By Sasha Kagan
Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to intern in New York City for Nina Mclemore, a small women’s clothing brand that targets smart, confident, and professional women, named after the designer herself.
Because Nina McLemore is a smaller company, I was able to become well versed at several different roles within the business. Even though I was primarily the showroom intern, I appreciated Nina McLemore being a smaller company because it allowed me to work with other departments and see the various aspects of a fashion company. I got the unique chance to work in the sales, marketing, PR and merchandising departments. I was able to truly grasp all that it takes to run a company and to find what is most interesting and challenging to the employees thanks to a single internship. I learned a lot about the industry, about myself and about my interests.
While I was at Nina McLemore, I helped with client sales, client outreach, marketing and social media. I did research on potential clients and trends to help design collections. I created swatch books, did inventory, organized the showroom, made presentations of clothing for clients and shadowed the collection-making process from fabric selection to final product. I also supported tasks on an as-needed basis, including general administrative work.
I learned how to interact with clients to make a sale. One must be warm, build personal connections and make sure to ask core questions—the answers to which help to create more value for the client. One should also give an extra hand, know the collection well and understand what silhouettes work best for particular body types. I learned about good customer service: be of service, don’t make the problem and be the solution to a client’s issue. I became familiar with how to cater to a client’s need and find the clothing that best suits them. I also learned how to reach out to clients to get business (i.e. phone calls, mailings, emails, follow-ups), and so much more.
Working in-house at a smaller company allows you to get to know people at all levels and make genuine connections and networks. I got to meet and work with employees of all levels: from the UPS deliveryman, all the way to the CEO and designer, Nina. Don’t let the status of an employee intimidate you; I learned not to be afraid to ask for help, no matter what the status at the company the employee was. Also, make sure to ask to work with people or departments you think could be beneficial, even if you were not initially assigned to work with them; everyone at the small company was more than willing to mentor me.
Something that was very unexpected from my internship was finding a mentor. Not only any mentor, but Nina McLemore herself. Nina not only took the time out of her very busy days to teach me the ropes of her company, but also focused on helping nurture my specific interests, including design and research. I am an Elon College Fellow, which mean I conduct two years of undergraduate research. I was able to discuss my potential research ideas with Nina and get her feedback. I look forward to continuing that discussion with her.
An unexpected challenge was still not being able to do or learn everything I had hoped. I wish I had the opportunity to learn how a photo shoot works and how to advertise through sponsored events. I would have loved to work more with Nina and her merchandising team on the design side of the company. Working in a small business, you have to deal with the whims of many different people at the same time, as they all think they have say in a particular matter.
I plan to use all that I learned during my small business experience in my future career endeavors, whether at a big or small company. I am also in the process of establishing a start-up, and therefore, everything I learned can be extremely useful as I structure my own small business.
Sasha Kagan, Creative Content Producer