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Lhamo Dixey ’25, a junior studying Religion and Political Science and earning the I&E Certificate, wants people to know that if you’re interested in startups, there’s not one single path that leads you to them.

“I think part of my story is that you don't have to have a traditional major in order to secure an internship at a firm or startup,” she said. “There’s a tendency to think you have to be pursuing a certain major to find or succeed in those roles.”

With a past internship at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, and current internships at coconut spread company Kokada (co-founded by Breanna Atkinson ’16 and Jared Golestani ’17) and organic skincare company Aurganics (founded by Sarah Houston ’24), Lhamo could be called an expert at landing entrepreneurial internships.

She spoke with Duke I&E about finding and securing positions, getting the most out of her experiences, and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.

How have you gone about finding your internships?

Candidly, a few years ago I wasn't landing a single internship--I would send my resume out to hundreds of companies and hoped for an answer without ever taking time to reflect on whether we’d be the best fit for each other. I didn't receive any callbacks or offers, and I felt really disheartened. Through my experience with Duke I&E, I learned how to channel my passion into become a marketable student.

My first stroke of luck occurred over the summer, at a nail salon downtown in my hometown of Berkeley. I was sitting next to another student in her senior year at Northwestern; she was working at a private equity venture and shared with me the tips and tricks that landed her the internship. She taught me how to create a strong resume, be proactive on LinkedIn, respond to emails, and make sure people know you’re interested. The most important takeaway from that conversation was what she called “proactive ambition.” For me, that involved reflecting on all the experiences that formed my resume and seeing how I could best fit into a company’s role & culture, expressing my interest authentically, and following-up post-interview. Ultimately, this strategy opened the doors to an internship with coconut-spread company, Kokada. "Even though you didn’t have much of the relevant experience,” Breanna, Kokada Co-Founder said, “you had the spirit, the drive, and the willingness to learn more, and ultimately that’s why we chose you.” This summer, I'm starting a position at BlueTerra Capital, a purpose-driven venture capital firm, after applying this same thought-process to my internship search.

What led you to become interested in startups?

I live in the Bay Area, so that’s always been a driving force behind my desire to work at a startup. I've seen startups emerge and flourish, and their growth has always inspired me with the belief that I, too, can achieve anything. Berkeley is a very liberal place, as in people self-express heavily, and I’ve always wanted to do something different.

I've always envisioned starting my own company—something in the natural health, wellness, or mindfulness sector. My family is Buddhist, and their work is in meditation and mindfulness. I’ve lived in India and Thailand for three years and witnessed firsthand the power of meditation; one day, I hope to build a model that redefines the meditation experience, offering meditators a feedback-focused platform to elevate and deepen their practice. At Duke, working at startups gave me the hands-on experience in building a business that I will utilize when beginning my own.

What have your startup internships been like, and what have been your main takeaways?

What sets internships apart from classwork is their practical, hands-on applicability.

At Kokada, I'm learning things about marketing that I haven’t covered in class. I’m seeing how their marketing strategy is growing their company in real-time. I’m having real conversations with real people, connecting and building communities, and growing Kokada’s presence online and in-store. Knowing that I’m making a tangible difference is incredibly fulfilling.

As part of the Aurganics Skincare social media team, I run Instagram content educating our customers on natural skincare, telling the story of our founder’s journey, and forming a community around natural skincare and health & wellbeing. We interview founder Sarah Houston and channel her creativity and passion into our posts. We’ve also done a lot of pop-up shops since our launch over 30 days ago, and it’s been rewarding to talk to customers, receive their feedback, and be part of a team that’s growing an incredible product.

I’m in [the course] Strategies of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and one thing [instructor Kathie Amato] always harps on is organization. Being a part of Kokada and Aurganics, I’ve seen how organized these founders are and how important organization is in creating successful ventures. I’ve also learned not to take “no” personally- indeed, a quick no is the second best answer in business. Sometimes you aren’t the best fit for a company and it’s better to find that out before arriving on-site for a position.  

What advice do you have for students who are interested in finding internships or gaining startup experience?

Do the Duke in Silicon Valley program! It’s amazing. We got to go to so many incredible companies (including Apple and Google, where we spoke with some very senior members of their team and heard from junior members who shared their day-to-day experience.) Throughout the 1-month program, you are paired with a startup—we were technically “volunteer consultants” and helped design a prototype which is now used in our client’s application. That was incredible hands-on experience, and I was then able to talk about it in my interviews.

Last year I was in Arts & Entrepreneurship, a class that I would absolutely recommend if you’re interested in the intersection of Arts and Technology. I worked for a Duke-student startup, “Time for Prints,” partnering models and photographers through an online application. I had no coding experience, but I was learning from the UI/UX design team on how to make a website and develop an app. That really strengthened my technical skills, which wasn’t something I ever thought would come out of that class.

Also, join a Duke student startup! It’s even more fun when it’s student-led.