Jimmy Li (W’14), interned at Soletron in Philadelphia, PA


Cai Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow


In the summer of 2012, I was lucky to have the chance to work for an ecommerce start-up named Soletron in Philadelphia. Founded at the end of 2010 as a social networking and ecommerce platform in the streetwear apparel industry, Soletron identifies both domestic and international designers and creates a venue for both buyers and brands.


Having been working on an online platform that connects Chinese entrepreneurs to angel investors based in US, I had a clear understanding of how difficult it is to build a company from an idea. Then I found on Pennlink that Soletron was looking for marketing intern. I sent my resume and it was in March when Allen Steigman, CEO of Soletron, gave me a phone interview and introduced to me in detail what Soletron was founded to achieve and how people including former CEO of Adobe, founder of East Capital, founder of AND1, and even former Superbowl MVP Santonio Holmes became Soletron’s board members. Enthusiastic in entrepreneurship as I have always been, I was stunned by how an online clothing site could connect to such a variety of people, and I did not hesitate to accept the offer. And the internship experience did not only provide me with the knowledge of project management and marketing, but also with a growth and flexible mindset.


As a marketing intern, I was responsible for both online and offline marketing activities. The tasks assigned to me included regular web content generating, Internet research, and many other awareness and revenue oriented projects. Besides some basic work in search engine optimization, I helped research and design the SEO packet with the firm’s CEO and CTO aiming at increasing the exposure of smaller brands using the marketing strategy that had made Soletron one of the top sites for streetwear apparel. In order to facilitate manufacturing and delivery of the brands on Soletron’s platform, I created database for 800 apparel manufacturers based in different locations across the US. I was also responsible for maintaining and updating the seller database of over 1500 brands, which was one of core competencies of the firm. Throughout the internship, I enjoyed the flexible working environment and the convenience to talk directly to CEO whenever I came up with an idea or encountered a problem.


I believe that what makes entrepreneurship truly intriguing and constantly drives passionate people into this seemingly less lucrative and riskier start-up career are creativity and persistence. An innovative entrepreneur creates opportunities to lead the trend in an industry but not follow it, and the choice to give up or keep coming up with new ideas when there is an impasse is what differentiates those who can achieve greater success. Allen was a great example of an entrepreneur that is dedicated in work with no fear of failure and creative strategic planning. He reminded us that not every project we had been working on would have an immediate impact on either profit or awareness, but every project had a purpose that would lead to future opportunities. As in the status of raising fund, he challenged Peter Thiel for a game of chess betting on a million dollar investment as both of them became top-rated players in their early age, and the news spread out to various sites including Forbes and Business Insider.


In conclusion, the Soletron internship was rewarding as I could see how projects being built up from the very beginning and how an ambitious idea could lead to real impacts. Having a goal to have my own company in the future, I would suggest those interested in entrepreneurship to immerse themselves into the environment of start-ups to learn how business is done. Even just one summer experience will be rewarding.