Startup Diaries: Interns Can Be a Small Business Owner's Best Friend

[Startup Diaries is a new original series of articles from Yahoo! Small Business Advisor that chronicles the day-to-day and week-to-week struggles of a variety of startup and new small businesses.]

Art Cardenas owns The Fit Pit, a fully equipped professional boxing gym in Austin, Texas. The gym, which opened in January 2011, is still growing and now has plans for expansion. 

This morning I was contacted by a local Austin community college. I was asked if I would be willing to sponsor a student intern. The student, who was completing a course of study to become a certified personal trainer, would be assigned to The Fit Pit boxing gym. The student would have a checklist of objectives that he or she would have to complete in order to fulfill the requirements of the internship. The internship would last for three months and I would be required to supervise the student and ensure that the objectives were successfully completed.

Since opening my business full time in 2011, I have had the privilege of sponsoring two student interns. I readily accepted the offer to sponsor yet another intern. Interns have been a blessing for my business. The two students who have completed internships at my gym have been hardworking, dedicated, and eager to learn from real life experiences. Neither of the two interns had ever been in a boxing gym before. I can recall, with some amusement, the very first time that these young interns stepped through the doors into the gym. The expressions on their faces were ones that I have grown accustomed to seeing; expressions of surprise and curiosity. I see that same look on the faces of some new clients.

I spent time interviewing the student interns, once their initial shock had worn off. This was important because I wanted to be certain that they were eager to learn and willing to work hard. The reality is that working in the fitness industry is challenging. Rewarding yes, but nonetheless physically demanding, especially if a person is operating his or her own fitness establishment.

I believe that the two students learned much more than what they were required to learn. I was able to introduce them to the different aspects associated with operating a fitness facility, such as bookkeeping, accounting, scheduling, maintenance, marketing, customer service, and of course personal training protocols. I watched and evaluated their progress as they interacted with customers and assisted with the gym's day-to-day operations. Essentially, they learned by doing. In the end, I firmly believe that these interns acquired valuable real life experience.

And the interns were assets to me. My workload was lessened as the interns gained a wealth of real life experience, not to mention that I feel rewarded knowing that I have been instrumental in their professional development. In fact, the only negative aspect that I experienced, associated with sponsoring an intern, is that I had to spend some time, away from my regular duties, directly supervising them.

Lesson learned: Sponsoring interns has been a benefit for my business and it is a practice that I will continue to embrace. I am looking forward to the arrival of the gym's newest intern!

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