ButterFLi: An internship story

by Donovan Blount

As my summer internship comes to a close and I reflect on my time here at ButterFLi, I realize how incredible this experience has been. I have grown personally and professionally. Interning with ButterFLi has been the internship everyone hopes for. One in which you are given real responsibilities and an opportunity to develop and exercise your skills beyond making coffee runs and answering phones. During this internship I was able to work on projects that have real world outcomes and I’ve been able to meet and work with a great deal of amazing people.

ButterFLi is a tech startup based in Los Angeles, California. The inspiration for the company was born out of the mobility hindrances faced by older adults and those with disabilities. ButterFLi believes that age and/or physical limitations should not keep people from being free and independent. The genius of ButterFLi is that through research, they have discovered that most transportation providers for these populations only utilize roughly 60% of their fleets. In light of this information, they have created a network of transportation providers and created an app that connects those in need with appropriate transportation. What seperates ButterFLi from companies like uber and lyft is that ButterFLi connects riders with professional, background checked and trained drivers that also offer door to door assisted transportation that is ADA approved.

Throughout the 2016–2017 school year with the Fung Fellowship, many of us discovered this need for improved mobility among older adults and it has been exciting to work with a company that has also identified this need and is actively working to fulfill it.

One of the exciting experiences I’ve had since interning here was travelling to Villa Gardens, a continuing care retirement community in Pasadena, California, with ButterFLi CEO, Andrew Downard, to present our services to the members living there. We spoke briefly about what we do and how we do it and then opened the floor for discussion to learn more about how we could fulfill the needs of their community. It was insightful listening to the questions and concerns of the older adults and also reassuring to see their excitement in having a service like ButterFLi.

Andrew Downard, left, is the CEO of ButterFli.

Since ButterFli is a start up company, I have also had the opportunity to see first hand what it takes to transform an idea into a tangible experience. It seems like far too often, those of us who want to make a positive change in the world will come up with many great ideas, but when it comes down to planning, strategy, business development, and implementation we may fall short. Understanding that there is more to making a difference in people’s lives than just coming up with an idea is essential if we want to succeed. At ButterFLi I was given the opportunity to participate in business development meetings and also to draft and submit responses to RFPs (request for proposal). Furthermore, I opened communications with UC Riverside and we are currently in negotiations to provide transportation for their disabled student population.

Listing everything that I did and learned while interning with ButterFLi would be impossible. It was an invaluable experience that I am extremely grateful for. I am proud of the work I have done here and the ButterFLi team must feel the same way as they have offered me a part-time position to work remotely as Business Development Manager of the Northern California Region while I complete my senior year at UC Berkeley. I am excited to bring my experiences back to the Fung Fellowship and I am also excited to see how the experiences of all the Fung Fellows compliment each other in the near future.

Donovan Blount is an undergraduate English major at U.C. Berkeley. He will graduate Spring of 2018.

ButterFLi is an LA startup that provides safe, secure transportation for people with special needs. They make the world easily accessible at the touch of a button.

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