Sameer Khanbhai ’21

Lever, Inc., North Adams, MA

Delivering my PowerPoint and talking about my experiences at Lever.

This past summer, I had the privilege of working at Lever, Inc. in North Adams. Lever is a start-up incubator that helps launch companies to improve the Berkshire region by means of creating jobs and encouraging economic growth.

I took on the role of a management consultant and conducted market research for small companies that were competing in Lever’s “Intrapreneurship Challenge.” This is the second year that Lever conducted this challenge and there were seven participants. The purpose of the challenge is to encourage companies to develop a new innovation which can either be a product or service. We help these companies create the best version of this new innovation and then host a competition in October in which these innovators compete. Projects are judged based on a few categories: one being how many potential jobs this new innovation can create and the second being how much potential revenue it can attract to the Berkshire region. One winner is selected out of these competitors and awarded $25,000 that they will be able to put towards furthering their process in creating the innovation. We had a wide range of companies including Kripalu, a yoga retreat center, to LTI Smart Glass, a company that manufactures ballistic glass used on U.S. military vehicles.

I, along with the two other interns, were responsible for helping these companies at the very beginning stages of their innovation process. When launching a new product or service, there are several logistics to think about such as competition, pricing, potential customers, economic climate, etc. However, these small companies are already busy running their actual business. This is where we interns came into play. We took these questions that the competitors didn’t have the time, resources, or effort to answer and looked into them ourselves. Projects were usually split up amongst the three of us with the occasional group project. Two successful projects I worked on were for Kripalu and Shire City Herbals.

Kripalu, a yoga retreat center located in Lenox, is in the process of creating a mobile platform with which they can target high-stress companies/businesses and offer them yoga and meditation services via computers, phones, etc. Kripalu was looking for competitive analysis and market research for this innovation. I dedicated a week and a half to conduct this research by looking at online resources, pamphlets, websites, etc. I also spent quite a bit of time calling up competitors and talking to representatives about their pricing methods and general services. I took all of this information and synthesized it into a deliverable which I was able to present to the Kripalu team. They were so pleased with my presentation that they actually used it at a board meeting when speaking about future goals of their innovation.

Shire City Herbals is most well-known for its product called “Fire Cider,” an apple cider vinegar tonic that has multiple health benefits. Shire City Herbals recently bought a new building in Pittsfield with an abundance of kitchen and storage space. This company is a successful e-commerce business and has experience shipping products and selling them on Amazon. With all of these in mind, Shire City Herbal wants to become an e-commerce incubator for small, local food businesses that don’t have a strong online presence. Essentially, small companies around the Berkshires would be able to use the new facility for cooking, packaging, shipping, etc. I partnered with other Lever interns for this project and together, we came up with a deliverable in which we mentioned competitors, a go-to-market strategy, potential customers, and pricing methods for this new service.

One additional project I was given was the Lever Summer Intern Handbook that will be used by future Lever interns. In this book, I explain my time as an intern and what it meant to be interning at a place like Lever that strives to lift the Berkshire region both socially and economically. I included a chapter on what it means to be a management consultant, what consulting work will be like, and how to go about working on projects for clients. I even included a step-by-step walkthrough of the consulting process that will take the reader through the entirety of the project phases from the initial meeting with the client all the way to presenting the deliverable.

Interning at Lever takes patience and you need to be able to adapt to the pace of the work. While some weeks may be extremely busy with three or four projects lined up, others may be extremely barren. It all depends on your clients and when they ask for research help. For example, the first and second weeks of the internship were very slow and we needed to find tasks to occupy ourselves with. This, I hope, can be changed in the future by having some light tasks early on in the summer for interns that can ease them into real consulting work. I took my first week to read up on start-ups and learn consult ing frameworks that ended up helping me later on as I began working for clients. Overall, however, I did learn how to adapt to the constant change in pace at Lever.

I feel as if this job has definitely provided me some clarity in terms of a potential future career. Last summer, I worked as a physics lab research assistant on campus. While I learned a lot from that job, it made me realize that I don’t want to be a lab researcher in the future. However, Lever has shown me so much more of the profession I want to pursue. Every other week, I was assigned a new project in which I was allowed to work with new people. I was able to help out small companies in the Berkshires and simultaneously explore many different types of industries and see how they have found their place in the Berkshire economy. This was the best part of the internship, in my opinion. This made the job more exciting and dynamic and really taught me more about the Berkshire region and the people in it. I would like to thank Mr. Bill McCalpin ’79 for his generosity and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this incredible opportunity.