Many people struggle to find internships…they spend hours scrolling through endless internship opportunities usually with little success… My experience of finding an internship however, was the total opposite and one many people won’t experience. One evening, whilst sat in my local pub with my dad, two strangers came up to us and asked to sit on our table (the pub was packed that evening). We got chatting and they mentioned they were the founders of an exciting new construction start-up called Carapace Slate. Jokingly, I asked if there were any positions going. I was searching for an internship anyway to complete my third year of my International business management degree and to my surprise they said yes. At the time, this could have been mistaken for your standard drunken pub chit chat but we exchanged numbers nevertheless and met up again the next day to talk more about the opportunity. Admittedly, the construction industry was one I’d never really considered or been interested in. But with Carapace, I was offered the chance to shadow the founders, be an integral part of a small team and gain vital experience of running an SME…and so I was in.
My first day is one that I’ll likely never experience again when starting a new job and for that reason it’s one of my most memorable moments. Their current office was their house! And all the research and product development up to now had been done in a small garage in their back garden. However, this wasn’t going to stop us and it was business as usual. After signing my first NDA (non-disclosure agreement) we sat on the sofas and they told me all about the business; the unbelievable journey they’ve had up to now and their plans for the future. No detail was spared as I was immediately thrown in at the deep end. They had just received a huge innovation grant from Innovate UK which meant from now on, everything was time sensitive and crucial to the overall success of the company. From that day in their living room, we had just 12 months to organise offices, staff, final product optimisation and to produce the first company pilot plant. It was at this point where I realised this wouldn’t be your everyday internship at a MNC but it would turn out to be an incredibly exciting rollercoaster start-up journey.
As I look around the office we sit comfortably in now, I think back to my first day and all the chaotic months of renovation and hard work that followed seems like a distant memory. It was soon after I joined that we moved into the new company headquarters: a derelict, shabby industrial unit that had no heating, electrics or water supply which you guessed it, wasn’t the best during the cold winter months. There was one point where we were sat working in blankets on a pallet table, hot-spotting ourselves through our phones just to get online. It was difficult to be inspired by the office! But, between us, we did it all – the electrics, plumbing, sanding, scraping the floor and painting. We managed to source second hand furniture from places like Gumtree and Facebook…which can be a life saver when looking for cheap stuff, we even made all our own desks and tables from scaffold boards. I guess even after completing two years of university I never knew what it meant to truly be on a budget until this experience. However, eventually, after a lot of blood, sweat and the occasional few tears, the unit was finally complete. It was a very rewarding moment for all of us, all the hard work had paid off and with that, Carapace Slate had a new home.
Since the renovation, life at Carapace has really begun to take shape. I now have an official role as ‘Sales and Marketing assistant’, to Amy, our head of marketing. During our time together so far, we’ve been writing marketing strategies, designing infographics, marketing material for social media and planning the redesign of our branding and website. I’m also solely responsible for all the company’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) – going into this internship I thought social media posts would be easy… seriously how hard could it be to update your status or send out a tweet? well, it turns out its anything but easy. Searching for suitable social media posts can become addictive, hunting for construction/ roofing new articles, construction fails or exciting innovations, you quickly learn that social media isn’t just about sharing the odd article or picture, you have to become an online presence and really try to show your personality through your posts – this may come through pictures of us hard at work…but still having fun. It also helps that we have an office dog, Ramzi, the handsome golden retriever and our secret social media weapon. Forget innovation and exciting products – he gets more likes than anything else.
If I had to summarise my internship experience at Carapace Slate so far, then through my favourite experiences would be the best way. There’s no other company that I know of that would take you to a van auction to buy a company van and end up coming home with an ex ambulance with a cracked windscreen and nearly 300,000 miles on the clock. But on the plus side it was cheap, so we let it ride. Or a company that asks you during the renovation to paint an entire wall with blackboard paint just for staff doodling. From production meetings with huge industry experts and universities, to setting up the office broadband and running the business accounts, I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in everything that happens with the company, which can’t be said for many other interns. There’s no role exclusion or hierarchy at Carapace and my opinions and ideas matter and are listened to by everyone. I’m not just a statue they have around the office. Carapace is the type of company that doesn’t take itself too seriously – and can’t when every Friday is ‘Fun Friday’. But all jokes aside, they also know how important it is to work hard and get the job done on time. From no office and no team, Carapace has certainly progressed – hiring its first full time employee new chemical engineer Dr Sameer just a month ago.
For anybody who’s looking to do an internship, I hope this has inspired you to consider a start-up as you can gain a much wider view of how a business operates, plus they need your support as much as you need theirs.