Hi everyone! For my last post on the Sseko blog, I thought I would tell you a little bit about my journey from fan to intern, and the effects that my internship has had on my life.
My history as a Sseko fan began three years ago, in September 2011, when my older sister messaged me on Facebook about some sandals she had seen in a wedding that were made by college-bound girls in Africa. That fateful conversation began an obsession with Sseko Designs that gave me much needed vocabulary like “social business” and “not-for-profit.” A few months later, in March 2012, one of my assignments for my BA 101 class was to conduct an informational interview with someone in the job that we wanted. I had to ask Liz for an interview, since she was my professional role model. I was giddy when she responded and I had the opportunity to talk to her on the phone. As a Sseko fan, I could not imagine anything better, until I was offered the Partner Care internship two years later.
It’s hard to describe how much I love Sseko, but I know that at the very least, there are Five Ways My Sseko Internship Changed My Life.
1. The Wisdom of Liz Bohannon
I’m technically cheating with this first point, but Liz has been so influential in my choices and goals that I think it’s okay if I talk about my interview with her two years ago. At the time, Liz was in the middle of interviewing summer interns, so her advice on gaining experience to join or start a social business was based on what she looked for in an intern. She said, “I look for tangible skill. Someone who doesn’t just want to help people.” She also told me to not “let social business take from what you can offer.”
While I think I completely misunderstood the second comment originally, what I took from this conversation was that I needed to focus on building skills that would help me bring value to an organization. So that’s what I did. I declared my Marketing minor and studied abroad for my International Business major. I found classes and organizations that taught me about doing sales and communication. Liz taught me to make use of my time and to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me to improve my skills. In fact, I found that because I kept reminding myself of her advice, my classes and organizations gave me the skills that I needed to actually get a Sseko internship.
2. Learning through Osmosis
This summer, I have spent many hours listening to the conversations around me. I have learned through osmosis about how doing something random to “surprise and delight” someone can calm a bride or shine some light on a rough day. I have learned about leather and fabric and how fashion companies prepare new collections months and seasons in advance (Spring 2015 samples arrived in the office last week, and they are gorgeous!). On ethical and social companies, I have learned about the importance of learning about cultures and searching for the core problems behind poverty and other social issues in a community.
3. More Than Just Sales
One of the benefits of working at a small business is that you get to do more than just one kind of work. As the summer Partner Care Intern, I was mainly supposed to support the sales team in finding new retailers and maintaining relationships with our current partner boutiques. In actuality, I did some sales projects, but I also worked with invoices, inventory, marketing to musicians at a music festival, and blog posts – projects that are considered more operations and marketing than sales oriented. I was a sales intern, but I had the opportunity to learn about more than just sales. I learned to love what I had not known, and that’s the benefit of a small company.
4. Loving Myself
There are few things better than learning to love something that once made you feel self-conscious. I think someone in high school once told me that she thought feet looked weird and alien-like, because I hated looking at mine for years. That changed when I began to work for a company whose main products are sandals. I learned early on that a pedicure would keep me from feeling embarrassed when Liz measured my feet. A week later, I began to photograph my feet for social media as part of the 12 Ways/12 Days campaign. It’s funny: finding new Sseko ties and staring at my feet for 12 days actually made me love what usually made me feel self-conscious. An insecurity disappeared because I participated in a form of a marketing campaign, and I learned to love all of myself.
This last point might sound strange as an internship lesson, but one thing that Team Sseko talks about a lot is bravery. We talk about what it means for a man or woman to be brave and empowered. Bravery can be anything from moving halfway across the country to a city where you don’t know anyone, to completely disconnecting and reflecting in solitude, to learning to be vulnerable. Working in a team of people passionate about bravery and female empowerment (specifically how these two things go together) has made me want to be brave in every part of my life.
Interning with Sseko has been one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I’m blessed to have been able to work with these incredible men and women that make up Team Sseko. If you’re considering a Sseko internship, I definitely recommend that you take your own step of bravery and apply. It will change your life.