Michael McDonough worked this past month as an intern for Fresh Tilled Soil. Michael was a great help to all of us. His experience as an intern is outlined below:
Going into my first day as an intern with Fresh Tilled Soil, I had very little expectations. I knew I would be working unpaid, and I also knew I was only going to be there for one month; as a result I assumed I would be doing typical intern jobs such as looking up contact information, data entry, ordering lunch for everyone, etc. To my pleasant surprise, I was given other more exciting opportunities.
My work on BigSmallBig and Super Web-O-Matic, two businesses run by Fresh Tilled Soil, involved creating spreadsheets of local small businesses, using Twitter as a marketing tool, and provided feedback from an outside perspective on different technical applications of the companies. The two projects I enjoyed working on the most were creating a visual lay-out of the operational work flow of both BigSmallBig and Super Web-O-Matic and working on search engine optimization of both websites through link-building and social media use.
In mapping out the work flow of Super Web-O-Matic, Eliza (another intern) and I were given the task of going through and documenting the website design application process through a variety of perspectives. For example, people like Eliza provide information for the directory of debt collectors and other such vitals and proceed onto submitting it to the domain owner. From there, I was given the task of condensing the process into a visual lay-out starting with the original submission of the website to the Makeover Machine by the potential client. In regards to search engine optimization, I was assigned the task of using different blog spaces and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to market the new websites.
Aside from being a solid resume builder, my experience with Fresh Tilled soil has created value for me in a variety of ways. As an intern, I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of really great, down to earth people in the office. Working in an office that is essentially one large room has given me the luxury of being able to interact with people from every team: sales, marketing, design, etc; a luxury that is not offered in most internship environments, where teams are usually more segmented. In addition to the networking opportunities offered at Fresh Tilled, I was exposed to an array of useful knowledge particularly about growing a small business.
One of the key concepts that I was repeatedly coached on was the importance of marketing in the early stages of any business’s development. Specifically, I’ve learned that when you’re marketing a product or service, it is essential to know your customer and not rely on your own ideas about what they want. As simple as this concept may seem, it is equally as easy for an enthusiastic entrepreneur with overflowing confidence in their product to focus too much on the technical aspect of their product and not pay enough attention to their customer’s real needs.
Another valuable concept I gained experience with is SEO. Before working with Fresh Tilled, I had little knowledge on how to optimize a website without spending extensive amounts of cash. Instead of throwing money at the problem, I learned some free ways to optimize the website for search engines. The primary method of optimization I was taught involved link-building using blogs and social media sites. The primary advantages social media sites and blog spaces have over other means of search engine optimization include not having to pay for their services, and gaining exposure to potential clients.
Conveniently, this brings me to my next bit of knowledge I picked up through my internship; the use of Twitter. Before my internship, I had always viewed Twitter as being somewhat unnecessary. On the surface, it appears to be the same as the Facebook status update tool, without the capabilities to post on other people walls. If used properly, I found that Twitter can be a valuable tool. One way Twitter can be used is to reach out to potential clients and other business professionals; essentially Twitter is free advertising for your company. Also, using tools such as Twitter’s directories, allowed me to easy to pin point a specific audience and expose them to the company, simply by building up a large network of followers and tweeting useful information.
The work hours and atmosphere of the company played an essential role in my positive experience I had as an intern. The work hours were extremely flexible; every day I would come in between 9-10am, and would leave anywhere from 1:30-4:30pm depending on the work load for the day. Any last minute conflict with my work schedule was passively pardoned without even a need for an excuse. In addition to these exceptionally flexible hours, the atmosphere was extremely laid back and social. Throughout the day music is softly playing, and everyone in the office is casually dressed to their liking; whether that is dress pants and a dress shirt, or jeans and a t-shirt. Along with casual dress, use of headphones is also permitted which makes some of the dryer jobs much more manageable.
The one negative aspect of my internship was the fact that it was unpaid. Being a college student with loans and other expenses to handle, it was tough for me at first to take a job that did not pay. However, looking back, the experience, knowledge, and connections I made throughout my month with Fresh Tilled more than made up for the pay I would have received somewhere else. Also, given the flexible hours, I was able to muster up a few side jobs (babysitting, dog sitting, etc.) after work to get some cash for when I get back to school.
For anyone who doesn’t mind interning unpaid and is looking for an internship that offers valuable entrepreneurial experience, a laid back atmosphere, exposure to great people, and flexible hours, Fresh Tilled Soil is the place for you.