Emma Gillaspy serves as Seymour Main Street’s first intern


Emma Gillaspy has always known she’d probably follow in her mom Kelley Gillaspy’s footsteps eventually.

She has watched her mom start and grow Project You, a successful small business in downtown Seymour that focuses on personalized health and wellness options.

So when Emma, a senior at Seymour High School, was looking for an internship opportunity, it seemed logical to look into something business-oriented.

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What the 17-year-old didn’t expect was to become Seymour Main Street’s first intern and discover a passion for her hometown.

Every day since the beginning of the school year in August, Emma has spent her afternoons with Seymour Main Street Executive Director Becky Schepman. Whether they are working together in Schepman’s office in city hall on an upcoming Main Street event or Emma is out visiting and talking with downtown business owners on her own, the experience has been impactful.

Emma said she has her mom to thank for reaching out to Schepman.

“I knew that I wanted to do something business-related for my internship, but I wasn’t 100% sure of what I was going to do,” Emma said. “My mom knew Becky and knew that she would be a wonderful role model, so she emailed her and asked if I could do this.”

After having lunch to discuss the idea, they agreed it would be mutually beneficial.

Completing an internship is optional for SHS students, but it is a unique way to learn and apply real-world skills in a job setting.

“I basically lose two class periods a day,” she said. “Instead of staying in school and being in filler classes, I get to come here and work with Becky.”

That work has involved learning about marketing, writing news releases and using software to design graphics for events and most importantly strengthening her ability to communicate with others.

“We went business to business when she started and she had to introduce herself to everybody downtown,” Schepman said. “I think those are good life skills.”

Although she doesn’t consider herself shy or quiet, Emma said she has still had to step outside her comfort zone in order to get the most out of her internship.

“This has really pushed me as a person to talk to people and not be afraid to go up and just start a conversation,” she said.

It wasn’t long before Schepman felt comfortable letting Emma go to the different downtown businesses on her own to drop fliers off or talk to owners about upcoming events and marketing opportunities.

“It has definitely helped me become more approachable and notice people as more approachable and start those conversations,” Emma said. “It has been really fun.”

Not only has the experience improved her ability to talk to adults, she has experienced a huge surge in self-confidence, too, she said.

As a senior, she has thought a lot about her future plans and has come to the conclusion she doesn’t want to work for a big corporation.

“I knew before I came here that I wanted to be more than a number,” she said. “I knew that I didn’t want to go to a big corporation and just be another employee. I wanted to do something that was actually making a difference, and I thought what better way than to make a difference in my own hometown, the place that helped build me.”

Working for Seymour Main Street, Emma said she is seeing the effects of what the organization is doing and that it is paying off.

One of her favorite projects Seymour Main Street has been involved with while she has been there was the painting of the Seymour mural on the north side of the Edward Jones building

“Just getting to see those little renovations, I want to work for something that’s actually making a difference,” she said.

“The good thing about this is that she gets to learn a lot about small business, how it works and what we can do to help them and help the community, but then also learn about working for a nonprofit,” Schepman added. “She gets to see what it’s like to work with 55 volunteers and what it’s like to raise funds and work within a budget.”

Event planning and organization also has been something Emma has experienced in her time with Seymour Main Street, including setting up for the CityJam summer concert series, Schepman said.

Being the only paid Main Street employee, Schepman doesn’t have the time to do all of the things she would like to accomplish, and that is another area where having Emma the intern has been a blessing, she said.

“I’ve always been kind of doggy paddling just trying to keep my head above water,” Schepman said. “It feels like since she has been here, I can finally swim.”

One task she was able to cross off her list because of Emma is creating a “playbook” or step-by-step guide for all of the ongoing Seymour Main Street events. That way, in the event Schepman is unable to carry out an activity, there are instructions for someone else to do it.

“Emma sat down with me and helped me to make up those playbooks for every single event that we have, so there’s a checklist for each event,” she said.

She also helped create and organize packets for new Seymour Main Street members that include strategic plans and goals and other important information.

“She got us a label maker and went through and reorganized my entire filing system,” Schepman said.

Emma said she has been surprised with how fast things move and change in the business world.

“I feel like we are constantly doing something different,” she said.

She has been working on getting ready for the second Soak Up the Suds brew fest to be held this summer in Crossroads Community Park, this spring’s fourth annual Happy Glamper event and a 2020 map of the downtown and calendar.

By working for Seymour Main Street, Emma said she feels she has an advantage over other students who are going to college without having had an internship.

“This has really been eye-opening,” she said. “Because as a child of two business owners, I knew I wanted to go into business. It’s my birthright. My sister went into business. I just knew I really wanted to go into business, but I had no idea how much I would love it until I started doing it. You don’t really see until you are working with business owners how much goes into it.”

Through Seymour Main Street, she also said she has witnessed when businesses give back to Seymour, the city gives back to them.

“Main Street has been amazing,” she said.

Although having an intern is a first for Seymour Main Street, it’s not the first time the organization has partnered with Seymour High School.

In 2017 and 2018, the two worked together on the Junior Main Street program, where students set up a storefront in the downtown and sold products they had made in school. Participating classes included manufacturing, art, agriculture and family and consumer sciences.

“That was really great. The students came in on the days we had Downtown Shop Arounds,” Schepman said.

But the program did not happen last year or this year due to some changes on both ends.

Schepman said she hopes to get Junior Main Street restarted next school year.

“I think it was a good experience for the high school kids because they got to see inventory and staffing and what it was like to run a small business,” she said. “And it was cool for us to have them down here.”

Working with the high school has been important to Schepman because she sees it as a way to recruit and retain successful downtown businesses.

“It’s just not real often that somebody from Texas buys a building and comes in and makes a successful business,” she said. “They are all owned by people who were born here and raised here and care about the downtown, so I thought that if we could work with the high school and get these kids caring about the downtown, too, and interested in it that maybe they’d come back after they went away to college and want to start a small business down here.”

Schepman hopes she will be able to find another intern after Emma graduates in May.

But it won’t be easy finding someone as valuable as Emma, she said.

“She is a good self-starter and takes off and runs with whatever you give her,” Schepman said. “She’s going to be hard shoes to fill. I can’t just have anybody in here, but I would definitely like to discuss it again with the school.”

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