In the room full of young faces at a startup company in Fishers, Nick Bisesi doesn’t immediately stand out as the youngest. He’s hunched over his laptop, working with headphones on while an informal sales meeting happens around him. While one employee takes notes on a whiteboard on wheels, another kicks around a soccer ball.
Nick has been creating a social media strategy and writing posts for Fuzic, a marketing technology company. Later, he’ll likely head over to the three-person customer relations area and help take calls.
In his seventh and final week at the company, Nick seems comfortable, even when talking to CEO Brent Oakley, so it’s easy to forget he’s still in high school. This week he’s a paid intern, but on Aug. 9 he’ll start his senior year at Hamilton Southeastern High School.
“Before meeting the kids that we have, I would have said I’d never thought about having a high school kid in here to do anything,” Oakley said. “It turns out there’s just some that are ready for it … and really a step above what other high school kids are thinking about. I would not have done well in this environment in high school, I can tell you that.”
Nick got the gig through Launch Fishers’ summer internship fellowship. The startup incubator chooses students to participate in a weeklong internship boot camp. Then, selected students get the chance to interview with local startups.
Nick is also earning college and high school credit for taking a Ball State University entrepreneurship course at the university’s satellite location in the Launch Fishers building. It’s a new opportunity for students in the Hamilton Southeastern district who have internships through Launch Fishers or the high schools.
“It’s … marrying the practical, real-world experience they are getting in the internship with then a more theoretical college class,” said Doug Harter, director of Hamilton Southeastern High School’s College & Career Academy.
Harter said it took a while for Ball State to get on board, in large part because Harter was asking for an upper-level class.
“Typically in the dual-credit, world you are taking your first-level class,” Harter said. “So (Ball State) balked at it initially because they kept saying to me, ‘Can your kids really handle this kind of class?’ and, ‘We don’t really do this sort of thing.’ “
Harter was convinced his students could handle it. But he was also asking for a discounted rate — students pay $350 per class — and for a college professor to commute to Fishers. It took nearly a year before Ball State agreed, Harter said.
Hamilton Southeastern has historically prepared students well academically, Harter said, but the emphasis on internships is an effort to prepare them with other skills, such as communicating, collaborating and being professional. It also can serve as a reality check, he said.
“It also allows them to learn if they like something,” Harter said. “Instead of waiting until your junior year of college, when you’ve already taken a lot of coursework and spent a lot of money.”
Last year, Hamilton Southeastern placed nearly 150 students in internships. The new Ball State summer course has 10 students.
Tom Simmons, who also will be a senior this fall, is interning for BLAST media, a public relations company. He said the experience helped him realize he doesn’t want a career in public relations, although he is interested in marketing. He hopes to one day to work for a nonprofit.
To get the summer fellowship, Tom quit playing soccer to bolster his resume. He joined multiple clubs, including the National Honors Society and DECA, a business and entrepreneurship group.
At Fuzic, Oakley said Nick and another high school intern are getting the experience of seeing a startup versus an established company, especially if they are interested in being an entrepreneur like Nick is.
“One of the things you lose perspective of is they started with nothing,” Oakley said about interning at an established company. “What he’s getting to see is that it can be done. Every entrepreneur starts the exact same way.”
Nick started an entrepreneurship club at Hamilton Southeastern. His first attempt at creating a product was building an app so students and teachers could preorder drinks from the in-school coffee shop. It worked great for a year before it was hacked, Nick said.
Nick said he’s spent the summer asking questions and soaking up information from the “geniuses” at Fuzic. The company fuses music and messaging for businesses, creating playlists consumers may hear in a store, for example, and helping that store create their own professional but personalized advertising to play.
Their biggest client nationally is the trampoline park Sky Zone, Oakley said. The company, which is less than a year old, announced in June it completed a $3 million seed-funding round.
Nick is interested in studying marketing in college. Taking the Ball State class at the same time has allowed him to better communicate with executives, he said.
“I’m definitely a kid, but I do feel like I help out a lot (at Fuzic),” he said. “Being a student, and being young … I have access to anybody. It’s kind of awesome. … Anybody will come to help a student. I think I totally have an advantage.”
Call IndyStar reporter Emma Kate Fittes at (317) 513-7854. Follow her on Twitter: @IndyEmmaKate.