My internship with SustainU was part of a Social Enterprise and Microfinance Internship, through the University of Notre Dame. It sounds like a lot of business jargon but, at the end of the day, the goal is really just to see how we, as a society and as individuals, can use businesses to beneficially impact our surrounding environment.
Going into this summer, I was excited to work for a company who had recently partnered with Major League Baseball and was also developing potential partnerships with other professional sports organizations. I was confident that Notre Dame was going to send all of us interns to companies that constantly strive to be sustainable and socially beneficial, but the athletic aspect of SustainU is what really drew me toward them.
However, what made me enjoy working here the most was the work ethic of the people and their unwavering commitment. They pour their hearts and souls into this company, and opened their doors to both me and my dog, Casey, who quickly became the work “therapy dog.” If you’re reading this blog then you probably have, at least some, previous knowledge of SustainU’s mission to change the way clothes are made to improve the environment, reinvigorate America’s manufacturing sector and educate the world about how clothing can positively impact people’s lives. That summed up the extent of my knowledge about SustainU before I started working here. But, as is typical when you start living and working somewhere, I absorbed much more about SustainU than the mission statement as well as what makes it more than just another T-shirt company.
I now know how to use a tagging gun and folding machine, and how to pitch an idea, analyze the potential financial success of a project, navigate windy roads filled with potholes, and run to my car without any cicadas landing on me (which are less “Wild and Wonderful” and more “Eighth Plague of Egypt”).
I’ve learned the process behind a product, which I think is incredibly valuable both as a consumer and as an intern. Perhaps slightly less relevant, but equally spectacular, is the fact that I have gone on stunning hikes through some of the most ecologically diverse forests in the USA.
But, most importantly, I’ve experienced that regional change doesn’t happen overnight… It starts with an idea, which, in this case, turned into a small business and a group of people working to improve their home.
There are many misconceptions about Appalachia, many stereotypes imparted on those who live in the Appalachian region by the rest of the nation (myself included, before I actually lived here for two months). These stereotypes are a barrier, which SustainU is trying to bust through by sustainably supporting the Appalachian economy. I am very grateful that I was able to, at least for a small time, be a part of the efforts SustainU is making to change how America views both Appalachia and sustainable clothing. Additionally, I am thankful for everything I have learned and experienced this summer, especially for the opportunity to work side by side with so many incredible people. All in all, I would say the past eight weeks have indeed been wild and wonderful.