JNO Project in the Research Triangle
Senior Evelyn Kahihu completed her internship by working for an JNO award-winning social venture she co-founded, StatusQuo Mobile STI Testing, which focuses on changing the way students address sexual health on campus. She participated in panels and company tours hosted by the Minor in Entrepreneurship to learn about innovation in the Research Triangle Area.
This summer I had the opportunity to stay in the Triangle area to complete my internship with the Entrepreneurship Minor and participate in the Triangle Internship Group (TRIG). Every Wednesday, UNC students visited organizations across diverse fields in the region. We met incredibly talented people and learned about entrepreneurship not in the seats of a classroom, but immersed within the wealth of an entrepreneurial world in our backyards.
I completed my internship at an organization that I co-founded along with three other students in the E-minor, StatusQuo; a sexual health initiative working to educate students on the importance of being safe and getting tested. As an organization we seek to empower students to take a proactive rather than reactive stance on sexual health. Our long-term vision is to have a mobile truck that will travel to university campuses providing testing and resources using a model that utilizes low cost, rapid results, and guaranteed anonymity testing. This summer one of the other co-founders and peer in the Minor in Entrepreneurship, Veev Conty, and I stayed in Chapel Hill to continue working on our venture in the 1789 space on Franklin.
Though it sounds glamorous, as with any venture, there were some very un-glamorous moments. Some stretches of summer felt like we were just spinning our wheels. There were always tasks to accomplish but not all of them led to life-changing moments once we were able to cross them off our to-do list. As a result, I would become antsy or unmotivated because things were just moving so slow. One week on a TRIG tour I asked the speaker about these “slow” moments when you are in a start-up, specifically asking, “What do you do to re-motivate yourself, to get out of a slump and to push forward to see results?” I’m not sure what response I was expecting, but the one they gave was surprising, “I surround myself with other entrepreneurs.” This was an inspiring answer; these were entrepreneurs who were able to encourage you, understand you, and be there to support you because they empathized from their own experiences.
This statement embodied what the TRIG program set out to accomplish. The student group allowed us to come together once a week and discuss both the positive and negative components of our internships and visits to other organizations. It was an opportunity for us to share and for me to have the outlet of larger organization and even a team of people besides my partner. TRIG was a way of networking within the community; we met so many different people and companies who opened their doors, were genuinely willing to talk with us and let us glimpse into their worlds. Sharing their stories encouraged and motivated me because while I’d get practical help (like when wondering as a social venture when it’s best to file for legal status) there were also other times where I would get cheered on or challenged.
Although TRIG has ended, my entrepreneurship “internship” has not. Our four-person team is together again and is striving to bring StatusQuo to market. The lessons from the summer were many both in terms of individual learning and working with a group. I’ve tangibly learned and felt the importance in community and reaching out when you are doing something as crazy (as one speaker put it) as starting a venture.