Olivia Nelson W’17, interned at GenHERation in New York, NY

2014-2015 Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow

How did you find the position? Personal connections

What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer? I really wanted to learn about the resources available to a Wharton/Penn student in regards to entrepreneurship.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer? My advice is to find a startup that you are truly interested in, like I did—don’t just think about the fact that the name or company may “sound good.” Being interested in the work you’re doing will allow for a much more rewarding experience.

Speaking: An Essential Entrepreneurial Skill
This summer, I had the pleasure of interning for GenHERation, a startup that serves as female empowerment network for high school girls. GenHERation was founded by Wharton senior, Katlyn Grasso. The company gives girls the opportunity to work with national corporations to launch advocacy campaigns, raising awareness about various community issues. I have actually known Katlyn since I was a prospective Penn student. I am proud and lucky to say that she is a good mentor and friend of mine, and over the summer, she was a great boss.

As a GenHERation intern, I got a firsthand look at what it is like to be a “social entrepreneur,” which Katlyn describes herself as. Essentially, I saw what it is like to eat, sleep and breathe your own business venture. I saw how passionate entrepreneurs are about what they are doing, and how that passion drives them to strive toward their goals, day in and day out. It was extremely exciting to see how a business is run in the early start-up stages.

I, along with another Penn-student intern, Serena Advani, played a huge part in the startup’s national expansion. We were in charge of getting hundreds of high school girls around the country to sign up and become members of GenHERation. In fact, during the second half of the summer, we were in charge of helping to plan leadership events in five different cities across the country! We worked feverishly on planning the GenHERation Summer Leadership Series from start to finish. We were responsible for reaching out to schools, programs, businesses, media contacts and alumni to spread the word and secure sponsorship for all of these great events.

As an intern for GenHERation this summer, I learned that entrepreneurship might force you to go outside of your comfort zone. As we all know, entrepreneurs are risk-takers. No one ever knows if his or her venture will prove to be successful. But in addition to taking the first huge leap, there are other things that entrepreneurs are required to do in order to contribute to the success of their business, whether or not they are used to doing those things. As an intern, I was charged with tasks that seemed a bit daunting at first. The biggest example of that was having to cold-call businesses, high school programs, and alumni across the country in order to spread the word about GenHERation and garner monetary support for the Summer Leadership Series events.

I quickly realized that speaking would be a huge part of my internship, and eventually, of being an entrepreneur one day, which is a goal of mine. I had to talk about GenHERation to girls, teachers, principals, alumni, and potential business partners. The thought of reaching out to complete strangers made me pretty nervous, and furthermore, as a self-proclaimed introvert, I naturally prefer listening to speaking. In fact, I honestly find speaking exhausting at times. So, I realized that I would have to dig deep down within me and find the stamina to talk on the phone for hours on end, each day. I recognized that I would have to speak to countless people to reach the goals we set, such as securing donations and sponsors, and getting new members to sign up for GenHERation. Even as an intern, I gave the same elevator pitch to everyone we contacted, just as Katlyn did. In fact, Katlyn told me that she has probably said her elevator pitch over 500 times! That goes to show just how much communication, especially in the form of speaking to others, is involved in building a successful company.

Ultimately, being an entrepreneur, or simply working in entrepreneurship, requires you to do certain tasks that you may find arduous. And especially when working for a startup, there is less room to shy away from these responsibilities. With huge companies, it is easier for an individual to slack off on his or her work, since there are often hundreds, or even thousands, of employees whose work can make up for it. At a startup, however, it is imperative that each employee pulls his or her own weight and completes the tasks they are charged with. If someone drops the ball, or simply decides that they do not feel like doing something, it can create a huge issue and take away from the company’s success. My best advice is to think about the bigger picture when certain tasks seem grueling. Even though making those calls was exhausting, I still did it everyday so that I could contribute to GenHERation’s success. Small actions can lead to greater accomplishments, and achieving those tough tasks will make you even prouder of the work you have done.