My Summer Startup at ASPIRE

Due to the recent epidemic, the internship I was initially going to begin evolved into a different type of business startup. The startup was led by myself, and involved working with special needs clients from ASPIRE to create and sell goods. ASPIRE is a newly launched multi-disciplinary clinical program at Cape CBI that integrates cognitive behavior therapy, applied behavior analysis, vocational counseling, academic support, and life skills training. ASPIRE is specifically customized for each client. One unit of the program is a complex of apartments that provide independent living services for adults with special needs.

I independently worked out of the office creating all of the necessary plans such as business plans, inventory sheets, checklists, and schedules. I purchased materials and built the structure that the residents would sell products out of, installing safety measures such as a plexiglass barrier and posting checklists for appropriate customer service behavior that the ASPIRE residents can refer to. I researched and used the company credit card to order t-shirts, tie dye materials, stencils, and all other necessary items. The ASPIRE residents worked with me on creating the t-shirts that were to be sold. I also created an etsy account to sell the t-shirts online.

My most fond memories of the experience is the laughter and fun I shared with the ASPIRE clients in creating the inventory and stand. I was able to take the company card and buy the required items, but I had no previous experience and really had to figure it out as I went along. I remember tie-dying all of the shirts with the clients. We were throwing colors everywhere with no method to the madness. It was a blast. Painting the stand and spray-painting the shirts were also the highlights. The taller clients were able to reach higher spots, with the smaller ones painting under the desk. Everyone had a role and it was so amazing to work together with the clients to create a startup from scratch. Practicing appropriate behavior with customers was one of my favorite activities. I put the stand in the backyard and would pretend to be a customer. Sometimes I wouldn’t wear my mask, sometimes I would be rude, sometimes I would just stare. Teaching the clients how to appropriately react to customers was a blast. We shared a lot of laughs during that period and learned a lot in regards to customer service.

The most surprising aspect of my experience would be the amount of free reign that I was given. I had a credit card and a location, and was able to do whatever I needed to create the startup. With no experience besides my business and psychology major, this was quite the learning curve. I needed to get the required permits to even be able to start the business, as well as build a stand. This experience was incredibly multidimensional. It ranged from writing business plans and inventory sheets to woodworking and behavioral coaching with the clients. I think that I flourish when given responsibility, and I proved to myself that I can have a vision and make it become real through determination and thinking outside of the box. I was able to figure out and ace certain aspects of the internship that I thought were out of my wheelhouse.