Innovation Center Offers Advice to Small Businesses Wanting Interns

Hannah Ticoras
October 6, 2014

The Ohio University Innovation Center kicked off its monthly Lunch and Learn program for 2014-15  on Sept. 18 with a discussion titled  “Mutually Beneficial: Internships for Small Business.” The discussion explored how student internships can benefit both the students and small businesses.

Panelists included  Sam Patt, a senior accounting and MIS student at OHIO and intern for Digital Edge Sports and ECO2Capture at the Innovation Center; Kimberly Blue, associate director for employer relations at the University's Career and Leadership Center; and Becky Rondy, the owner of Green Edge Gardens, a certified organic garden in Amesville.

Internships are a topic of great interest for students at OHIO. The newly reorganized Career and Leadership Center, located in Baker University Center, strives to provide information and programming for students to help them succeed during college and after graduation. The center tries to place as many students in internships as possible, Blue explained.

“We want to help students gain those transferrable skills that students need much earlier,” Blue said. The center does this by helping to set guidelines for programs that require internships and organizing events such as the Career and Internship Fair, a biannual event bringing national companies to the Athens campus to meet students.

However, gaining access to larger events like the Career and Internship Fair and marketing through university channels is more difficult for small businesses that may not have the same time and resources available for internships as large companies. This does not correlate to a lack of care for interns, however, but simply a different approach to the internship experience. Small businesses have to market their internships for the independent and varied skills that students will receive, not necessarily their large size.

Sam Patt has been an intern for two companies with offices at the Innovation Center since participating in StartUp Weekend two years ago. The Innovation Center provides advising and technical services to start-up businesses.  Digital Edge Sports develops websites for youth sports teams, while ECO2Capture is developing a process to capture CO2. Both companies require the same level of commitment from interns, though, and provide the same rewards.

Athens offers opportunities at untraditional businesses as well. Green Edge Gardens is a great example. The farm takes on about four interns for the growing season, which runs from April 1 to November 15. The internship at Green Edge is paid, and the interns are provided housing and food during their stay. Many of the previous interns at Green Edge now work full time at the farm.

Rondy invites the applicants to Amesville to experience a day on the farm. This way she can figure out their work ethic and whether or not they would be a good fit on the farm.

“This is how you learn if you have what it takes to do the daily grind. There is always something to do and you’re never caught up,” she said.

Overall, Rondy’s internship experience is one of mutual gain, a learning experiences for the intern and skilled labor for the farm.

“Anything we can do to help the society in general grow more farmers, the better. This [internship] is one way to do that,” Rondy said.

 From nonprofits to start-ups to established (and unique) businesses like Green Edge Gardens, Athens is full of possibilities, if students know where to find them.

“At Ohio University, there is a lot of support for students who take the more traditional path of getting an internship at a large company, then get hired there after graduation,” Patt said. “There’s a lot less help and resources for students who want to work for small companies because those are the kinds of companies they like to work for, or who want to stay in Athens.”