The Eat the Kiwi internship provided an opportunity for Cooper to put to use both his Mandarin language skills and business degree
While growing up, my family hosted Mandarin language assistants who taught Mandarin at local primary schools. This was the catalyst for my fascination in Asia. An internship at Eat The Kiwi (ETK) was a great opportunity for me to collate my natural curiosities into a job.
For a bit of background, Eat the Kiwi is a fast-growing New Zealand business, sourcing and delivering high quality food products to Samoa, Hong Kong and mainland China. It feeds three main distribution channels, foodservice, retail, and direct to consumer and is a subsidiary of The Produce Company.
Having just finished a business and Mandarin degree, the opportunity to combine the two in an intensive two-month internship at such a neat business was an opportunity I was not going to miss.
From the get-go, I was asked what type of areas I wanted to work in, and ETK tailored my experience to fit those. From there, I was trusted with projects that held real value to the organisation. For example, translating client documents from English to Chinese and vice-versa, meeting with prospective clients, and writing product descriptions on their website.
Cooper says the online nature of the internship could be challenging but had its perks
A real highlight for me was writing a China expansion report that was sent to the company’s shareholders. I interviewed employees of both The Product Company and ETK, and the director of a similar company who ETK are exploring a strategic alliance with.
I conducted my own research on what form this strategic alliance could take and what some potential benefits and drawbacks could be. To conclude the report, I wrote in detail about how ETK can capitalise on current trends by expanding digitally throughout China.
Another task I was trusted with was contacting prospective clients and observing how to close real-world business-to-business sales. This taught me invaluable skills in supplier connection.
Although working remotely definitely proved to be challenging at times, it came with the perks of being able to join in the general managers Icehouse course ( Icehouse is a Kiwi business capability development course and I learnt quite a few handy tricks in the sessions that I attended), flexible working hours, and conditioning to the emerging remote working trend, which I am anticipating at my next job.
Managers always have a lot on their plate, so I feared as an intern working from a different time zone that I might become an afterthought. I couldn’t have been more wrong; the team were all very accommodating and generous with their time, providing me valuable lessons on cultural competency and general business skills.
The 2021/22 cohort of Foundation business interns
Although China is a major market for Eat the Kiwi, I also got exposure to the markets of Hong Kong and the Pacific. I learned valuable lessons on how an international business differs its strategy to suit the market. I also especially enjoyed picking the brain of ETK’s director, John Stokes. He offered me great perspective on the trajectory of my career and always had a great story to tell.
The Asia New Zealand Foundation provided me with a mentor who is very successful in the industry that I am set to have a career in. It is reassuring to know that they will continue to support my professional development even after my internship is over.
The Eat the Kiwi internship provided me with some invaluable skills on how to grow in these difficult markets. It really opened my eyes to the possibility of someone like myself doing business with Asia.