you are ready to deal with ambiguity and lack of structure.
Third, speak with 2nd years who have interned at start-ups. The interview process for start-ups is usually unstructured and informal. Make sure you know what type of interview questions you should expect.
Last, there is no need to start too early. Start-ups usually do not know in January if they will need an intern in the summer. It is fine to gather information about sectors you are interested in beforehand, but do not ask for an internship until April or May. It is hard to choose the start-up path at Wharton, when half your classmates know what internship they will be doing by January or February, and you still do not know where you will be applying. But it is extremely rewarding and worth the wait!
About the Summer Experience
I spent two months this summer at Redemption Spirits, a Philadelphia-based liquor company. Redemption creates new brands of liquors and markets and sells them throughout the country and in 15 foreign countries.
When the internship started, the CEO had just sold the previous company he owned and ran, along with the liquor brands that company managed. However, he started a new company right away with the same business model. It was thrilling to be involved in the early days of the new company. As an intern, this offered a unique opportunity to be involved with all aspects of starting and running a business. I worked with the CEO on improving the business model and finding alternative sources of revenue; I helped create a new brand, along with a back story and a target market analysis; I was involved in creating the company’s business plan, presentation for investors and financials; I helped identify sources of funding and government support; I also did some cursory due diligence work for a potential acquisition in the wine business.
Overall, I worked on marketing, strategy, finance, and legal environment during this internship. I think you can only get this type of exposure in so little time at a start-up.
The scope of work was often very ambiguous. The whole team was extremely busy on all fronts. It was really up to me to find work to do as the CEO didn’t have time to really structure the internship for me, and it eventually paid off. I’m sure every start-up is different, but in most cases, you will probably find that executives at start-ups are overworked and have many more ideas and projects than they have time to address. If you find a way to identify these projects with the CEO and work on them over the summer, you’re more likely to have a real impact in your internship.
Overall, I highly recommend working at a start-up if you are very curious by nature, want to tackle many different aspects of a business’s life, and if you are ready to deal with the ambiguity and lack of structure.