Melinda Hu W’20 interned at AptDeco in New York, NY

2016-17 Startup Internship Award Winner supported by the Jeff Sutton W’81 Entrepreneurship Internship Fund

While randomly scrolling through lists of NYC startups during winter break, I came across AptDeco, an online furniture platform for any user, from your grandma to high end interior design stores, to buy and sell new or pre-owned furniture. I didn’t know anything about furniture or interior design, but I saw that they participated in YCombinator, so I said “why not try?” Quickly, AptDeco responded to my email, interviewed me, and accepted me as Business Development Intern. (Fellow students, you might want to apply to more startups so you can choose from several options.)

From the start of my 11-week internship, I discovered that though I was just a freshman, the other members of the startup treated me like a valued contributor – they didn’t even realize I was so young. I learned to really voice my ideas and concerns during meetings and conversations. As the weeks went on, I gained more confidence in myself and realized how my work would help AptDeco.

My work varied throughout the summer. First, I worked a week in customer service, to fully understand how the business works and what customers are concerned about. I had to resolve issues quickly, and learned how important customer service is. Next, I had to cold call furniture and interior design businesses for partnerships, persuading them to use our site. It was scary, and I had to rev myself up a lot before doing dozens of calls every day. Thankfully, over the weeks, several businesses responded positively. This led me to meet an artistic couple who owned an antique store an hour outside of the city and other businesses, whom I visited to get them started on AptDeco. This was surely outside of my comfort zone at first!

I continued to push myself in 2 other projects. The first was assigned to me – I had to find out how Airbnb hosts in NYC could become users of AptDeco. Did hosts see value in what we offer? To do this research, I ended up infiltrating some online groups (crossing fingers I wouldn’t be kicked out), having coffee chats with strangers, and calling founders of Airbnb management companies. Though it would’ve been more fun to collaborate, I had to work independently. I was the only BD intern and a startup is under-resourced, so I understood that I had to push forward on my own and be proactive in asking for help or feedback. I initiated the second project: hosting a party for AptDeco customers. The co-founders had thought of hosting something with one of its biggest partners, Calligaris NY, but didn’t have time to do so. So, I volunteered to work on making this event happen. After meticulous planning between me and Calligaris NY, we had a successful event, with around 300 guests in attendance. I was so glad that I could jumpstart AptDeco’s community building in NYC.

Overall, the opportunity to push myself, tangibly help a startup grow, and enjoy an entrepreneurial experience in NYC made for a great summer.