Skye Vander Laan, an Economics major and junior here at Whitman, is currently interning at the Walla Walla Small Business Development Center. SBDC is a local non-profit organization that promotes economic vitality within Washington communities by providing expert business advising, demand-‐driven training, and applied research to existing businesses and entrepreneurs. The SBDC advises entrepreneurs about developing business plans, funding plans, marketing proposals, operational and management proposals, and assistance through the process of starting or revitalizing a small business.
As an Economics major, Skye feels that his internship very much aligns with what he is learning in his classes. It is a hand-on approach that allows him to draw connections between theory and practice. He states, “As an economics major, my internship is helping teach me business fundamentals and see textbook concepts in action in the small business community of Walla Walla.”
Skye and his supervisor Joe at a client meeting.
Joe, Jacobs, Skye’s supervisor and the director of SBDC, has experience working with Whitman students. His relationship to his interns is one of trust and support which are the basis for a great internship experience. Skye writes, “I have a great working relationship with my supervisor. We connect well on an interpersonal level, and I spend the majority of the time I am working directly with Joe. We debrief after virtually every client meeting to discuss problems with the client, often done in a constructive way that tests my knowledge of the task. Each day holds a constant feedback loop of growth, and this is heavily rooted in my constructive working relationship with my supervisor.”
Skye’s responsibilities as an SBDC intern are varied. They include, “taking notes during client meetings, organizing the client database, and carrying out certain special projects when clients need assistance. I am developing very helpful broad business skills such as cash flow modeling, writing business plans, putting together business financing package proposals, and general operational problem solving skills.” But the most satisfying part of his work is seeing the small businesses prosper and achieving their goals. Skye writes, “The most rewarding aspect of my internship is to get to see businesses move from concept to creation. I have now been with the SBDC long enough to start to see some of the businesses that came to us early on take root. It is very rewarding to see how each job created and business formed has a wide impact on many peoples’ lives and benefits the community in many positive ways.”
Finally, the internship experience has not only allowed Skye to “use” his classroom knowledge and apply it in the “real world” but it has also made an impact on his future career goals and has opened his eyes. He states, “The internship has opened my eyes to many basic business fundamentals that will be useful regardless of what sector I go in to specifically.”