Five marks of a stellar internship program

By Greg Dardis / Guest Editorial

Fetching coffee. Making copies. Answering phones.

We know the menial activities that comprise a typical business internship. Dardis Inc. hires interns, too. The thing is, we wouldn’t connect any of these thankless tasks to their time with us.

Well, maybe answering the phone. But they’re not transferring a call; they’re securing a sale.

Our interns participate in what we call Dardis Academy, a 10-week summer program for college students designed to help them become entrepreneurs. We teach them all the skills unique to our professional training, and then we send them into their communities to put them to use.

For interns elsewhere, their experience amounts to adding a company name to their resume. For ours, it’s gaining the real skills of business.

Here are the five things we do right:

1. Challenge. There’s no question: Dardis Academy is hard. Think obstacle course, but with mental and social skills. We don’t call it our “summer 10-week challenge” for nothing. We take college students and turn them into professionals – at an accelerated pace. At the Academy, they learn how to set goals and gain the tools they need to succeed – the same tools that have benefited Dardis-trained employees of top companies including Wells Fargo, John Deere and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Our interns work independently, run their own clothing business, make money and learn valuable life skills. Our goal is to build their character, which goes way beyond simply padding their resume.

2. Equip. In the classroom, we teach our interns communication, business presentation, sales, marketing, negotiation and self-discipline. They develop confidence, personal growth and the ability to collaborate with others. After their classroom training, they have regular meetings to discuss their activities and strategies and receive feedback from their manager as they represent themselves and Dardis Inc. by selling our high-quality business attire.

3. Motivate. Our interns work within the essential framework of a daily schedule. Along the way, our team leaders point interns in the right direction, identify areas of improvement and encourage them to push themselves. We have mentors, recruitment managers, student managers and our home office personnel coaching them along. Our clients offer another kind of boost – with each sale, our interns gain the confidence they need to reach their goal. They grasp that they are not only helping professionals improve their wardrobes, they are helping them strengthen their self-image. That knowledge is invaluable.

4. Reward. Our interns work hard, but they reap the fruits of their labor. There is no ceiling on how much profit an intern can generate. We also offer our best sellers a trip to Mexico.

5. Propel. Dardis Academy builds future leaders and helps students bridge the gap between school and the business world. Few college students can describe running their own business, generating a profit or building a personal brand. Ours leave with unique training that sets them apart from their peers. Our graduates have a resume that can demonstrate measurable experience and skills, enhancing their competitiveness in today’s tough job market. Better yet, Dardis Inc. has career partners excited to hire our former summer interns because they believe in what we do. As you can see, we’re convinced that the best internships don’t feel like an internship at all.

Does Dardis Academy sound like the right internship for a college student you know? The deadline for applications is May 1, so direct them to our website today.

Years ago, I benefited from a challenging internship selling books. I spent the summer after my sophomore year of college going door-to-door hawking study guides, cookbooks and children’s literature. I learned that succeeding in sales – or any business – demands mental and physical stamina in order to push through rejection and self-motivate toward the next goal. We even had a song-and-dance routine we did every morning – after our cold showers and push-ups – to instill a positive, driven attitude before hitting the pavement. It sounds ridiculous, but it did the trick and kept me motivated to fight the heat and seal another deal.

When I look back on it, I can see how much that lanky 19-year-old from Farley grew up that summer. Despite constant obstacles, I finished the summer among the top 1 percent of the company’s interns – and with the basic groundwork that made developing my future company possible.

It’s my goal for our interns to say the same.



Greg Dardis is the CEO of Dardis Inc., located at 2403 Muddy Creek Lane in Coralville. For more information, visit