Recruiting interns from Ashesi: startup co-founder shares lessons and experiences

Meghan McCormick lived in Guinea for two years, where she worked as a community economic development volunteer in the Peace Corps. The experience gave her some understanding of the challenges typical small business owners face in the region. These realities inspired her to start a small business accelerator. Her passion for enabling small businesses and local ownership to grow with technology, particularly in emerging markets, led her to start OZÉ with her Co-founder Dave Emnett.  

The mobile app, OZÉ, was designed to help business owners keep digital records and use that data to make better business decisions and raise capital. Businesses that use the tool also get access to business coaches, leading to significant improvement in business performance. 

Building an intern pipeline at Ashesi
In 2018, OZÉ launched in Ghana and started recruiting more actively for an internship programme it had started. When Meghan began to speak with friends in Ghana about people and organisations she should see, Ashesi was one of the recommendations. That year Meghan attended and recruited interns at the university’s annual career fair. Since then, OZÉ has continued to recruit interns each year.  

Management Information Systems major Sedinam Anyasor ’23 and Business Administration major Jessie Ghartey ’22 were interns at the organisation this year. During their time with OZÉ, Sedinam and Jessie helped with customer activations and acquisition and developed marketing content for the OZÉ business blog. Collectively, they helped double the number of users on the OZÉ app. They also piloted a campus ambassador programme to introduce entrepreneurs in universities to OZÉ. 

“My time at OZÉ was a good balance of experiencing how things are done while being given the room to make mistakes and become better at my work,” says Jessie. “I got to experiment with theories I learned in class, helping the marketing and sales team close deals. These experiences helped me learn new skills and hone already existing ones.”

For Sedinam, the experience helped her understand Accra’s public transportation network in ways she had not before. “One of the most significant gains for me during this internship was learning how to commute around Accra using trotros,” she says. ” I had rarely used public transport before this internship.” 

Designing meaningful internships at OZÉ  
From their own experiences as interns, OZÉ’s founders understand that intentional design can help create a win-win for intern learning and team progress. The key has been to create smaller, short-term tasks that interns can complete during their time; while also having the room to experiment and make mistakes. OZÉ’s interns are hired on the same attributes as full-time staff: customer-focused, self-starters, intellectually curious, comfortable with qualitative and quantitative data, and with the ability to work in teams.  

“Ashesi interns like Sedinam and Jessie meet our criteria well,” says Meghan. “They are unafraid to express their ideas and help launch new initiatives and are a true representation of the organisation’s culture. We have also found that interns from Ashesi have strong cross-cultural skills and can navigate a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders. This is essential in serving our diverse African audience.”

This year, OZÉ made its first full-time hire from Ashesi. “Peyi, an Ashesi senior, had taken a look at our app and redesigned it for his class project,” says Meghan. “When he shared his redesign work with our team, we were all impressed. We hired him as an intern, and he became a full-time hire this year.”

With several years of experience recruiting interns, Meghan understands that students can sometimes feel apprehensive about joining a young organisation without the broad reputation of more established firms. Her counsel?  

“When choosing internships, students need to focus on learning new skills and gaining experience,” she says. “It might be scary to go to an unknown company instead of going to more established firms. However, students should not optimise for brand names with internships, but should focus instead on where they will learn skills most relevant to their goals.”