Melanie Zhao (W’13), interned at Wishberry in Philadelphia, PA

THE 2011-2012 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient

How did you find the position?
The founder Felicia was a Wharton undergrad and JWS alumna from 2007.  When she decided to start her own business, she asked Dr. Asher to email the JWS listserv, looking for freshman and sophomore interns.  When I received the email, the idea of a social shopping website interested me, and I met with Felicia in early February to talk about the business and the internship.  We hit it off, and I started working with her immediately rather than waiting for summer!

What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I love the pace and the variety of work, and I love the idea of being able to see my ideas and work take effect.  Specifically, I wanted to work in the retail industry, but more generally, I knew I wanted to work at a start-up to gain more leadership experience and broaden my skills.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
It’s a great experience!  It’s even better if you find a company in an industry that you are interested in because you’ll be totally immersed in the work.  If you actually like it, it won’t even seem like work!

About the Summer Experience
This summer I worked at Wishberry, a gift registry website for college students.  The idea is that wishlists and registries shouldn’t be reserved for weddings and baby showers.  Everyone should be able to get exactly what they want for their gifts.  One of our main differentiators for other wishlist sites is our chip-in feature, which allows friends and family to chip-in together to pay for your gifts.  This works especially well for college students whose friends often have small budgets.  It’s Facebook-integrated to make the experience fun and social, but simple enough that your grandparents can use it too.

My main role this summer started out with retailer reach-out.  One of our biggest hurdles was partnering with retailers in order to sell their products on our site, and I was so nervous preparing to cold-call sales and marketing managers.  As many of the other start-up interns this summer experiences, it’s really hard to pitch someone something that doesn’t exist yet.  Many people liked the idea but didn’t want to commit to a business relationship without the actual website up.  The first day that I had to call retailers, I didn’t eat my lunch because I was so nervous.  By the end of the summer, I was contacting senior management at large companies without a second thought.

I was also heavily involved in the design of the website, the product selection, the PR strategies, the legal contracts, and a million other things.  The experience I got was like a year jammed into one summer, and I was never bored.  That’s the great thing about working with a start-up.  You get to work in so many different areas and get the opportunity to step up and show your abilities in a way that few internships offer.

I had such a fantastic experience working with Wishberry in the summer that I decided to stay involved throughout the semester!  I was very fortunate to find a company and team that fits me so well, and I didn’t want to give it up.  It’s exciting to see my effort translated so quickly into reality, and I can’t wait to see how the company evolves in the future.