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Sitting down with IYA freshman Cooper Breus, every moment is filled with new surprises and understanding. From opening up about the root of his passions, to finding out that his business career started at the age of seven, this interview only begins to scratch the surface of Cooper’s story.
Hey Cooper! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk, any chance you could just shoot out a brief intro?
Sure! Hello, I’m Cooper Breus, I’m from Manhattan Beach California (although I’ve moved around the US for my entire life). I mainly focus on a mixture of business marketing and music production.
I know that you’ve paired down a lot of your work since beginning college, could you tell me a little bit about some of your current professional ventures?
On top of regular schooling, the main thing I’m focusing on is sponsorship management for Slingshot (a company started by members of Cohort 5)... I’ve also recently started a side hustle dealing cars, which has been interesting. I’ve always been a car aficionado and a car market analyst, so I’m excited to put my money where my mouth is.
Oh my gosh, that’s changed since the last time we talked, okay. I love that!
Yeah, that changed back about a week or so. I also used to consult for podcasts. I helped my dad launch his own podcast and use those principles to apply to one for the United Nations AI advisor on new technologies. I would also do affiliate programs and did that for a production company in Burbank, and on top of that, general consulting for marketing (specifically in social media and creative direction).
Wow, so I can’t imagine that your high school taught you how to do all this stuff in class. How did you initially get into some of these side hustles?
There’s a couple different ways I can go with this. First let’s talk about my music background - that’s something that I don’t have jobs for necessarily, but I do produce tracks. My parents influenced me at a young age to take music lessons. I started with guitar at the age of seven, and then I became a classically trained vocalist at ten and eleven. I did a lot of different choirs and private vocal lessons as well. That led me to writing my own songs, which then led me to wanting to produce my own songs - that was all self taught through high school.
My dad has always been an entrepreneur and has been kind enough to let me into that world. I happen to really enjoy it, but it’s not something he forced upon me. So I’ve been going to business meetings as his scribe since I was seven. My most memorable moments are when I would walk in the first few times, he would say, “This is my son, he’s a scribe for this meeting and if you do not want him here I’m not working with you.”
Wait, that’s really good parenting, you were taught early! This explains so much.
Yeah, that explains a lot. I personally haven’t launched any business ventures myself, but I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve helped him with a lot of that, and have been someone to bounce ideas off of. I’ve been able to learn through it all… Combining those two interests is what led me to IYA!
That’s amazing. So I know that some people, when starting into IYA, come in with a clear idea on what their strengths are, what they’re passionate about, what they want to end up doing after graduation. But by the end of their career here that usually changes quite a bit. I know it’s only the first semester, but have there been any eye-opening moments for you in terms of that? What’s been the most surprising and most rewarding?
I know it’s a little hard since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but I would say I’ve been able to see how valuable this program truly is. I’ve been taking Digital Toolbox: Design, Rapid Visualization, Disruptive Innovation… I can see the professors' excitement, their knowledge and expertise. The real world experience of all the professors and faculty here is bar none. That’s usually what you get in college, but I feel like IYA is on a different level in that sense. They’ve definitely found some of the best people.
I’ve never drawn before or done any graphic design, and that’s all this entire first semester has been. But because of that I’ve learned that I’m somewhat decent at drawing! I’m not the best, but I’ve been able to use that and learn how to think visually - I’ve never thought like that before past charts or drafts.
This might not relate to what you’re saying, but definitely the level of talent in each student is another thing that surprised me. When we first got into IYA I decided that we all need to meet over Zoom. You were a part of that, we had Cohorts 4, 5, and 6 all join us at some point. Usually my friends are all in very different areas but now I’m currently living in a house with five other IYA people. They’ve already given me business advice and have helped me build half the things in my room. I’ve never had that kind of community before so it’s been a very welcome surprise.
I love that, the wholesome energy is almost too much! Could you tell us a little bit about the Zooms you were organizing, and how your cohort has adjusted to the pandemic? How have you found loopholes into getting a bit more of a college experience, and personal connection? It sounds like you guys have gotten pretty close despite it all.
Yeah of course, so quick context: we had our interview weekend over Presidents Day weekend of 2020, so about a month before everything shut down... When I heard that I got in, and that coronavirus coincided with that (we all learned if we got in about two weeks after quarantine started), we all started reaching out to people on Snapchat… I really debated, “Am I really going to be the guy that recommends everyone go on a Zoom?” I decided to say screw it.
We ended up Zooming every weekend for about three months… through it all I started to realize that we have a real community. I would also start to get people’s numbers and would call people on the side. I called about 15 people from Cohort 7 and really got to know them on a personal level with an hour long conversation about who they are, what they represent, what brought them here and how we can help each other. One week Simon from Cohort 6 heard about it somehow, and said, “Hey that’s really crazy that you guys are doing Zooms, can Cohort 6 join?” I then started reaching out to people in Cohort 4 and 5 (I even tried the faculty, but they wouldn't let me).
But it really gave us an opportunity to get to know everyone on a much more personal level, it was really nice and a lot of people were very happy with how it all went out. They actually used to call me “Zoom President,” it was bad. But I didn’t mind organizing it, I had a great time doing it and think it really benefited everyone.
That’s so lovely! Okay so again, I know it’s only your first semester of college, but looking forward, what’s one thing that you’re hoping to get out of your time here at IYA? Could be absolutely anything.
Definitely the practical skills, whether that be in design or business or whatnot. The other big thing here is the relationships you’re going to make. I’ve already been able to connect some of my roommates who are in certain business ventures with people who are professionals in their industry and can help them. I know that when I start doing stuff they’re going to be completely willing to do the same for me, and that’s insanely valuable. That’s not the only reason I’m friends with them, far from it, but it’s something that’s very special to this program as well.
Also with the opportunities - right now it’s a little different, but the impact and industry labs, the internships, I’m hoping to do a few of those if I can. The whole reason I went to IYA was because I get so many different benefits and such a valuable education.
Going back to your many hobbies, your versatile skills, getting down to the root of it - what do you find the most fulfilling, the thing that makes you the happiest out of everything? It could be an aspect that ties into all three, it could be something intangible, as abstract or as literal as you’d like to go.
If it had to boil down to one thing it would be making an impact in some way - and that’s just very general. Whether that’s making an impact on a company by having a really good marketing program, or making an impact on the world by being able to donate to charity... Or making an impact with some of the connections I’ve been talking about. Just making someone else happy, that makes me happy too. While I don’t know if my business ventures in the future are going to directly benefit people, I know no matter what that I want to use my time to have an impact - to really affect people in a good way.
That’s beautiful, I can see that so clearly. Wrapping up, if you had one message for senior Cooper to look back on for this beginning of college, what’s something that you’d want to say?
Damn you’re really hitting me with the hard questions here.
Hey, I am a journalist. I do run a magazine!
I know, I figured I wasn’t expecting it to be a cake walk. I guess it would be to just try and make the most of my time here. A big thing for me is working hard and working smart. Some people say, “Oh, do one or do the other,” but I think that doing both makes you unstoppable. Now is the time where I’m not going to start later, I’m not going to push things off. It’s not worth it to push it off because I’m never going to get to it, there’s so much going on. I hope to take this initiative for the full four years, to quote Nike, “Just do it,” and not regret not having the experience.
That’s beautiful. I loved this conversation very much, thank you immensely for taking the time to talk with me, Cooper! I look forward to chatting more throughout the semester.