Startup Internship Program: Reflection From Lena Newkold

Thanks to a gift from the John E. and Jeanne T. Hughes Foundation, the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center sponsored 6 undergraduate student internships during the 2015 summer at premier Chicago startup businesses.

Below, junior Lena Newkold, a Management/Entrepreneurship major with a minor in Studio Art, reflects on her time at Meliora K, a sustainable cleaning products company.

Meliora K is a sustainable cleaning products company that was founded in 2013. The company is currently run by the founder, Kate, and the CEO Mike (also husband and co-owner). The company not only sells and distributes products via local stores in the Chicago area, but also has its production facility in the owners’ home. The message to the customers is transparency in everything that Meliora K does and makes. The company shares its product recipes with its customers and even uploaded a video demo on how the products can be made at home. To show transparency in its actions, Meliora K started to report on and track garbage from the manufacturing process and as of May 2015 the company is a certified B-Corporation, reinforcing its commitment to corporate social responsibility.

My daily duties during the Startup Internship Program included quantifying and analyzing the competition’s social media efforts and then formulating recommendations for Meliora K’s social media. In order to understand the kind of information that the competitors were posting about, I categorized all of their Facebook and Twitter posts into seven categories. This was quite tedious due to the high content volume; nonetheless, it was necessary in order to be able to come to meaningful conclusions later down the road. The last two weeks I spent picking out useful information from the large data table that I created and putting together a PowerPoint presentation.

My greatest learning experience was having the opportunity to work alongside the founders of a small, but amazing company and being able to hear their personal insights on how to run a business.

The most unexpected element of this internship was how much work went into what I thought would be a quick project. I was under the impression that I would have time leftover to work on other tasks, but time ran out after completing the social media analysis project.

As an entrepreneur I learned that success only comes after putting in the hours and devoting attention to only the company. The founders of Meliora K showed me what it looks like to build a business. Very often one reads stories of how companies made it big, but very rarely does one see articles on the day-to-day sacrifices and activities that have to happen to get there. I learned about what these sacrifices and activities look like by having the privilege of working alongside two great entrepreneurs who devote their free time to realizing their company.

I enjoyed how helpful and kind the founders were. I went into the internship expecting to be given work to complete entirely on my own. I was afraid that I would not be able to ask questions of the founders, but they were very responsive when I asked them for help and guided me in the right direction when I needed tips.

My advice to students interested in doing an entrepreneurial internship is to pick a company that interests them. Their choice should not be centered on how big and well established the company is, but on how passionate they are about the company’s purpose. Not every workday at a startup is exciting, so if the business’ background is something in which the student is passionate about, the slower days will still end up feeling productive.

– Lena Newkold

As a finale to the 2015 Startup Internship Program, please watch a short video, with comments from all 6 student interns.