Are you thinking about starting your own business, but not sure if you’re cut out for it? Last week, I blogged about a new study that shed some light on the old controversy of whether entrepreneurship can be taught. Continuing with that theme, I was intrigued by an article on BNET about how franchise company Moe’s Southwest Grill created an “internship program” for potential franchisees.
Moe’s was being approached by potential franchisees who fit every qualification except one: they didn’t have restaurant experience. Reluctant to keep turning buyers away, the company developed a program in which potential franchisees spend three weeks in one of Moe’s restaurants. “Six days a week for ten hours a day, they do everything from cleaning bathrooms to rolling burritos to serving guests,” Moe’s president, Paul Damico, told BNET. Moe’s evaluates the prospects’ abilities; the potential franchisees, in turn, get to experience the reality of restaurant ownership and decide if they still want pursue the opportunity. So far, Damico says 80 percent of the prospects who went through the program have become franchisees.
If you’re considering starting a business, why not take a cue from Moe’s and create your own entrepreneurship internship?
There are different ways to go about this. All it takes is a little thought, creativity and chutzpah.
First, look for businesses in the industry where you want to start. (You might need to look outside your immediate area, since a company in your own neighborhood might consider you too competitive). Are any of them hiring? Ideally, it would be nice to get paid for your services as well as having a learning experience.
If you can’t afford to leave your current job, look for a part-time job at one of the companies.
Be honest with the companies you approach about what you’re doing. Explain that you’re thinking of starting a business in this industry and you want to get some experience first to see whether it’s for you. Keep trying, and chances are you’ll find a company that is willing to give you a chance. It might be a little easier to swing this idea if you’re 22 than if you’re, say, 52, but be persistent and eventually you’ll find someone who is sympathetic to your career explorations.
Another way to learn about an industry is to talk to a SCORE Mentor who’s been there, done that. Visit SCORE’s website to get matched with a mentor for free online or offline counseling and advice.