The Internship Experience: Spotlight on Prequel
What’s it like to have an internship through the Pivot Program?
“It’s not just a work experience. It’s also a mentorship,” says DeVaughn Bell, one of two Pivot fellows interning at Prequel, a restaurant incubator and event space in Washington, D.C.. Since January, Bell and Ralph Green have contributed to almost every aspect of the organization, “from food running to hosting, doing the books, writing checks, front office, back office, everything.”
Like the other Pivot fellows, Bell and Green come into their internships twice a week for eight hours a day, balancing their work with classes and plans for their own businesses.
On an average day, they might check inventory, take drink orders, make an order of nachos, or rearrange the decor for an event – a process Green calls “musical chairs.” But Bell and Green have gained more than practical knowledge; they’ve had the chance to be mentored by industry experts, Prequel cofounders Andrew Harris and Johann Moonesinghe.
On a recent day before the Pivot Pitch event, Bell and Green were nervous about pitching their business ventures to a room full of judges, entrepreneurs, faculty, and their peers in the Pivot program.
Harris and Moonesinghe listened while they practiced their pitches, offered advice and suggestions, and helped them hone their presentations. “They had us really change what we were going to present that day, coming from the perspective of what they want to hear as investors,” said DeVaughn. Both he and Ralph ended up winning $4,000 in startup funding for their ventures, a vegan and halal catering business and a cleaning package service for restaurants.
Harris and Moonesinghe have also offered the fellows kitchen space on the weekends and taken them out to local restaurants to experience different kinds of operations. “It’s amazing that they care so much about the establishment that they actually take employees out to see what a four star restaurant looks like,” said Bell. “The connections and the networks that they have is so vast, because they know who’s who in the restaurant industry,” he said. “It’s priceless.”
Through his work with the restaurant incubator, Green realized that he loves working with numbers and accounting. “The numbers don’t lie,” he says. “They tell the truth and tell the story. It’s just fascinating.” He hopes to take these accounting and bookkeeping skills into his business venture, and hopes to make enough money to launch his own sandwich chain. Harris praised his diligence, bookkeeping, and attitude: “Ralph is cool, calm, and always ready to lend a hand.”
Bell, who runs a catering company and hopes to one day own a restaurant, realized that instead of being both chef and owner of his own restaurant, he should hire a chef for his restaurant so he can focus on the guest experience. That way, he says, “I could make sure that my guests are being treated the way that I want them to be treated.” Bell is “super personable with guests,” said Harris, adding that he has become “an integral member of our team.”
Both Bell and Green hope to soon be in a position to replicate their experiences, not as mentees but as mentors. “What I got from them, I want to give to other people,” says Green, who says he particularly wants to act as a good influence on young men in the community.
Bell echoed him: “It has helped me grow as far as knowing what a mentor should be, and being a positive influence on those around me, not only intentionally. I want people to meet me and say, ‘Wow, that was an amazing guy I met today.’ I wanna be that guy.”