My way of finding my internship was very organic. I’m from Canada, it was nearing Summer holidays 2018, and I was faced with two options. These were either I return home for the Summer where I knew everything and would likely go back to my same previous Summer job doing the same work, seeing the same faces – comfortable. Or I could do something different. I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to spend my Summer 2018 living in London, UK! At first this was challenging, and I questioned my decision many many times while I was trying to open a bank account, going through the National Insurance number process (a required identification to work/live in the UK), and job hunting to sustain my living expenses. However, this passed and soon I was hired and working for a small health food shop, a 3 minute walk from where I was living. The owner was well networked within the health industry, and owned several health/vegan businesses throughout London. (He also has travelled to 167 countries throughout his life – such an interesting person!!!) So through him, I also met many other business owners throughout London within the vegan industry, mainly cafe, restaurant and other health shop owners. I went to many networking dinners and tried so much vegan food – veganism is a huge business in London! Through meeting these business owners, I was genuinely just interested to hear all the different perspectives and stories but also expressed my interest in finding an internship experience. Eventually I met the Founder of The Vegan Hut UK, a start-up online vegan superstore, and he offered me an internship in Sales and Social Media.
The Vegan Hut is a UK based online restaurant ordering and delivery service, as well as online superstore. The concept is a vegan Amazon, with the combined services of restaurant ordering and delivery. All the clients of The Vegan Hut are vegan or vegan friendly companies, and the web store only sells certified cruelty free and vegan products. The web store is an app based service and has launched nationwide throughout the UK. It also has plans to expand internationally to Netherlands within the coming year. Currently, they only ship within the UK.
During my first few weeks at my internship I got to know my team, and had the unique experience of being with this company pre-official launch. This was a very exciting but also hectic experience, as we prepared and attended many marketing events to build awareness about the service prior to the official launch date. I found this time very stressful at first and really had to gain confidence in my decision-making and time-management since I was given a lot of responsibility right off the bat. But, it was well worth it! It was so rewarding to see the company have a successful launch, and at the official launch party I got to try many new vegan foods and products which was a bonus! My hard work really paid off as well, my design plan for our main advertising poster was chosen to print and was used at our promotional stall at UK VegFest London, which welcomed over 14, 500 guests over the two day weekend. This definitely gave me a new confidence in my abilities!
Working for this start-up was a working environment experience I had never had before in any of my previous jobs. There is no micro-management, no supervisor to report to, and everyone works freely as a team. Tasks and responsibilities are assigned and individuals pick them up based on their own unique talents and passions. The communication was very open, and this working environment gave me the challenge to stand out as a leader and freedom to choose my own tasks, which was highly motivating. Since I began, I have been able to move away from sales and most of my individual projects were actually with Social Media and design, since this is where my interest was and it showed. It is very rewarding to be able to choose your own work based on your performance. This company responsiveness further motivated me to put forth my best efforts and reach my own highest potential within the Company, that is something that more working environments should strive to offer, and I can see why many modern companies are adapting this working style.
Some of my individual project duties began with Sales, which entailed contacting potential clients from provided lists and signing them up as sellers on our platform. This also had a lot of follow-up work with phone calls and emails until I would finalize client contracts. I had to learn to use the company’s internal software system for this as well. Then I also began taking on tasks with Social Media and Design. I created the voice overs and time scales for our client informational videos. I designed the promotional poster for VegFest UK London promotional stall, and co managed social media accounts and responded to client/customer inquiries.
I am now continuing my internship remotely, since I am back in Finland studying. This means I have many Skype meetings with my team now which at times can be overwhelming to try to manage with schedules, different time zones and when school work is also at high volumes. This has definitely given me a full profile experience at an International Business experience! However I think this is a valuable challenge to experience. The vegan industry is one that I find fascinating from a business perspective, and has a widely international prospective. This is because the vegan market has seen skyrocketing growth over the past 5-10 years in the UK, and it is such a new industry with unknown potential. There are no giant Monopoly companies such as PepsiCo, McDonalds, Hesburger or even Amazon for the vegan market – yet!!
My internship with The Vegan Hut UK has given me a new confidence and grown my international business network. This experience has taught me to do the things that scare you – they are most likely the experiences that will be the most rewarding. I stepped out of my comfort zone when I decided to spend my Summer in the UK instead of returning back home, and for me it paid off. You have nothing to lose by trying, you will either gain a new success or gain new wisdom!