Courtesy of J'Net Nguyen.

The importance of a "side hustle"

J’Net Nguyen is a recent graduate of the MCM program. She founded LineAngel, a mobile marketplace helping busy people save time by connecting with nearby, on-demand line sitters for events and product launches. LineAngel has been featured on CNN, PBS, NPR, FOX, ABC and The Guardian. J’Net is also an independent buyer and seller, specializing in high-end apparel and accessories. Both companies launched while she attended classes at Annenberg.

Every Annenberg student should consider launching a “side hustle” while in school. The benefits are endless. You’ll enhance the portfolio, further networking opportunities and practice entrepreneurial skills. Building a business has taught me more than any internship and hoity-toity industry position I’ve held. Who cares if it doesn’t work out? You have a safety net: you’re still working towards a degree. Even if you don’t generate revenue right away, it can be a worthwhile endeavor. Not only will you inevitably connect with similarly passionate individuals, your side hustle possesses great potential to steer you in an ideal direction post-graduation.

Want to be a broadcast journalist? Find a niche and start an online channel. An expert in Scandinavian street art? Create a documentary or blog about it. Avid collector of vintage Trojan football apparel/merch? There may be a marketplace demand from buyers and sellers who would benefit from a centralized platform--App idea anyone? Your business can be anything related to what you enjoy, and I’m planting the seed to start thinking about it now.

My Uncle Ethan is a public health researcher at UPenn, but organizes pop up retail shops throughout Philadelphia and consults with boutique labels. My friend Joslyn co-founded YouTube channel ClevverTV, which was acquired by Alloy Digital (now Defy Media after merger) for an industry estimation of $5 to $10 million. My friend Stacy is a full-time musician, yet writes/produces web series in her spare time and another friend, June, jumpstarted AMAZ, which broadcasts Asian-American content, while taking courses at USC.

Here are some more reasons why that side hustle may not be a bad idea:

1.) Mentorship

It is costly to attend USC, so you might as well take full advantage of resources. After all, USC does rank as a top entrepreneurship school, and you don’t have to be a Marshall student to reap the benefits. Interestingly, most students I’ve met at USC who have launched startups do not study business. They come from all walks of life and various programs.

From finance to business development, advisors and mentors want to help you succeed. Start by researching the following to see what fits your needs: Blackstone LaunchPad, Annenberg Innovation Lab, Spark SC, Viterbi Incubator, USC incubator and Athena USC, a new initiative to strengthen women entrepreneurship and investing across Los Angeles. 

2.) Free Legal Work

Whether you need information about patents, drafting contracts or filing an S-Corp or C-Corp (or have no idea--I’ll admit, I didn’t!), free legal work is available through the Gould School of Law and the Stevens Center for Innovation. For example, at Gould, final year law students are guided by experienced attorneys and assigned to work for your company.

3.) Parties

They say your network is your net worth. Immersing yourself in USC’s entrepreneurial community means events galore! It is an effortless, lively way to meet ambitious students and interesting faculty outside of Annenberg. For example, I met my business partner at a Marshall event, and he has been an integral part of LineAngel.

4.) The Bigger Picture

My mother often tells me to never depend on one stream of income, so no matter how high I climb on the corporate ladder, investments and side projects are a must. The entertainment and media industries evolve rapidly. Layoffs are common, budget cuts happen and it’s not personal. The position you are working towards at the moment may be obsolete in the near future, but on the bright side, a job you love may not exist yet.

So why not create it?

Years ago, as an aspiring music industry marketing exec, fans offered me bribes in hopes of earlier event access, frustrated with long artist meet-and-greet lines. I remembered thinking, “It would be cool if there was a way to hire others to wait for you. There are so many busy people with money, but no time.” It wasn’t until smartphones became more advanced, giving rise to the on-demand economy that LineAngel came into fruition.

To wrap it up, you’re part of the USC Annenberg family, the most acclaimed communication school in the world. You have the skills and resources to shape public opinion and create meaningful innovation. I am excited to see you revolutionize the media landscape. From future on-air talent to storytellers and executives, I believe that no matter what position you envision for yourself, don’t just try to get the job, but make jobs.

Fight On,