Gina Hwang (WG’13) Chloe + Isabel in New York, NY & The Honest Co. in Los Angeles, CA

THE 2012-2013 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow 

I came to Wharton with virtually no network in the start-up world. So for recruiting, I took every piece of advice from the entrepreneurship and technology clubs and used every resource available from MBACM to help shape my story. Ultimately, I used a personal connection from undergrad to get my offer at Chloe + Isabel. For the Honest Company, I cold-emailed a Wharton alumni that I found on Linked-In.

 

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


After working as an associate in the financial services industry for the last five years, I realized that I was always itching for an opportunity to do and build more than just financial models. I wanted a chance to make a real impact on the company that I worked for.  Before coming to Wharton, I quit my finance job and I took an internship with a social venture capital firm in Mexico, which allowed me to work directly with early-stage social enterprises where I met many passionate entrepreneurs. I found that I enjoyed learning about their companies and helping them develop business strategies more than I did creating capitalization tables or writing investment memos. I then decided that I wanted to work for an early-stage start-up for my summer at Wharton to gain real operational experience and I wanted a role that would allow me to make a meaningful impact on the company’s trajectory. I wanted to work with a team of passionate and motivated colleagues and I wanted exposure to multiple projects and multiple functions.

 

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


Recruiting for me was a very labored process including applying to start-up job posts on the career website, getting warm introductions from fellow students, reaching out to my personal network, participating in the Start-up auction, and cold-emailing through LinkedIn. My advice would be to begin networking right away — start early and try to focus on an industry or company you want to work for. The earlier you make this decision, the easier it will be for you to prepare, network, and legitimize yourself as a valuable intern (especially if you are trying to change industries or function).  If you have a limited network or have difficulty getting warm introductions, another piece of advice is to pay for Linked-in Premium and take advantage of Linked-In email. Be strategic about who you contact and the message you send, but in my experience, I got a response from virtually everyone I contacted if not for an internship opportunity, at least for an interesting conversation about their business and industry or a second introduction.

 

My summer in start-ups.


This summer, I worked at two different early-stage, e-commerce start-ups. The first internship was with Chloe + Isabel (C+I), a jewelry, social-selling, start-up. At C+I, I worked in business development, but in true start-up fashion, I got exposure to product development and marketing as well.  Since C+I is a “modern direct selling” business, their most important asset and driver of their business is their direct sales force, also known as Merchandisers. The project I worked on was revamping the entire onboarding process of new merchandisers and increasing retention. I was responsible for investigating and diagnosing inefficiencies and I recommended a scalable strategy to market, recruit, hire and retain merchandisers. But the more interesting project was working as a Product Manager where I helped create technical specifications of the merchandisers’ dashboard (their “virtual office”), which is C+I’s differentiating offering. This product was designed to modernize the direct selling model with social selling applications. I got to use my creative side to help design the user interface of one of the components of this product and learned how to use Photoshop and Illustrator to create the mock-ups. One thing I learned from this experience was that although it’s not truly necessary to have a technical background to be a product manager, it is extremely helpful and more efficient if you have some knowledge which has inspired me to study a little coding in my free time.