Nimit Jain (W’11/C’11), interned at Solarythm, Trenton, NJ

THE 2009-2010 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient

How did you find the position?

WEP Job Board/WEP Staff

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

I wanted to learn from a seasoned entrepreneur, and I wanted to see how to move beyond the initial start-up. I was looking for a company that was just moving passed the initial testing phase and was looking to quickly start to grow.

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

Start looking a VC websites and study what companies are being funded. Portfolio companies are often looking to grow, but rarely have the time to recruit. Even if you don’t want to work for a venture backed company, this is a good place to start networking and see what companies are working on.

About the Summer Experience

I knew, at least long-term, that I eventually wanted to start my own business. As I went through Wharton’s formal recruiting processes the thought of working for a ginormous conglomerate made me nauseous, and having a family deterred me from those industries where ridiculous face time was expected. I know that I am most fulfilled when I feel like the work I am doing has impact, and I prefer environments where innovation takes precedence to corporate policy.

During my search I interviewed with a few different Internet start-ups, which was closely aligned to my interest. During this process I found out about a project that OLLY Shoes was initiating to launch an e-commerce business alongside its brick and mortar retail stores. I never had envisioned working for a shoe company, let alone a children’s shoe company, but the decision maker came in the form of the tasks that I would be completing. At OLLY I would work close to the CEO defining strategy and processes for a whole new division of the company. It was very entrepreneurial, had lots of responsibility, and covered aspects that normally the CEO would handle. The other tech companies, while in a more attractive industry, had intern roles that dealt mainly with compiling product manuals, documenting customer feedback, or developing training materials. I saw myself eventually in more of a CEO role, so I decided to choose the experience that more closely resembled that position, and it turned out to be a fabulous experience.

OLLY is a private company whose founders are still the principle investors and who maintain ties to the company as members of the board of directors. The company is growing by adding a few retail stores each year, and the CEO proposed to the board adding an online store. The board asked the CEO to develop a detailed business plan and financial model to determine the impact an online store would have on the company, and that’s where I came in. From a purely educational standpoint, I don’t think I could have had a more comprehensive application of the concepts I learned from the MBA core. We covered strategy, operations, marketing, etc.

While completing market research, compiling the business plan, and modeling the financial statements was a valuable learning experience, the best part of the internship was the flexibility I received to truly shape and manage the experience. Our engagement went well beyond simply drafting a business plan. I was able to establish new job positions, negotiate with vendors, and define requirements for the new site. I became quite versed in retail operations as well as e-commerce platforms and best practices. The CEO often leveraged his contacts to help us define assumptions and share advice about implementation, such as owners of a digital media advertising firm to help us with our marketing plan, and the head of logistics for a large public e-commerce firm to help us with our shipping plan.

I was very satisfied with my summer experience, the lifestyle it afforded, and the contacts I met. The company is currently pitching my plan to the board and its investors, and I’m excited to learn of its outcome. I feel that my experience has not only placed myself in a good position for full-time recruiting, but has better prepared me for when I decide to take the plunge and start a new business of my own.