If you’ve visited the Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, you can probably relate: its modern edifice emerging out of the historic downtown Binghamton is in such stark contrast to the brick buildings around it; you feel as if it was placed there by mistake when you first see it. It’s no mistake to be certain, the incubator has fast become a hub for entrepreneurs in the region.
This sense of awe and excitement embodied my internship with the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships, which manages the Koffman facility and facilitates its programs. Having worked as a communications intern for seven months, I was able to incubate different skills and meet a whole cast of wonderful people working on the next big startup business.
So, what was my internship like? Here are the three unique things about my internship, which I love and miss now even after my run is over.
Chance to Learn from Entrepreneurs
The incubator rents out office and event spaces to local start-ups, which means you’ll undoubtedly bump into many entrepreneurs in the building. If you’re interested in entrepreneurship, it’s a paradise!
What’s more paradisiacal is you have a chance to learn their journeys directly. One of my responsibilities was to interview entrepreneurs and write news stories. I talked with a lot of people who founded their own businesses.
An entrepreneur who has more than 750 patents, one who launched a business after quitting a full-time job, and another who transferred their passion for screen printing to a business…
All the individuals had a dense backstory and lessons to learn from. It was my job to draw them out and convey them. This opportunity to ask questions and learn their start-up stories and struggles was definitely a gemstone for someone like me who has been interested in starting a business.
Wide Responsibilities to Grow Skills
Another thing I liked about my internship was that I was able to work on a wide range of projects and pick up new skills.
For example, I designed an informational booklet that captured the essence of what the incubator has to offer. I used Adobe InDesign, an industry-leading publishing software that I was excited to spend more time learning. I needed to hustle and self-taught it outside of work hours. However, when the pamphlet got published, I was able to use it without spending time on YouTube tutorials, and now it’s on my resume.
Same with photography skills. I bought a used DSLR camera for another part-time job on-campus but didn’t have much opportunity to practice using it. Thankfully, the incubator held constant events. I captured and edited a whole set of photos to the point I was able to create my own digital portfolio.
Of course, you aren’t required to have your own DSLR camera and learn Adobe software late into the night. The team at the Koffman was very flexible, and worked one on one with me to make this internship a learning experience, much like they do with the startups part of their programs.
The gist is, you can have a wide range of responsibilities to grow your skills, and the team at the incubator is flexible and supportive!
Communities and Families
Did you know that the incubator also hosts events for local professionals? While it functions to support university research and startups’ growth, it also aims at tying local communities together.
As an intern, I attended events and workshops as much as I could. Every time, I was amazed by how diverse participants’ backgrounds were. Engineer, small business owner, public official, lawyer, accountant… the list goes on.
The more events I attended, the more familiar faces I noticed. I talked to them during the event, and I sometimes bumped into them in the town. I even went to grab a coffee with my new friends and volunteered for other local events where I saw them.
This is the most favorite thing about my internship – the incubator made me feel that I was part of the local community – to put it better, a family. It’s rare that you can join such a heartwarming family of entrepreneurs and local professionals who welcome you like a real family member.
It’s been almost half a year since I left the incubator. It’s wild to think that I’m now based in a different country (Japan)! I occasionally wear an incubator windbreaker that I received as a parting gift; even though Japan and the US are distant, I still feel that I’m part of the family and remember all the stories and skills I learned.
If you’re looking for an environment of encouraging innovators, the Koffman is definitely for you!
– Daiki Yoshioka