Start Teams grant continues to help regional, high-potential firms

From left to right: April Kelly, Nicole Cerezo Santana, Jenniah McNeil, and Cameron Britton

The Start Teams Grant is set to end on July 21st. This program has provided very-needed support to our rural high-growth businesses. Each semester 10-20 businesses and 20-30 students have worked to relieve growth bottlenecks for high-potential firms. In Spring, we hired Lily Peschanskaia as the Program Director. Lily has done an excellent job finding companies, evaluating student skill sets, and managing complex projects. In this update, we would like to share the student experience from one of our teams that was placed with a high-growth company, Sure!Co, in Pitt County.

Cameron Britton:

“Going into the start teams program as a freshman has been the most rewarding choice I made all year, but also the scariest. Although I had prior work experience, none of it involved attending virtual meetings, completing assigned tasks, reaching out and pitching my skills to business owners, or designing something for a company. These initial things were intimidating at first. One of the businesses that I reached out to was April Kelly with The Sure Company. We met and had a great meeting where we discussed her business’s needs and where I can serve the company. One of the company’s main needs was to grow capital to support the business functions. As we started the program, my coworker, Nicole Cerezo, and I created a Pitch Deck for the company while using the guidance and resources provided by the program and April. The company also needed an updated crowdfunding platform and with no prior experience, Nicole and I were tasked with designing and adding information to the crowdfunding site, Ifundwomen. We learned quickly to step out of our comfort zone and into our confidence. As an aspiring entrepreneur, it was a significant experience to see the limitations and obstacles April Kelly faced daily and how she overcame them. Raising capital for a startup company with little brand awareness can be challenging. But with April Kelly leading, we accepted the challenge. April had the great idea of doing a Prelaunch Event to raise money, awareness, and support. I was then tasked to reach out to several warm prospects for attendance by email, messaging, and calls and to create custom Bingo Cards for the attendees. The event was a success and a great learning experience where I was exposed to even more entrepreneurs and connections. Many people question whether experience or education is better. I believe they are both invaluable, and I’m grateful for this program incorporating them. The program offers very competitive wages and the freedom to complete tasks on your schedule. I recommend it to anyone interested in business.”

Jenniah McNeil:

“Being a member of Sure!Co’s team has been amazing. The team we have is excellent, and we always accomplish what we set out to do. For Sure!Co, I’ve completed the guest lists for the Crowdfunding Kickoff event and called individuals to confirm their attendance. To make networking easier, I created name tags for everyone to wear during Event #1. As well as designing the event flyers, I ensured the venue was prepared for the event. I utilized my skills in event planning, graphic design, and customer service to help make sure that Sure!Co’s events run successfully and efficiently. My contributions have been highly valued by the team, and I am proud of my impact on the company. By creating name tags, I was able to make networking easier, as it was easier for attendees to remember and recognize each other. Additionally, my work on the event flyers and venue preparation helped ensure the event ran smoothly. I also ensured that the attendees had a positive experience. My skills in event planning, graphic design, and customer service were invaluable to the team, and I am proud to have created a difference. Together with Jada, I helped make 35 shirts bearing Sure’s logo. We used those shirts as a small token to the individuals that came out and supported the launch event. I have been experimenting with different logo styles for April to use in the future. April likes one in particular, so we may use it. I’m confident that the logo I designed will be well-received, as it meets April’s criteria of being modern and eye-catching, while also staying true to Sure’s core values. I’m excited to see how this logo will be used in the future. Overall, our team crushes every task we are assigned. I’m glad to be part of this team.”

Nicole Cerezo Santana:

“As an incoming freshman, one of my best decisions was getting a position with the Start Teams Program. Many opportunities have landed in my lap since participating in this fantastic program, and I was assigned to a couple of significant engagements and had the chance to put my marketing and graphic design knowledge into practice and fulfill actual designs for the clients. It was an enriching experience to be part of this internship program as I learned a lot of technical knowledge and gained valuable hands-on experience through my engagements. I also had the chance to participate in numerous firm events to bond and forge friendships with my colleagues and fellow interns. As a consultant, you constantly communicate findings, requests, statuses, etc. to your teams and clients. I consistently leveraged my communication skills to adequately summarize and share important information in impactful emails, presentations, and meetings. While I had several highlights, one that stuck out the most was helping organize an event for the Sure Company. Since we were under a time constraint before the guests arrived, I assisted my fellow workers in getting things in order before April Kelly, the CEO, arrived. The worry and back-and-forth were worth it in the end since the event went off without any complications. I have learned both the tangibles, such as the technical aspects involved, like the process that goes into logistics, and the intangibles, such as the strong work ethic and the high standards required of our work. My biggest takeaway would be the friendships and relationships forged through the internship. It is essential and beneficial to have confidants and peers in the same industry to give you advice and offer encouragement in one’s career, especially in the competitive field of business.”

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