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Alumnus Justin Key Talks Entrepreneurship & Networking

March 20, 2013 - Alumni, Careers

AMDA Alumnus Justin Key is an actor, a mathematician and an entrepreneur. He will co-star in an upcoming production with Marla Gibbs from "The Jeffersons" and "227", Chico Brenneman from "Half and Half" and many others. He is also the face of Walmart, and co-starred on "8 Days a Week" on BET, a sitcom about young moguls in the making. Justin recently spoke about his experiences to our alumni at our most recent Alumni Workshop day in Los Angeles. We asked him to be a guest blogger so we could share his insight with all of our AMDA community.

Entrepreneurship/Networking in the Entertainment Industry by Justin Key

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Anonymous

Entrepreneurship found its way to my doorstep due to past economic conditions, industry woes and personal lifestyle needs. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into but I am glad I made that first step and have not looked back since. My company was birthed out of the 2007-2008 “Infamous” Writer’s Strike. Although my company was started two years after the strike, not working at all and funds being scarce to non-existent made me believe that there had to be a better way of surviving in the industry when something of that magnitude occurred. Also, it is very common for actors in major cities to live 2 to 3 people in a studio or 1 bedroom apartment but that was not my ideal living arrangement. In order for me to be able to audition whenever my agent called, have money to travel around the city to film and shoot, or to be able to afford new headshots, pay for IMDBpro, LA Casting, Actor’s Access, etc, something had to be done! That’s when the above quote comes into play. Entrepreneurship seemed to be the most logical decision, perhaps the most challenging but logical.

Successfully owning a business, effectively managing employees, filing taxes, being professional, honest, stern and respectable are just a few duties and traits every entrepreneur should encompass. But before all that come into play, there first has to be a plan, a realistic plan with a product or service that a consumer would buy into. When the planning phase is over that’s when you take it to a mentor to have it evaluated, and by the way everyone should have a mentor. You get a mentor by networking with professionals in any and all industries that are doing things you would like to do someday. It does not matter if they are in a different industry than you, just that they are honest, trustworthy and share the same success outlook that you do. I have a mentor in the entertainment industry, finance industry and healthcare industry. They all have successful careers, honest personalities and polished character traits I hope to have someday. Do not choose a mentor solely on their success but look closely at the person they are when they are out of the office, not on television or in the public eye because those are the behaviors you want to mostly acquire for yourself.

I’m often asked do I have a 9 to 5, and my response is “No, I have a 24/7”. We, as entrepreneurs, work harder and hopefully smarter than the average Joe. During a regular 24 hour day, I perhaps work 17 hours on company related work whether it’s email marketing, talking to clients, having a business breakfast, lunch or dinner or attending a networking event. And while I’m sleeping the other 7 hours, I’m dreaming of how I can increase growth and productivity of the company. With a schedule like this you’re probably wondering when I have time for acting…well, acting is #1 and my company is #2. I have set the company up where it can run by itself if I have to film for days, weeks or even months. One may argue that this is too much like “work” and it can take away from their acting career but I’m here to tell you that it will and can enhance your acting career. When I need money for headshots, want to take a director out to lunch, drive across town for an audition, needing to pay all by bills and travel wherever I want, I do not have the anxiety and nervousness of having to talk to my boss for time off, not having enough money or worrying about finances in general since that is a major concern for most young, up and coming industry professionals.

My closing advice for entertainment professionals looking to entrepreneurship as a means of survival while pursuing the industry is to “Network, network, network, learn all you can and then give back!”

Justin Key