Annenberg Radio

Students launch startups during the shutdown

Three USC students pushed through the pandemic to start their own businesses.

Have you thought of starting a business of your own? Despite many business closures and people losing their jobs all over the world, these students were inspired to build something of their own and encourage others to do the same.


[Ambient sound of Tiana Hannemann starting a class from her YouTube channel.]

Two yoga mats lie near a backyard pool on the grass. The mats face a phone mounted for recording with palm trees lining the sky behind. This is where Tianna Hannemann and her dad teach yoga virtually.

Tiana Hannemann is an Industrial and Systems Engineering student at USC. In October of last year she opened a yoga studio with her dad in Oahu called Yoga Room Hawaii

“I definitely think if it weren’t for the pandemic, we wouldn’t have our own studio. Because prior to the pandemic, we were very comfortable where we were and just in this routine and nothing was there to sort of break up the routine and give us a little wake up call or a little time to reflect and think, hey, maybe we can do this right now.”

As in-person operations shut down, the Hannemanns began holding classes online through virtual platforms. Yoga students signed up from all different parts of the world …

“We’re all choosing to be here, even though we’re all facing such personal challenges. The common denominator is that we’re all showing up to our mat and showing up for ourselves.”

Hannemann had to instill that same spirit for herself in order to open her business...

“I finally had this big revelation recently where I realized that all my self-doubt sort of comes from myself and it doesn’t have any origins or any evidence or anything to support it. that’s when I realized, hey, I need to stop doubting myself and I need to change this inner dialog that I have with myself and make it more positive. But not in a toxic way, of course. But rather than thinking I can’t thinking, how can I?”

Another USC student, Diamond Jones, saw an opportunity to move forward and start her business in the midst of the pandemic.

“Timing was honestly key for me.”

Her goal is to teach people financial literacy and help them improve their money management. That’s why she launched her business called Bottom Line Co. She sells financial planners and study guides.

“I think people now more than ever are aware of what happens in a pandemic. And you cannot rely on one source of income. So I think once people realize, like, OK, you know what? This is a product that doesn’t only educate me on financial literacy, but it also helps me make money and minimize personal debt.”

Jones had her challenges in getting the business started but she had a lot of motivation to push through.

“I would say that from the beginning, it was definitely very risky for me, someone who is coming out of paying ten thousand dollars in debt, a college student, I don’t have much money saved up. So when it came to starting my business, I really didn’t have the funds that were there. But whatever I saved up, I was willing to invest all of it from like I believe in it and this is what I’m going to do.”

Less than a year later and Jones already feels her taking a chance is paying off …

“I would encourage any other entrepreneurs who are interested in launching a business, especially when it comes to online or the e-commerce platform. I highly recommend for them to jump on it right away. Don’t wait. This is the perfect time to do so.”

McClain Portis jumped into his passions for business and music during the pandemic. He is in USC’s Business Cinematic Arts program. He created the business Live Two and now has over half a million followers on tik tok.

[Play music from one of his artists]

“I discovered unknown musicians and tried to help them start their career through telling their stories. And we built up enough momentum in order to, going into this year, pivot into becoming a real legitimate record label that stands for discovering the unheard artists of the world.”

This is really just the beginning for Portis, but pursuing his passions head on has always been a part of who he is...

“It is the first like real legitimate business. But I’ve always had that mindset of being an entrepreneur and a filmmaker, like I was the kid in high school that would just run around with the camera and it was always by my side.”

While this has been an idea of Portis for a few years, it is flourishing under difficult circumstances.

“We signed our first five artists going into twenty twenty one. What’s exciting for me is I feel like we’re finally in a position where the original idea I had back in twenty eighteen to tell really legitimate long form and intricate stories about artists is actually going to be able to take place this year.”

Steve Mednick teaches people how they can start up businesses. He is an entrepreneurship professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business

“The effect of the pandemic has been inconsistent with some businesses. It really put a grinding halt to their business. And some of these businesses have been able to take advantage of the fact that people’s buying criteria has shifted a little bit and has gone into their direction.”

These young entrepreneurs all have plans to continue to grow their businesses.

“I think bottom line co can one day become a bank and really help people understand money management.”

“We realize that with this pandemic, a lot of mental health issues were worsening. So we know yoga can definitely help with the mind body connection.”

“I’ve been probably number one, a dreamer and number two, an entrepreneur, so it’s like I would rather sacrifice making money right now for building a movement that people really care about and then figure out later on once I’ve done that.”

These students have taken the risk and gone forward in launching a business they are passionate about despite the precarious times.

Even though the pandemic was a difficult time for many, it opened the door to these young entrepreneurs for a future of possibilities.