Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lessons from the Inc 500

The Inc. 500 recently came out. This issue, with Inc’s Annual Report of the Fastest-Growing Private Companies is one of my favorite.  I love seeing who made the list, observing current trends among high growth start-ups, and of course, doing that gut check to see- are we on track to one day (fingers crossed) cross the threshold to be included in the All-Star Round-Up? One can dream, right….

One particular profile caught my eye—the story of Diapers.com, the niche marketplace that focuses exclusively on baby products. (You know how the Urban Interns team loves the niche marketplaces!) The stats (as per Inc.): Diapers.com, number 34 on the List, was founded in 2004.  Annual revenue: $89.4 million. Three year growth- 3,473.8 percent.  Amazing!

You just have to ask- what’s the secret sauce? Lots of retailers sell diapers—what’ so unique about this company that’s allowed them to achieve such rapid results and explosive growth?

Marc Lore, the CEO is profiled in Inc.  A couple of points I find fascinating. First-- the company’s reliance on word-of-mouth for early growth.  And think about it, that was before they had all these word-of- mouth enablers (ie social media outlets) at their fingertips.  Pretty inspiring for those of us who are faithfully blogging, tweeting, facebooking and ever other “ing” that gets us in front of people.

The second point is their emphasis on customer service.  Lore describes his customer service philosophy as “taking care of the moms at whatever cost.” He gives his really good customers “over the top treatment” including gift baskets and certificates to say thank you.  Lore reports that they spend $1 million a year on this kind of customer service, close to ten percent of their marketing budget.  It’s an interesting statistic, allocating that amount of marketing dollars to saying thank you to customers.  Clearly Lore believes that in keeping the Moms happy and making them feel valued they’ll pay it forward in multiples.  Judging from his numbers, looks like he’s right.

Now taking a step back, a very wise, successful and incredibly wonderful friend recently suggested that I focus on taking one important point away from every learning opportunity, whether it be an important conversation or something read.

My take-away from the Diapers.com profile? Treat your customers well and they’ll be more inclined to help you spread your word.  And as for our Urban Interns plug, if you’re personally too busy to devote yourself to customer service, hire someone who will. Going the extra mile to keep your community happy can take you very far…..

Cari Sommer, Co-Founder, Urban Interns

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Urban Interns Is Launching In Boston!

You heard it here first!  We're launching in Boston in early September.

Whether you have a client in Boston and need some local support or you're colleagues in Boston could also use an extra set of hands, Urban Interns will soon become the go-to marketplace for connecting small business owners with college-students and grads seeking part-time work and internships.
Good news travels fast, and we already have Urban Intern registrations from Boston area students and recent grads. We've also received a warm welcome from  career services folks at Boston University and Boston College (see us listed as a resource on the BC Career Services page!).

PLEASE HELP US spread the word and forward this news to your colleagues in the small business, startup, and entrepreneurship community in Boston.  Stay tuned for more details.
Login to start posting jobs and searching the database now!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Did you know many students can qualify for school credits for their internships?

With back-to-school right around the corner, small businesses can take advantage of the high level of competition amongst student bodies to beef up resumes, network, and gain hands on experience: internships for credit!  At first, the whole area of credit might seem like confusing terrain to navigate: university offices, documentation, etc.  But we have great news for employers: applying for credit is actually the responsibility of your intern.  You might have to fill out some brief forms, but consider it up to them to bring you the forms, provide all the documentation, and just have you review and sign.
Now, every university is different, and some don’t even offer school credit for internship.  But we’ve done a little digging at some of the major NYC universities, and we’ve found that certain undergrad majors at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and at the NYU Journalism Institute can receive internships for credit. The same holds true for graduate students from Columbia School of International Public Affairs, which actually requires students to do internships. Barnard and Columbia do not offer academic credit for internships, but if an employer is only offering an internship for credit, some eligible internships can qualify for registration credit (not academic credit) through the career services department.
Feel like you need an advanced degree to figure this all out?  We do too.
So here are our suggestions.  First, find your ideal candidate (on Urban Interns, of course!).  Then, if he/she happens to be attending university or grad school, ask if school credit is an option.  Let them do the research.  If the answer is yes, keep in mind that your intern will have certain academic goals that they are trying to accomplish throughout the course of working with you. They may have to write a paper, may have to report to a professor. If you genuinely have the time and interest in accommodating these needs, then proceed with the hire. And remember, you can always check in with career services if you have any questions.