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Undergraduate, 2023
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Experiencing Entrepreneurship

Through the D’Aniello Internship Program, students gain practical experience while supporting growing small companies.


As head student manager of the Syracuse University men’s basketball team while an undergraduate, Patrick Luckett ’12 worked a 40-hour week managing scheduling and operational duties for 36 student managers and 20 student-athletes, an experience he used to fulfill his internship requirement as a marketing and strategic management major at the Whitman School of Management.


While many student managers have their sights set on coaching, Luckett knew he wanted to use his business education to enhance the sporting experience in a different way. In 2019, he started Best.Day.Ever, a company that helps businesses drive engagement through sports and entertainment experiences.


The company took off. Last year, Luckett turned to Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Ken Walsleben, who taught his Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) Capstone course, looking for student interns to provide support for some Syracuse events. As serendipity would have it, Walsleben directs Syracuse University’s D’Aniello Internship program, which matches students with entrepreneurial businesses for semester-long internships, providing students with meaningful, hands-on experiences working with growing businesses and their entrepreneur founders.


“Unlike a traditional corporate internship, this program places students with rapidly growing innovative small companies, allowing them to experience entrepreneurship from the inside out,” says Walsleben. “D’Aniello interns are typically engaging directly with the founder or president of the company on meaningful assignments that have included putting together an employee handbook, conducting marketing studies, developing ad campaigns and data analysis.


Hailey Cammarata ’23 spent spring semester working with Luckett as one of Best.Day.Ever’s first student interns. Cammarata wrote content for the company’s website and helped coordinate hospitality events for a high-profile client in conjunction with basketball games at the JMA Wireless Dome, where she coordinated refreshments, served as a host and facilitated games and prizes within the event space. In addition, she wrote a business model of the company, including its value proposition, key partners and revenue stream.


Cammarata studied marketing management at Whitman to prepare for a career in sports marketing. “This internship allowed me to get my foot in the door," she says. “Patrick is a really good mentor. Having the opportunity to work really closely with the president and the founder of a company is not something interns usually experience.”


From Luckett’s perspective, employing D’Aniello interns has been a win-win proposition. In fact, he has retained both Cammarata and her fellow intern, James Estabrook ’23, through the summer. “Whitman did a great job of vetting students and playing matchmaker to ensure we had qualified, interested students,” he says. “The interns worked very hard and provided a lot of value, which freed up bandwidth for us to focus on bigger picture things. And, compared to traditional payroll, it’s a bargain.”


The D’Aniello Entrepreneurial Internship Program was created to provide experiential learning opportunities in entrepreneurial environments for highly qualified students through a gift from Daniel A. D'Aniello '68, founding partner and managing director of The Carlyle Group.


The interns, who are selected through a competitive application process, work 10 hours a week during the semester-long internship and complete course assignments, including a final report on their experience. In addition to the skills gained, students earn one academic credit. Their salary — minimum wage or slightly higher for graduate students — is paid by their employer, although one-third of that is subsidized by the D’Aniello gift.


Increasingly, it is former D’Aniello interns turned entrepreneurs who reach back to the program for support to help grow their businesses. “More than anyone, it’s alumni of the program who appreciate its value,” says Walsleben. “They also know that they are going to get high-caliber students with good skills.”


As a graduate student in information management and technology, Aldrine Ashong-Katai  ’13 (Falk), G’15 (IST) served as a D’Aniello intern in the Fall 2014 semester, working with Berry Good Dental Care to assist with the dental office’s marketing campaign and to develop a strategic partnership with Syracuse University Health Services. “I was looking both to leverage some of the skills I had and to get exposure to the operations of a business and how things actually get done,” he says. 


Because it was a small business, Ashong-Katai says he was able to engage directly with the owners and learn from their experiences. “It was a lot more intimate than many experiences, where you’re just an anonymous person crunching numbers.”


Ashong-Katai was earning his master’s through a Kaufman Entrepreneurship Engagement Fellowship and was also in the midst of launching, an e-commerce platform where students could buy and sell books and other merchandise. His internship experience with Berry Good Dental was so impactful that he became a host company the very next semester, while still in graduate school. “My intern helped with marketing strategies to increase visibility for Cuselight across the University community and develop collaborations and partnerships,” he says.


In his current role as a property manager with University Townhouses in Syracuse, Ashong-Katai has used D’Aniello interns in capacities ranging from conducting SWAT analyses and market research to showing units to prospective tenants. “It’s a great resource to help grow the business but also to give back and impact students in becoming entrepreneurial professionals,” he says.


Brandon Reiter ’16 was also involved in his own entrepreneurial ventures while a Syracuse student, ranging from producing T-shirts to developing finance strategy for a fledgling record label.


A finance and entrepreneurship major, Reiter was selected as a D’Aniello intern in the Fall semester of 2015, working with Bey Designs, which produces wooden cubes that open into city skylines. “It’s essentially a high-end souvenir,” says Reiter, who helped develop strategies to market the product and produced a promotional video for YouTube.


Two years ago, Reiter launched Skyview CFO, a company that provides virtual financial management and bookkeeping services to small companies. “These are companies that don’t have the resources or the need for a full-time CFO,” says Reiter, whose services range from helping new companies develop a business plan and funding strategies; to managing payroll and budgets, forecasting and financial reports; to bookkeeping tasks such as recording financial transactions and producing quarterly reports.


“The pandemic really made people comfortable doing business virtually,” adds Reiter. Within a year, his client base had grown to the point that he was solely focused on providing services with little time left to think strategically about the business.


Reiter reached out to Walseben about hosting a D’Aniello intern. “I’ve used my interns to conduct research on competitors, help update my business plan and to refine my website,” he says.


Lily Buckley ’24, a triple major in accounting, supply chain and business analytics interned with Skyview in the Fall semester of 2022. “Not only is Brandon an entrepreneur, but he works with other small businesses to manage their finances, so I learned a lot about how businesses operate financially,” she says.


During her internship, Buckley created a new investor kit, helped explore establishing a nonprofit charity side to the business and did some accounting work on QuickBooks.

While she was able to put classroom skills to practice, Buckley says the biggest lesson learned was “success starts with passion and a good mission,” she says. “Every business student should have an experience like this to see how an entrepreneur thinks and operates. I learned so much thanks to the D’Aniello Internship Program.”


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