Second-year NICBC student Olivia Japlon shares how her interest in the food and beverage industry led to her internship at The Hatchery Chicago. It was a summer filled with a lot of networking, learning, and – of course – food.
Stepping off of the Chicago metro, it was hard to miss the giant building next to the Kedzie stop. My heart pumped quickly as I walked down the stairs towards the entrance of the 67,000 square foot facility. It was my first day interning and I had a feeling that the next eleven weeks would bring a lot of exciting experiences and new challenges.
Wanting to learn more about the food and beverage industry, I spent my summer interning at The Hatchery Chicago, a nonprofit food and beverage incubator located in Chicago’s west side. The Hatchery supports local entrepreneurs in launching and growing their food and beverage businesses through a variety of activities, including networking events, in-person business coaching sessions, workshops, and classes. The Hatchery has one of the largest food incubation spaces in the U.S., offering 56 private kitchens, a large shared kitchen, and a co-working space. By providing these resources, the Hatchery helps remove the barriers to growth that food and beverage entrepreneurs encounter in their early stages.
I became familiar with The Hatchery thanks to a Chicago-based Friedman alumna. In the early weeks of May, before I arrived in Chicago, I spoke with my manager, The Hatchery CEO, about my interest in nutrition and food companies, and we developed a few initial ideas for projects. When I started my internship, there were only five team members, so I had the opportunity to get immersed immediately. Although I did not have a specific focus area, I worked closely with the CEO and the Marketing Manager throughout the summer. Some of the projects and tasks that I worked on included.
- Research briefs to support future workshops, classes and events hosted by The Hatchery. The topics were a mix of my interests and interests of Hatchery members, ranging from food label claim regulations to best practices for canning,
- Weekly “food trends and insights” reports, which I shared with team members during our weekly meetings. As the summer progressed, the CEO encouraged me to go beyond summarizing interesting news pieces to forecasting food trends.
- Hatchery member interviews, which I transcribed and edited for use as future blog posts.
- Non-GMO Project verification and certification. I helped one of The Hatchery’s entrepreneurs go through this process, looking at each of her ingredients, researching if her supplier could offer a Non-GMO alternative, and providing guidance to complete the certification process.
I also had the opportunity to attend and participate in classes and events hosted by The Hatchery and external partners. These activities helped me to not only better understand the food and beverage industry, but also to network. A highlight of my internship was attending the Fancy Food Show in New York City with the CEO, Marketing Manager and several Hatchery member entrepreneurs. It was my first time at a trade show— it was amazing (and exhausting!). I heard Christina Tosi, founder and owner of Milk Bar, speak on a panel, I walked many miles on the trade show floor sampling some great (and not-so-great) products, and I watched big and small companies sell their brands. It was an experience that helped put in perspective the challenges that food entrepreneurs can face.
Overall, my internship at The Hatchery was wonderful. Although it was unpaid and the location was outside the heart of the Chicago, the flexibility of my role, the support from my manager and other colleagues, and the opportunities to network and attend events more than made up for those negative aspects. Plus, living with my parents for the summer was a big bonus (hello, home-cooked meals and a full-size washer and dryer)!
My advice for students who are interested in or are required to have an internship is to attend the second-year Friedman student internship presentations and to start networking, ASAP. While the idea of networking may make some students nervous, it’s a great way to learn about companies and different roles. Reach out to Friedman/Tufts alumni via LinkedIn or email, and schedule an informational meeting or call. When I started my internship ship, I quickly ruled out some opportunities just by speaking with other students and alumni. Another tip is to keep your advisor, Lori, friends and family in the loop about what your interests are because you never know when an opportunity may come along that’s a perfect fit.
Olivia Japlon is a second-year NICBC student, focusing on nutrition communications. You can usually find her running on the Esplanade, walking around the South End, or trying new restaurants around Boston. When time permits, she likes visiting her parents (and dog) in Chicago and traveling to National Parks.