At a young, growing company, there is always more work to be done. There are strategies to build, projects to complete, partnerships to forge, data to crunch, employees to develop – the list goes on. That’s why bringing on an intern to help tackle the workload makes perfect sense, but it can also feel overwhelming.

How will we integrate interns into the team? What project would drive the most value for our company and help the intern learn? Where do we start with this process?

If these questions sound familiar to you and your company, learn from the team at Mori, a Boston-based agribusiness startup, and their successful experience bringing an HBS intern into their Business Intelligence team.

Meet Mori

Mori is a technology company focused on innovations in the food, agriculture, and packaging industries. Mori’s proprietary process uses just salt, water, and heat to extract protein from silk and apply it to food, creating natural protection that slows spoiling and keeps food fresher for longer. Products can be integrated at any time from farm to shelf, allowing food producers, processors, and retailers to deliver more and better-quality food to consumers while reducing food and packaging waste throughout the supply chain.

With a wide range of opportunities available to the business as they expand, a Business Intelligence function was formed at Mori in 2021 with a critical mandate – build a robust system and conduct analysis to identify the right markets for the company to enter with its innovative technology. Christina Belsito (MBA 2019), Vice President of Business Operations, along with the Mori leadership team, knew the mountain of work ahead for the newly formed division, and bringing on a summer intern was the perfect solution to accelerate progress.

The HBS Connection

Fortunately, Belsito knew exactly the right person to consider for the role. Weeks earlier, Kevin Sani (MBA 2022) reached out to Belsito while researching mission-based startups making an impact on climate change.

“After reading more about Mori’s technology and trajectory, I was really impressed by their B2B supply-chain focus,” Sani shared. “The importance of reducing food waste also hit me like a sack of potatoes. About a third of food created is wasted. Not only does that make it more difficult to feed the earth’s growing population, but it also means that one third of all the inputs used to create the food that ends up in our stomachs (land, water, energy, etc.) is wasted.” Sani’s enthusiasm for Mori grew after speaking with Belsito when he learned more about the company’s focus on integrating within supply chains to add value rather than forcing solutions that don’t.

At the time of their call, Mori didn’t have plans to bring on an intern for the summer. However, as Belsito and team looked towards the future of the company, the need in Business Intelligence became clear and Sani was Belsito’s first call.

Crafting an Impactful Internship Experience

“As a startup, we have often brought in interns for the summer but we’re not at the stage where we know what those intern needs might be many months in advance,” Belsito explained. Yet, the Mori team has learned that when an opportunity arises to bring on an intern, there are ways to move quickly and create an impactful internship experience.

First is deciding the scope of the project. “Eight to ten weeks flies by, so something we’ve had to focus on as a company is creating a project that is discrete enough and concrete enough that it can be accomplished over the summer,” Belsito shared. Being able to create alignment around what the output is going to be is key to success for both the intern and for the company.

The team at Mori has also found it important to be intentional about integrating interns into the company, whether they are joining remotely or in-person. “We are primarily an in-person team, and we invest a lot in making that a valuable experience. There is a lot of team building and we hold fun, casual events for our employees, including our interns, on a regular basis,” said Belsito.

“When we learned Kevin would be joining the team remotely in the summer, we knew he would be included in our events virtually, but we also spent time in the spring having him come to our facility to meet the team. He also joined one of our monthly social events in person so he could get some face-to-face time and get to know people before starting the job.”

From Sani’s point of view, the efforts made to welcome him onto the team were meaningful. “Everybody was so warm and welcoming, but also some of the sharpest technical, scientific, and business professionals that I’ve worked with,” he shared. “An awesome mission, plus talented coworkers, plus a great culture equaled a fantastic summer internship experience.”

Internship to Extended Interview

Reflecting on summer 2021, Belsito and her team at Mori was thrilled with what Sani was able to deliver over ten weeks and even happier to learn he would continue doing project work with the company during his EC year. As Belsito experienced herself as an EC student, project work is an ideal opportunity for students and companies to grow together, and to find the right long-term match.

“Project based work is the best way to vet future employees, and a great way for the intern to vet whether or not Mori is where they want to work full-time,” Belsito said. “That’s my story; I did a project that I turned into a deliverable for the CEO of Mori as one of my courses in my second year at HBS. That was effectively my interview.”

For a startup, this opportunity to extend the interview process and hire very well is critical. As Belsito explained, “I was employee number five at Mori, at a point in time when every single employee made a huge impact for better or for worse. Now we’re approaching 60 people, but we’re still small enough so that any miss-hire hurts. Internships and co-ops allow us to feel more confident knowing we’ve already vetted this person and we know they have the skills for the job and they’re a great fit for our culture.”

Hiring Interns at HBS

Is your company a quickly growing startup that would benefit from hiring an HBS summer intern?

Connect with our team at HBS Career & Professional Development to learn more about meeting students, summer fellowship opportunities that help to fund internships, and crafting an impactful internship for your business.