As a sophomore, Matt Holyst, ’20, got a jumpstart on his career by pursuing an internship his first summer back from college. But he knew he wanted to go somewhere unique. 

“When you’re early on in college, going to a nonprofit is a great path,” Holyst said. “You learn as you go, and since in my case it was a smaller operation, they treat you as an equal, and you get to do a lot of the work that these people do.”

Holyst spent the summer of 2017 in San Antonio, Texas, working with the Small Business Development Center, which provides professional and confidential business advising as well as training programs to small businesses.

“I partnered with entrepreneurs, and offered free consulting for any small business that wants to come in,” Holyst said.

He says he learned more about growing businesses in a smaller environment than he expected, particularly one tool that helps clients hone in on their goals and create a plan to achieve them.

“I learned how to conceptualize people’s ideas and their visions. They come in with a drive to get a business off the ground, and I was able to help them create a plan to make those ideas a reality, Holyst said.

The tool is called a business model canvas. Holyst asked clients to write the vision of their business on a sheet of paper like a flow chart, and within an hour, he was able to help them determine the vision and values of a company.

Holyst brought this tool back with him to the Virginia Mentoring Partnership, where he has been interning since his freshman year.

“Virginia Mentoring Partnership provides technical assistance to youth mentoring programs to ensure the Elements of Effective Practices, national mentoring best practices are implemented,” said the former director of programs, Rose Marie Germanis.

Now that Holyst has learned this new strategy, Germanis says VMP is able to offer this process to mentoring program staff to assist organizations in developing a clear vision and value statement.

“Within an hour, an organization can get their baseline business plan, and their value pitch, which sometimes we can spend a year working on with a client,” Germanis said.

Holyst is now being assigned to clients, and consults with them on how to grow their businesses.

“It’s really helpful just watching people work together to find those definitions for their companies,” Holyst said.

The sophomore is thankful he pursued an internship in the nonprofit sector because he says it has shown him what he wants to do in the next three years, as well as after graduation.

“You learn so much about yourself transitioning from school to work,” Holyst said. “You don’t realize until you start working how much self-discipline, organization, and planning that is required to reach your goals.”

And he hopes other students will follow in his footsteps.

“If you haven’t found an internship, look to a nonprofit. Those internships exist in almost every field, and there are opportunities there,” Holyst said.

Holyst hopes to start his own business over the next few years, using the tools he shares with other entrepreneurs every day.