WCU gets first student participant in SBTDC internship program

As the regional director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Western Carolina University, Wendy Cagle wanted to offer students in Western North Carolina the same internship opportunities that are available to those in North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

Last summer, the SBTDC, a business development service of the University of North Carolina system, extended its internship program on a trial basis to students in the western part of the state. Students selected for the program get a chance to work with two technology-based clients during a 10-week internship, working 20 hours a week per company. Each also is assigned a mentor from SBTDC to assist them with their projects.

“We wanted to bring the resources that are so prevalent in the triangle a little further west,” Cagle said.

Ramain Gohar

Ramain Gohar

Ramain Gohar became the first WCU student selected for the SBTDC internship. Gohar, a graduate student enrolled in the Master of Business Administration Program at WCU’s Biltmore Park instructional site, worked as a business consultant for XO Science in Asheville and Fandeck in Winston-Salem. His project consisted of helping the clients identify their target markets, business opportunities, and problems they were facing.

“It was great to represent Western Carolina and leave a good impression so it will help other students if they want to seek an internship,” said Gohar, a native of Pakistan who resides in Asheville while he completes the process of becoming a permanent U.S. citizen.

Rob Larkin, vice president of sales and marketing for Fandeck, a software technology company specializing in providing applications and e-commerce to the design trade, said Gohar not only identified the company’s customer base, but he profiled the potential customers and potential channels of distribution for the product.

“He did great,” Larkin said. “First of all, he’s a very intelligent guy and he was very adept at asking questions. You can learn a little bit about a company from the information it provides on its website, but to actually get in there and really dissect a company and ask the right questions, he was very adept at that. If we can grow our business some more, I’d love to have him join us. He’s very good at what he does.”

The interns, who also came from Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, met periodically in Raleigh to discuss their projects, and also met with their mentors. At the conclusion of the internship, the students gave a final presentation at N.C. State for SBTDC directors from across the state, as well as the clients who participated in the program.

“To me, it was a great first effort,” Cagle said. “I’d like to see it grow and see more companies in the west participate, as well as more MBAs. It puts Western on a bigger stage.”

For more information on the SBTDC internship program, contact program coordinator John Ujvari at sbir@sbtdc.org.