Marina Nazarova (WG’11) interned at Zecozi.com in Philadelphia, PA

THE 2010-2011 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient:

I remember my first week at Wharton, while everyone was stressing over the pre-term math exam, I decided that I will immediately start looking for entrepreneurial opportunities since that was the reason why I came to business school. First year flew by and despite having exposure and participating in countless entrepreneurial programs and activities (Business Plan Competition, eConference, writing a few business plans, just to name a few) when we came back from Spring break I still had no idea where I was going to spend my summer. One day an advertisement about a lecture on Entrepreneurship and Sustainability caught my eye and I found myself along with ten other students sitting across from Deana Zelenka, the CEO of Zecozi.

 

Despite the low turnout for her lecture, Deana was excited to share her vision on how she became frustrated with not having an online portal where she could do all of her online shopping for sustainable goods at the same place. Since the site development had not been completed, she could not reveal any of the technical details but she did promise that Zecozi will change the way people see sustainability in the context of online shopping. Deana’s passion was contagious and I felt that my background in e-commerce and my interest in sustainable living would be a perfect match for the start-up. For the next couple of months I continued reaching out to Deana with some ideas I had for the site and we had a lunch meeting where I confessed that I would love to join her team for the summer. Despite her eagerness to take me on board due to her busy schedule as an entrepreneur she was not able to give me a concrete answer about whether or not she was taking me onboard until the last week of school. Not having a defined game-plan for the summer while all of my classmates were ecstatically talking about the offers they had large firms was not easy but knowing that all this effort will pay off once I get an internship that I will enjoy over the summer was worth the wait.

 

As soon as I officially joined Zecozi, I learned that they have been accepted to become a part of the Good Company Ventures incubator for socially-responsible start-ups in Philadelphia. In June we moved into the GCV offices on Broad street and over the course of the summer I got to interact with not only one, but with ten start-ups, watching them go through the step-by-step process of defining their business strategy and preparing investor presentation.

 

At Zecozi I did not have well-defined responsibilities, and ended up helping out with any side of the business that could use my skills. I started off working closely with the marketing guy on the promotional strategy, researching potential bloggers that we could try to create a relationship with , writing a few blog entries myself and searching for content providers who could populate our site with useful information for those who would like to lead a more green and sustainable lifestyle. In the second part of the summer I worked closely with the leadership team of the company helping with Good Company Ventures’ weekly deliverables, such as identifying the best market-entry strategy, narrowing down our target audience to specific segments, and thinking about revenue generation for the site. Every day was different and, spending part of the time working out of a café, I realized that I function very well in an unstructured environment surrounded by people who are extremely passionate about their business. The last part of my summer was spent working very closely with the CTO and the team of developers on ironing out the product requirements for the site and writing use cases that helped us make sure that all of the required functionality has been covered by the time Zecozi is to launch in the fall of 2010.

 

The summer flew by very quickly and I was able to take 2 weeks off in the middle of my internship to get married, which would not have been possible if I were to work for a traditional large corporation. Having the ability to interact daily with the key decision-makers within Zecozi, watch the concept for the start-up evolve with some aspects becoming more prominent than others, I learned to make decisions on the fly and alter the knowledge I received from my core classes at Wharton to fit the very specific mold of a start-up. Most importantly, the challenge of working in an uncertain environment and being the boss and the judge of my own projects has been a wonderful learning experience!