Empowering Tomorrow: A Journey Through the Startup TNT Internship Program

By Jenna Houchins, Startup TNT Intern, Fall 2023

What do you get when you put an MBA/MPP student, a Chemistry PhD student, an undergrad in Computer Science, and an undergrad in Religious Studies? The Startup TNT internship program! 

CED’s mission of “Connecting entrepreneurial companies with high-value resources to accelerate business growth” resonates deeply with my career goals. My motivation to apply for the Startup TNT internship program was rooted in my desire to gain hands-on experience in a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Given CED’s reputation for playing a pivotal role in the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, I was confident it would be a valuable experience to take what I am learning in the classroom and apply it to a real-world setting.

One of my favorite projects during the internship was a project we worked on for CED’s CEO, Kelly Rowell. Kelly assigned the four interns the task of developing a skills matrix to gain additional insights into CED’s Board Members and how CED can leverage those skills to support further CED’s mission, as well as ensure the Board Members have a mutually beneficial experience, it was a valuable project experience in several ways. First, while Kelly developed a project outline for us, she gave us the autonomy to develop our project process in our own way, allowing us to work as a team of interns to gain additional experience in project management. It was an incredible experience while also challenging us in new ways. Throughout the project, each of us interns interviewed 8-10 Board Members who have various lengths of time on the Board, are from different industry backgrounds, and have different skill sets. The challenge of adapting interview questions and an analysis framework to cover a diverse range of individuals was a good “reach goal” for me, and it felt rewarding to work on a project whose results will be used to further the mission of CED. 

One of the highlights of the internship experience was the opportunity to meet other interns from Duke, and collaborate with the CED Team and CED Board Members, and other members of the Triangle’s entrepreneurial community. Working with CED has given me invaluable insights into the intricate dynamics of ecosystems and the significance of partnerships within them. I always knew that partnerships existed in the Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, but it’s been incredible to see how much collaboration exists within this area. It’s encouraging to see so many organizations open to giving and receiving support to work towards a common goal of supporting entrepreneurs. CED’s work has reinforced the idea that the most effective partnerships actively seek and incorporate the voices of all stakeholders, creating a platform for inclusive decision-making and meaningful impact.

The internship was a transformative experience, contributing significantly to my personal and professional development. I was exposed to multifaceted aspects of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and non-profit management from a strategic planning perspective and day-to-day execution. For anyone considering the Startup TNT internship, I highly recommend it! Regardless of what you are focusing your studies on, it is a valuable experience that will allow you to grow personally and professionally while contributing to the mission of one of the region’s strongest entrepreneurial organizations.

Jenna Houchins is a graduate student at the Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Jenna will stay on at CED to help lead the spring 2024 Startup TNT intern cohort. Following her graduation in May 2024, she hopes to stay within the Triangle region to continue her professional career.

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