Elizabeth Gulliver is an MBA student at Columbia Business School. She is interning with Ciceksepeti.com and Endeavor Entrepreneur Emre Aydin in Istanbul through the Endeavor eMBA Program.
I was breathless and sweaty, dragging three months of luggage up a narrow staircase, but I stopped dreading living so many floors up when I opened the door to my new apartment. The late afternoon sun on the Bosphorus is undeniably magical and I was somehow lucky enough to have a spectacular view of it all. I was already enchanted with the city before I had even begun to truly explore.
Istanbul is an astonishingly large city with a diverse mixture of neighborhoods. On the European side alone, the city ranges from the historic Sultanahmet area to older charming neighborhoods like Cihangir and Galata, to the newer developments stretching north of the city that are constantly expanding. The rapid growth and economic potential are palpable in the intense energy felt throughout the city. As observers often write, Turkey is clearly experiencing strong economic expansion and currently benefiting from its unique position between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Thus far, from what my co-workers and people I have met outside of the office tell me, Istanbul appears to be thriving as a result of its ambitious, young, and hard-working population.
This summer I am working at one of the many new e-commerce companies in Turkey. Among other industries, e-commerce has exploded in Turkey with the dramatic increase in the number of internet users and a growing middle class that is ready to consume more and is increasingly comfortable with online shopping. The company that I am working for, Ciceksepeti, currently has four websites and is in the process of finishing several others to launch in the next few months. Emre Aydin, the CEO and Endeavor Entrepreneur for whom I am working, had no e-commerce experience prior to launching the first website, Ciceksepeti.com (and online flower retailer). The website started when Emre’s brother, who lives in the US, called and asked him to send flowers to his mother and mother-in-law, living in two difference cities in Turkey. Finding this nearly impossible to do, Emre saw an opportunity and started building the website that night. Ciceksepeti.com is one of the fastest growing e-commerce sites in the country, and in addition to selling flowers, the company now sells gourmet gifts, jewelry, other small gifts, and experiential gifts.
In my role this summer, I am helping Emre and the staff to expand and develop their corporate structure. The company has grown so quickly that they have had little time to establish a structure that will allow them to continue to expand and launch new sites. Together, we are working to build these systems and structures. This unique position has provided me the opportunity to work closely with employees in every department of the company. The ability to learn and discuss how all the different aspects of the company, from the 24/7 call center, to the operations department, marketing teams, IT, HR and business development groups work together has been extremely interesting and valuable. I am only a few weeks into my internship, but I am eager to keep working with the team here to maximize their growth potential.
In addition to time in the office, I have been spending time exploring Istanbul and several other destinations in Turkey. Despite not speaking the language, the country has been relatively easy to travel around and people have been unfailingly helpful and patient. By far the best part of exploring so far has been the food. The food in Turkey goes well beyond the traditional mezzes that most people think of. While these are truly delicious, there are a multitude of restaurants offering newer, modern takes on traditional dishes that are simply delicious. And with the economic boom has come a broad expansion in Turkish wine production – I can safely say that this has benefited the country’s economy as I know I have already supported several vineyards myself! Looking towards the next few months, I am excited to continue exploring this vibrant country and working with the dynamic team at Ciceksepeti.