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5 in 5! with MyBigGive

October 19, 2010

5 Questions. 5 Minutes. 1 Employers. This week: Travis from MyBigGive.

My name is Travis Ketchum, I am the founder of MyBigGive and the primary blogger at The College Startup. I manage the development and design team for MyBigGive in addition to negotiating our operating agreements with some of the worlds best brands and most amazing causes.

1. What do you look for when you hire an intern?

Everything we do is fast paced, and because we work as a small team each person usually has to wear many hats within the organization. We just like to look for smart people who can bring a diverse skill set and a sharp mind to table because we have found they generally produce the best results.

They don’t have to be the best at what they do, but they have to have some hustle and being willing to learn. Luckily it is easier than ever to find these types of people because they gravitate towards the things they are passionate about online; you can’t really hide the kind of fire we look for.

2. How did you get started in the industry? How can I get started?

Like just about everyone else, I started by working minimum wage jobs and worked hard to launch my first company in high school (a small computer company) and just hustled for leads. I made sure that if I said I would do something I would do it, show up early and go the extra mile to make sure each and every customer wanted to tell at least a few friends about what I was able to do for them. I didn’t take more than a few weeks to start booking more clients than I could humanly fit into each week and ultimately paid for a large portion of my education at Washington State University.

Once I started college I made sure to scope out entry-level jobs that had me working face-to-face with people that had the skills I needed to realize what I wanted to do. I scored a low-level help desk job that put me in contact with designers and developers that I was able to build a relationship with over a few years. The pay wasn’t great but I made sure I busted my tail doing whatever it took to make their lives easier. Then when it was time to launch MyBigGive I had plenty of friends who then owed me to a certain extent and would either just help me out with what I needed to get done, or at the very least would work for close to 95% off of their private contractor rates.

For someone who is looking to get started in the industry, my best advice is to narrow down your focus to what you are really good at and put an enormous amount of hustle into networking and doing favors for other people. In my experience those favors and going the extra mile have always paid back 10 fold over the effort or expense put into helping other people. On top of all of this, we also cross into the performance marketing territory otherwise known as “affiliate marketing' which is absolutely exploding right now. Companies working in performance marketing are seen growth numbers in the 3000% range YOY, and there aren’t many signs that this is going to slow down. When advertising budgets dip it is much easier to convince a company to pay you only for the results you deliver, a guaranteed ROI.

3. What is the future of your industry?

MyBigGive works specifically in the field of “social good' which is finding its footing right now in the mind of consumers. If you have noticed more banks are offering social good incentives such as a percentage back to your favorite charities instead of airline miles etc, and other platforms are racing to try and find a winning combination of business,charity and user experience.

Consumers have been voting with their pocket books as well though,many businesses are finding that they can boost sales or at the very least forgo the need for heavy discounts when they instead offer a percentage of the sale for a good cause. Regardless of how hard the economy

4. What is one main thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression? To make a negative impression?

If a potential intern wants to get our attention in a positive light, the best way to do so is just to get out in his/her field and start hustling. When we have openings and a potential applicant sends us an e-mail expressing their interest and can link to at least 3-5 relevant things they have already accomplished online, it sits very well with our culture and we love that.

As far as negative impressions go, if someone applies and signs e-mails with things like “Cheers', or other blatant items that don’t mesh with our culture we are going to think twice before seriously considering them for the position. Do you research on a company and how they operate before applying to make sure the core philosophies match and play to those strengths.

5. Give us a positive intern story? An intern horror story?

One time we hired an intern to do some design work for us on an unusually short timeline, and they just completely knocked it out of the park. They sent back the files we needed early, they were very polished and they had even taken the initiative to cover a few things we had accidentally overlooked.

The flip side of that was that we were on the eve of some press coverage and an intern of ours had access to the code level of our site and broke a few features right before the flood of traffic started. It wasn’t intentional but it certainly hurt our business and made me completely rethink our access policies for each person.

Thanks Travis! To learn more and support the causes you care about, check out MyBigGive.

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