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Norina Dailey ’21 at work

Small Business Internship Program Connects Students with Unique Opportunities

In a tough year for MBA internships, the Small Business Internship Program is giving students the opportunity to work with small enterprises and startups around the world this summer.

By Karen Guzman

Last semester, Jackie Ruggiero ’21 searched for a very specific summer internship opportunity, one that would offer her hands-on experience at the nexus of environmental issues and corporate sustainability.

Ruggiero found and accepted an internship with Israeli nonprofit EcoPeace. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, making travel to Israel impossible. But a new program at the Yale School of Management helped Ruggiero find another opportunity during a summer when MBA internships are in short supply.

Ruggiero found a unique niche at Forested Foods, a sustainably sourced foods company, thanks to Yale SOM’s Small Business Internship Program. The program provides a bridge between students seeking internships and small businesses needing interns.

Yale SOM’s Career Development Office (CDO) established and is administering the program. Interns receive $3,500 to help subsidize internships at small businesses or their own startups. More than 30 students are participating in the program and interning at a variety of businesses and startups across the U.S. and internationally.

“I thought students would have a challenging time with internships this summer, and so many small businesses are also suffering,” says Abigail Kies, assistant dean for career development. “This seemed like a great addition to the other ways we support students and society at large.”

Ruggiero is career transitioning from consulting to corporate sustainability. “When the Small Business Internship Program was announced, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to get the funding I needed to work in a role that I was really excited about,” she says.

Small businesses also offer great latitude. “One of the biggest benefits is the exposure you get,” Ruggiero says. “I’m working on four different projects that are all super interesting. The experience I’m getting is beyond what I could have hoped for.”

Like Ruggiero, Katherine Cai ’21 is enjoying working on a wide range of projects at Grantas Cosmetics, a beauty startup launching its first all-natural, biodegradable product in July 2020.

“I’ve worked on everything from pricing and product promotions to building a website and an affiliate program,” Cai says. “It’s kept the internship exciting and allowed me to continuously apply skills from management consulting and business school in new ways.”

For Ben Selden ’21, making an impact was important this summer.

Selden is interning at 20 Degrees, a Washington, D.C., small business that provides tools, training, and technical assistance to underserved nonprofits.

“Once COVID hit, I knew this was a special opportunity to seek out ways to help out those affected, and 20 Degrees has offered me the opportunity to do that,” Selden says.

Selden is one of two Yale SOM students at 20 Degrees this summer. His fellow intern is Divya Kapur ’21.

“It’s been really wonderful, representing SOM,” Selden says. “It’s been fun and challenging to juggle client needs with strategic considerations around growing the organization.”

At Innovative Omics, Norina Dailey ’21 is spending the summer learning “how a business is built from the ground up.” Dailey is serving as a business strategy intern at the biotech startup.

“My dream for many years has been to work in the biotech industry,” she says. Dailey has helped design a go-to-market strategy for a product with potential to improve the lives of people and protect the planet, she says.

“I pitched this business idea to a panel of judges, after attending multiple mentorship sessions where we were taught how to build a compelling story and deliver a powerful pitch,” she says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made the recruiting process this year more challenging as my initial internship was canceled, but this opportunity really checked all the boxes I had for an internship.”