Art, Architecture and Design senior learns about her future career through internship with IU alumna

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Mackenzie Kallach in the twelveNYC conference room in Brooklyn, New York.

A one-week class trip to New York in 2016 turned into a 10-week internship the next summer for Mackenzie Kallach, who has started her senior year at Indiana University Bloomington.

Kallach, from Carmel, Indiana, didn't know where she wanted to work or what she wanted to do when she graduated. But after spending the summer at twelveNYC, Kallach said she can see herself working for the agency.

Founded in 2005, twelveNYC is based in Brooklyn, New York, and describes itself as a "trend-aware product development agency." Businesses hire twelveNYC to create merchandise that is either sold or used by businesses to promote their brand, eliminating the work in house.

The agency partners with businesses that need unique, cutting-edge, branded products for promotions, gifts with a purchase or for private labels. At twelveNYC, the staff is working with dozens of companies at once, creating a unique experience and product for each one, which Kallach said she enjoyed.

"What is so unique about this company is their ability to work with many different companies at once, providing a unique experience and product for each one," Kallach said. "The projects and exposure I am getting to different clients is the best part." 

In a typical day, she helped the office manager open packages containing samples and then delivered them to the correct team. Her day might also include ordering messengers to deliver packages, wrapping gifts and samples, working on PowerPoint presentations of product ideas, calling vendors to check printing options, and pulling fabric swatches to make swatch cards to send out to clients. Occasionally, Kallach attended a meeting with her team and the clients.

"My days were usually really busy, but I really enjoyed getting to help twelveNYC go through the product-development process, from picking swatches to shipping out the final product," Kallach said.

"I think that the professionalism, attention to detail and the 'dive right in and roll your sleeves up' attitude is something that I feel very proud of for being an alumna of Indiana," said Katie Conovitz, twelveNYC founder and a 1998 graduate of IU's apparel merchandising program. "But also because I'm originally from Indianapolis, and I think my Midwestern work ethic and values have taken me a long way, and that's something I never turned my back on. I saw the same tenacity in Mackenzie and the other colleagues who worked with us this summer."

The internship was applicable to Kallach's apparel merchandising major in several ways, even though twelveNYC isn't solely a fashion company. She worked with apparel and beauty clients and translated much of what she learned in IU coursework to the work she did in the internship. Her branding and image class was an asset as she created custom products that were consistent with each client's brand while working with six or more companies at once.

Kallach had the opportunity to create an item for a client she's always liked. She designed the item and created a mock-up and spec sheet, but she couldn't go into details because the product hasn't launched yet.

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Katie Conovitz, founder of twelveNYC.

"A few weeks later, a physical sample of what I designed and imagined appeared in the office," Kallach said. "It was a really surreal moment to see something I worked on come to life."

The internship helped her learn how to prioritize and get things done within a time frame, and she expects the creative skills she honed will help her in future class projects. Kallach said working at twelveNYC also helped her learn more about herself.

"Throughout my internship, I started to feel more confident in what I can do," Kallach said. "I think that's the most important thing I will take away from this internship -- the fact that I am more creative and capable than I ever gave myself credit for.

"Even in my daily life, I find myself thinking about how I could improve something or how I could create a new product. It has truly opened my eyes to what is possible for me as a career, and I'm not worried about taking on the next challenge because if I can step out of my comfort zone and work here, I can apply myself to any challenge that comes my way."

In addition to learning more about herself, Kallach said she learned a lot from Conovitz, who set the example of a strong, hardworking woman who treats her team with respect and was named this year to The Women Presidents' Organization list of the "50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies." Kallach said that being around Conovitz made her want to work harder.

"From watching her and how she runs her company, it made me realize that it is possible to put your mind to something and make it happen," Kallach said. "I think that's the most important thing I learned from her: It is possible to make your dreams come true if you treat people with respect and work hard."

Kallach networked her way into the internship at twelveNYC through a seminar in the IU School of Art, Architecture and Design in summer 2016. The trip Kallach took was part of the New York Field Seminar, which the school originally offered every other summer but, due to student demand, has taken place the last two summers and will likely be offered again in summer 2018, according to Janis Shaffer, senior lecturer and lead faculty advisor for the Retail Studies Organization in the IU School of Art, Architecture and Design. For Kallach, the seminar's networking event -- where she met Conovitz -- was instrumental in landing her the 2017 internship.

"I was instantly hooked. Going into that trip, I had no idea that there was a company like twelve. I always thought brands did everything in house. TwelveNYC was like a hidden gem to me, because they truly are one of a kind."

During the week in New York, students meet with companies such as Ralph Lauren, Ross, Bonobos, WindowsWear, Kohl's design center, Burberry and Full Beauty Brands. They learn about the apparel merchandising field and meet with industry professionals -- many who are alumni from the same IU program, took the New York Field Seminar and understand what students like Kallach have been through.

"Students in the seminar say the seminar is life-changing because they learn so much about the industry, and it gives them the confidence to go after their dreams," Shaffer said. "It also adds so much value to their education, and it is fun to hear them relating what they are learning to what they have learned in classes at IU."