During the fall 2022 semester, more than 250 people applied to join the University of Southern California‘s content creator incubator club, USC Reach.
Only 38 of them got in.
“We have a really exclusive, tight-knit community,” 21-year-old Dylan Huey, chairman and CEO of Reach‘s national organization and president of the USC chapter, tells Tubefilter. The club was founded at USC in 2017 and offers aspiring content creators mentorship, workshops with speakers from companies like Google, Facebook, WarnerMedia, TikTok, and Spotify, and access to collaborative content production days.
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Among its alumni are PARTY SHIRT (20.5 million followers on TikTok), Alan Chikin Chow (13.1 million followers), Mia Finney (6.5 million), and Cosette Rinab (2.3 million), and Huey himself, who says he joined the club as a freshman after deciding he wanted to find a student org that “aligned my values, what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be in the future.”
Now that he leads Reach, he’s working on expanding the club to more schools across the U.S. It’s currently in 10, but by the end of this semester plans to have chapters in 25 universities, including Duke University, Penn State, and the University of California Los Angeles.
The chapters at those schools won’t be any less selective about who they let join their ranks. Reach combs applications for people who have “really taken initiative and taken the lead into wanting to be someone in social media,” Huey says. “Whether that’s someone who’s a creator or someone who wants to be more in the backend, whether that be creator partnerships or public relations or something in that capacity.”
Around 30% of USC Reach members want to work behind the camera, he says.
Huey has experience in numerous creator economy roles. He started posting on TikTok‘s predecessor Musical.ly in 2016, and says he gained 30,000 followers in his first week of doing lip syncs and livestreams. By the time he applied to USC, he had hundreds of thousands of followers and had made connections on the business side of TikTok. He was 17 years old when he became Hype House co-founder Chase Hudson‘s first manager.
Now, he brings that creator and manager experience to Reach, where he and other members have networked with one another to grow their audiences to hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers.
Reach’s communal pool of knowledge was just as exclusive as the club itself. Until the organization launched its podcast, ReachNOW.
“We have tons of members in all different niches,” Huey says. “Our club members are so diverse, something [they] love is hearing from amazing guest speakers at our weekly meetings.” But, he says, “Obviously the guest speakers we have can’t fulfill every niche that all of our members are in.”
So he, USC Reach vice-president Natalie Park, and director of community Veda Mahbubani decided to start a weekly podcast where they could bring in even more industry executives and ask them specifically about the genesis of their careers.
“If they could look back to their college days, where we are currently as college students, what advice would they give to the average college student?” Huey says.
The podcast’s first episode features guest Robin Davids, senior vice president of global film publicity at Sony Pictures Entertainment, who talks about having Pulp Fiction as her first PR job, how her work environment changed during the COVID pandemic, and where she sees entertainment heading in the future.
For now, other episodes of ReachNOW (featuring Disney creative strategist/SXSW speaker Jessica Rudis and Evan Sigel, head of brand partnerships at Jubilee Media) are members-only, but USC Reach has plans to make the show available for public listening.
“I think it’s such a valuable piece of information for the everyday consumer to be able to listen to these accomplished individuals and really hear how they got started,” Huey says.