Joy Lewis in the spotlight at Startup Grind

by Nathalie Nilsson
Content marketing and sales assistant

March 2, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Startup Grind Edinburgh 2018 kept up the new year's momentum with its second event on the 22nd of February. The event took place at CodeBase in Edinburgh, the UK's largest tech incubator, and we were delighted to attend a fireside chat with Joy Lewis, CEO of Adopt an Intern.

​Speaker bio

Joy Lewis began her career by serving in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for 20 years. During these years she lived and worked in Brazil, Argentina and Germany, and her work in the fashion retail industry culminated in a successful business in Germany.

In 2009 she joined the Centre for Scottish Public Policy and it was here that the seed that was to grow into Adopt an Intern began to take root. A year later Joy founded Adopt an Intern, through which she was determined to take an active role against unpaid internship, and the business has been growing strong throughout the eight years that have followed. With 1420 graduates and returners having been placed into paid work in over 800 businesses, and other similar projects following in its footsteps, it is safe to say that Adopt an Intern is a success.

​The fireside chat

Despite appearances Joy admitted that the talk brought her out of her comfort zone, and with an infectious laugh she added that she loved the challenge. In fact, she loves all challenges, and perhaps that is why she has found herself helping others with theirs. That and her strong sense of right and wrong.

The talk began with her own educational background and how she too has experienced the importance of someone believing in you even when you yourself might not. And it was evident that she wholeheartedly believed in the graduates.

It is never too early to take on an intern, she cheerfully told us. Joy herself has taken on 15 over the years, and she also made it clear that "there is a difference between volunteering and doing an unpaid job." The fact that the practice of unpaid internships disproportionately harms students whose socioeconomic backgrounds leave them unable to work for free did not escape her either.

Attendee Michaela Hruskova noted that "Joy also offered some great advice to the audience and the one that resonated with me the most was 'jump in and deal with the fire afterwards'. I think it is a great piece of advice, not only in business but also in life in general, and from my experience it usually pays off."

Though the topic of conversation frequently was a serious one we ended up laughing with Joy throughout the fireside chat. At the end of the day Adopt an Intern is a success story that has helped turn the tide and has made a genuine difference in people's lives. That proven success helped make the stories of desperate graduates easier to digest. There was hope after all, and Joy too.

What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?

Be a values-led company

​These days when you are hiring it is important to be a values-led company. More and more people, especially Millennials, want to work for people whose values they believe in. Write down your values – get three, maximum five – on your website so that everyone can see them.

Keep the emotional roller coaster in check

​Being an entrepreneur can be full of highs and lows. Because of this it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture rather than only where you are now. Set your expectations at your average level of progress, it will keep you more focused and on a more even keel.

​Be brave

​You must be brave as an entrepreneur, even if it at times can be difficult to show that side of yourself. Hiring requires courage too, especially when you hire your first employee.

What the attendees have to say

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​As a regular attendee of Startup Grind both in Edinburgh and Glasgow, I love coming back because of inspirational speakers, honest and insightful fireside chat discussions, and the opportunity to make friends instead of connections. Tonight's event with Joy Lewis from Adopt an Intern was no different. Joy spoke with passion about her motivation to be the driving force for leveling the playing field for graduates from all Live preview walks of life through paid internships and she also addressed the challenges which she faced along the way. Joy also offered some great advice to the audience and the one that resonated with me the most was "jump in and deal with the fires afterwards". I think it is a great piece of advice, not only in business but also life in general, and from my experience it usually pays off. I had a great time tonight and I'm looking forward to the next event!

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​Missed the event?

​If you missed the event there is no need to worry. It was filmed and can be found on YouTube as well as the Product Forge website.

​About Startup Grind

Startup Grind is powered by Google for Entrepreneurs and is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. With monthly events all over the world, it aims to feature fireside chats with successful local founders, innovators, educators and investors. They share personal stories and lessons learned on the road to building great companies. Their values of; making friends, not contacts; giving, not taking; and helping others before helping yourself, speak to us as an organisation. We are pleased to be part of the Startup Grind community.

​The next Startup Grind event

​The next event in Edinburgh is being held on the 29th of March 2018 and will be hosting Kai Murray from Shirlaws Group and ex-MD of Search Consultancy. Don't hesitate to get your ticket and find out more about the event by visiting Startup Grind Edinburgh.