I still have music in me, absolutely positive about that!" -- Robert DeNiro in "The Intern"
You could say it was a matter of life imitating art. Except that Gwen Wunderlich had already had the idea before a weekend at the movies gave her the spark to move ahead.
Gwen is CEO and partner at Wunderlich Kaplan Communications in New York. That's a job where being a talent scout is essential. And she had been seeing some things that disturbed her.
"My partner (Dara Kaplan) and I had noticed that a lot of our friends and family and associates in the fashion, PR and marketing world had been getting laid off or had been offered buyouts," she said. "Some had been trying to get back into the business after a few years on hiatus, and couldn't. We couldn't believe that women with so much talent and experience were not able to find jobs any more."
Then one weekend, Gwen and her husband went to the movies. They saw "The Intern," where a 70-year-old retired executive played by Robert DeNiro is brought in as an intern by a young CEO (Anne Hathaway).
Gwen didn't like it -- she loved it.
"Such a great movie. I watched it three times in one weekend," Gwen admitted. "I turned to my husband and said, 'I wish I could have a Robert DeNiro, someone who's a little older to give us some guidance or just a calmer voice.'"
Gwen and her partner mulled it over, and came up with a plan. They put out feelers on Facebook to see if there was any interest - and the first day their post got a thousand shares. Two weeks after that, they asked for applications. Twelve hundred people signed up.
Eight women over 40 were the lucky winners. They immediately were immersed in a boot camp.
"We talk about PR, marketing, branding, who our clients are and what they can expect," Gwen said. "We teach them everything from how to go out and get new business, how to write press materials, how to use (social media) correctly."
What Gwen and her partner soon found out was that while the women they brought in wanted to go back to work, they didn't necessarily want to report to a boss.
Thus, the program became "The Enternship."
"After being here for a while, most of them saw the entrepreneur thing," Gwen explained. "Why work for someone when you can work for yourself? With these women's talents, they didn't need to work for anyone else. You don't want to get fired at at 50, you don't want to get fired at 62. A lot of them saw what we're doing here and said, 'I want to have that, too.'"
In fact, six of the eight women in the first Enternship class have gone out on their own.
Gwen said for anyone getting back into the workforce, confidence is the key.
"You have to promote confidence. Because if you're sitting at a coffee shop and someone says, 'So, what do you do for a living', and you're like, 'Oh, I can't find a job,", people are going to move away from you and pray you don't keep telling them your problems, " Gwen said.
"But if you're like, 'I'm part of this great program and I'm going to get back on feet, I'm loving it' -- people want to be cheerleaders for that. As said as it is, people don't want to hear 'woe is me'. They want to hear, 'I had a couple of falls , but I'm back up, baby, and I'm going to make it happen.'"
For those who have the entrepreneurship itch, it's going to be satisfying--but tough--to scratch it. Scott Kurnit, the founder of About.com, recently taught an online class at Radiate that helps entrepreneurs think about 10 major things before they start their own companies. Among the chapters, several things not to do.
The second semester of The Enternship is underway. Gwen said there are some big deals she can't talk about that will let her and her partner expand the program. No matter how big it gets, though, she's proud of what they've accomplished so far.
"We were able to have a great idea, execute it at a rapid rate and make a difference," she said. "We've been doling PR a long time and we've never felt more karmically correct. And that feels like a really good place to be."
Robert DeNiro couldn't have said it better.