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Featured on Feb 17, 2011

Cari Sommer

"When you say no, what exactly do you mean?"


As Co-Founder of Urban Interns, Cari focuses primarily on business strategy, marketing and business development. She also manages the company's public relations. In short, Cari spends her time trying to convince anyone and everyone that Urban Interns is a need-to-know resource for growing companies and job seekers.

Cari first perfected this Art of Advocacy during the seven years she practiced law. She began her legal career at the international law firms of Cadwalader Wickersham and Taft, and later Bryan Cave, where she focused primarily on commercial, bankruptcy and securities litigation. After leaving Bryan Cave and before starting Urban Interns, Cari was the Director of Business Development for Lexolution, a national legal staffing firm. Her career transition from practicing law to becoming an entrepreneur has been chronicled by the Wall Street Journal and Above the Law and she has been asked to speak at top law schools about this topic.

Throughout her career, Cari has also been deeply committed to community philanthropy. From 2006-2009, she served as the Chair of the New York Board of Directors of Step Up Women's Network, a national nonprofit dedicated to strengthening community resources for women and girls. During her time as Chair, Step Up's membership increased by 400 percent and the fundraising doubled.

Cari is a graduate of Cornell University and Brooklyn Law. She lives in NYC with her husband and son.

How did you first get involved with Step Up Women’s Network? Is there any single story from your time as Chair of the New York Board of Directors that is especially meaningful to you?

I learned about Step Up from some friends on the West Coast, where Step Up originally started. I was really drawn to the concept – a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to connecting and advancing women and girls.  Step Up is all about connections- it connects you to the professional women you need and the underserved teen girls who need you.  

I became Chair of the NY Board in 2006 and stayed on until 2009. During those 3 years there were a ton of rewarding moments. For one thing,  it was incredible to see stats like 100 percent of the teen girls participating in the Step Up programs went on to college—it’s really remarkable, given that these young women are often the first in their families to pursue education beyond high school. Also, I was very proud to see Step Up develop to the point where it was attracting top talent to the Board. If you look at the Board in NY, as well as throughout the country, it’s filled with powerhouse women from a cross-section of industries.  It’s a pretty unbelievable group.

And if all that wasn’t enough, I met my business partner, Lauren, through Step Up.

Was there anything special about the timing that lead you and your co-founder, Lauren, start Urban Interns when you did?

When we started Urban Interns 2 years ago,  there was a ton of excitement and enthusiasm about entrepreneurship and the growth of ‘small business,’  Lauren and I recognized that despite the tough economy, businesses still needed access to top talent. Full time hires are expensive and the thought of that commitment makes a lot of companies shudder, even in the best of times.  Interns, freelancers and part-time employees can be great resources for growing companies- you can tap into top talent, but staff up and down as needed. Plus, as indicated by the growth we’re seeing in virtual positions, you don’t even need to find extra office space to bring someone on board these days.  No one in the market was providing a low cost, high quality product for business owners who had these ‘less than full-time’ needs.  We saw the opportunity back then and have continued to see enthusiasm for our platform,  especially now that people are thinking more about growth and hiring. As 2011 kicked off, we saw growth in hiring across virtually every sector- with social media positions as a front runner. It seems that just about everyone out there needs a social media intern! 

You used your own site to hire interns for Urban Intern. What criteria and characteristics did you look for in potential employees?

Enthusiasm, diligence, excitement for what we’re building.  Call us old fashioned, but we like to look for those who underpromise and overdeliver.

Outside of work, what is your favorite activity to relax?

I’m a huge reader- really into memoirs right now. I love movies and am in a very big Spinning phase.

Founder, Business Development, Marketing