Ralph Kettling knows firsthand that a small dose of entrepreneurial spirit can accomplish big things.
As the co-founder of SmallSpacesAppliances.com
-- a Mid Michigan Internet company that provides compact appliances for
small living spaces like boats and RVs -- Kettling is more than willing
to foster that same zeal in others through a newly
created Entrepreneurship Internship Program (EIP).
The program is a collaboration between Saginaw Valley State University
, Central Michigan University
, Michigan State University
, the University of Michigan-Flint
, and the MidMichigan Innovation Center
. A grant awarded in 2008 from the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
helps finance the program, which matches student interns with startup companies.
idea behind the Entrepreneurship Internship Program is to expose
interns to a different kind of business training than what is available
during traditional internships at larger companies. In return, students
receive the kind of schooling they simply can't get in a classroom -- firsthand experience in how to start and run a small business. It's
also the kind of training that organizers hope will make a difference
in retaining Michigan's most talented students once they graduate from
college and begin making career choices.
By many assessments,
the program is working. It's "providing a huge benefit to the
participating companies, students and for Michigan," says Chris
Moultrup, program director at MidMichigan Innovation Center (MMIC), a
Midland-based business incubator with 21 startup companies, and 12
virtual tenants. So far, the program has placed 31 interns in companies throughout the Mid Michigan region since it started last year.
Joe Chrysler, a Saginaw Valley State
University computer science major, began working for
SmallSpacesAppliances.com in October 2009. Since then, the EIP intern
says he's had his fingers in nearly every part of the Essexville-based
business, including search engine optimization and product entry to
website redesign and evaluating customer experience patterns.
determination to develop his own small computer business has been
reignited by his internship at SmallSpacesAppliances.com, he says.
think it's absolutely critical to be an entrepreneur today because the
traditionally 'safe' occupations at large corporations are proving to
be not as reliable as they seem," says the Millington native. "I'll
leave the program with a better understanding of the entrepreneurial
process, what developing a new business takes, and how much the
Internet has lowered the barrier to entry into the entrepreneurial
It's a good bargain for business owners like Kettling,
too. In addition to receiving financial support to cover a portion of
intern wages, participating companies benefit from an infusion of young
"Talent, labor and creativity are valuable resources
for a new company in the Internet world," says Kettling, who enjoys the
opportunity to introduce young people to the world of entrepreneurship
and the possibilities that the Internet holds for small businesses.
Internet also enables people to create new businesses on business
models that did not exist a few years ago," he says. "This creates a
great opportunity for those young people who want to develop their own
Project lead Loraine J. Hudson, MSU director of
Research Facilitation and Dissemination, says the Entrepreneurship
Internship Program gives students valuable experiences in start-up
companies, and it provides start-up companies with low-cost assistance.
"Our goal is to facilitate these matches and retain both the companies and the trained students here in Michigan," Hudson says.
Lee Hughes, an internship at the MidMichigan Innovation Center has
given him the opportunity to work closely with several start-ups housed
at the Midland-based business incubator. The Ottawa Lake native will
graduate from Saginaw Valley State University with a marketing degree.
in the meantime, Hughes is helping the MidMichigan Innovation Center
and its startup companies with marketing and other assistance. The
experience, he says, has fueled his interest in launching his own dream
business someday -- a seasonal outdoors outfitter store in northern
The Entrepreneurship Internship Program is much different from 'traditional' internships, Hughes says.
have been given jobs that require a large amount of trust and
expectation and am expected to fulfill those jobs," he says. "I am
receiving real-world experience and exposure."
Joe Chrysler, who attends Saginaw Vally State University, is participating in the Entrepreneurship Internship Program.
Joe Chrysler helps Ralph and Deb Kettling with their business and website, SmallSpacesAppliances.com.
Ralph and Deb Kettling were in the process of remodeling the galley on their boat when they came up with the idea for SmallSpacesAppliances.com.
A two burner cooktop is one of many small appliances that can be found on the Kettling's website.