In the eyes of Vivian Nguyen ’22, starting a business isn’t much different than running a political campaign.
Entrepreneurs conduct market research as candidates work to best serve their community. They execute a sales pitch just like politicians strive to inform voters of their vision and platform, and they use accounting and finance skills to manage their venture, while the same methods are used to optimally fund a campaign.
It’s why Nguyen, a Babson College sophomore concentrating in technology, entrepreneurship, and design, decided to run as a Democrat for a seat on Everett’s City Council.
Providing a Voice for All
A first-generation student who lives on campus and daughter of Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen discovered her passion for politics in high school. A semester-long research project, combined with a voice in her school newspaper and work with the Massachusetts Youth & Government Branch Press Corps made her more aware of the struggles those around her face.
“Running for office has always been a career aspiration for me,” Nguyen said. “(That) combined with the fact that I would be able to canvass from May to the beginning of September without thinking about school, encouraged me to step up.”
Her platform included lowering the cost of Everett’s affordable housing, making investments in transportation, establishing a city-sponsored health and wellness partnership with businesses, and integrating a city-wide scholarship fund for students enrolling in college.
One of the most frequent questions she received while campaigning is how she would strike balance juggling college coursework and city government.
“My answer is always: ‘No one ever questions how adults will handle full-time jobs with their positions,’” she said.
In Everett, African Americans, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino residents represent about 45% of the population, according to Data USA. “From personal experiences of not feeling or being represented in my life, I felt that it was important to try to break the barrier for people who might not have the same opportunities as me,” Nguyen said.
How Business Led to Politics
Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship and the Summer Venture Program played essential roles in preparation for Nguyen’s campaign. She said specifically her pitch, financing, and data proficiencies readied her for meeting with voters and managing all aspects of the race.
“When you’re running, you don’t know what the end goal is,” Nguyen said. “That’s the same thing with starting a business.”
“You start off with a platform you think is right, and as you start learning about other people’s lives, you start changing your platform,” she added. “You’re trying to learn who you’re targeting.”
On Election Night, she hoped to hold a watch party as the results rolled in.
“I know the city well, I would have the same experience as someone who had lived in the city for 19 years,” she said. “I want to step up and be a voice for people who are under-represented.”
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