Second-year Marshall leads the Media Business Division
Maya Sabbaghian felt restless after taking online classes from her home in Irvine.
Sabbaghian, a sophomore in business administration, channeled her boredom into getting an internship, sending LinkedIn direct messages to the Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2020.
“It wasn’t just about staying busy,” Sabbaghian said. “It was…doing something that I see a future with and learn something from.”
One of the people Sabbaghian reached out to was Jacob Pace, then 22, CEO and founder of Flighthouse, one of the biggest entertainment brands on TikTok.
Flighthouse garnered a lot of media attention at the time for driving the virality of several TikTok hits such as Arizona Zervas’ “Roxanne.” A subsidiary of Create Music Group, the media company designates records with viral potential, then packages and promotes them to various influencers, such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae.
“Within a day he called me back to take a call,” Sabbaghian said. “So we started talking, and he offered me an internship there.”
Sabbaghian’s extreme entrepreneurial streak impressed Pace, particularly how Sabbaghian got his rent to live in Los Angeles by managing the jewelry companies’ social media.
“I needed a way to make money because I didn’t want to ask my parents that when there was no need to move here,” Sabbaghian said. “So I just started reaching out to hundreds of jewelry businesses on Instagram asking them to do their social media, and two of them said yes, and that covered all my rent.”
Early in her internship, Pace took Sabbaghian under his wing to guide her and immediately “dumped” her.
“He took me everywhere to meet all these people in the industry…it was something I had never been exposed to before, nor had any experience,” Sabbaghian said. “I guess it didn’t matter because, more than anything, he took a chance on my work ethic and that’s something that’s been a theme throughout my experience over the course of the last year.”
Today, Sabbaghian is head of content licensing at Flighthouse, a division she founded herself.
The division generates more than 130 million topsnap views per month at average CPMs of $9 to $16, or dollars per thousand views.
“She came in as an intern and built an entire division that generates a large portion of our revenue in less than a year,” said Ash Stahl, Flighthouse’s current CEO. “She just took it upon herself to…find a way to make herself useful to the company, and I would trust her with absolutely anything.”
Sabbaghian’s age may be shocking in a corporate environment, but it’s no anomaly at Flighthouse. In fact, the average age of employees in the Sabbaghian division is around 20 years old.
“There’s this company ethos of trying your luck with young, passionate, hard-working people, and it’s paid off more than anything,” Sabbaghian said.
While Flighthouse Main develops unique short-form content on TikTok, where influencers participate in skits, interviews and game shows, Sabbaghian’s division primarily syndicates content from YouTube creators on Snapchat Discover.
“At some point during the internship, we discovered this business model that allows us to generate passive income for creators by repackaging their content from one platform to another,” Sabbaghian said. “So we started with the first one, Psych2Go, and the first month they exploded and made a lot of revenue from four videos.”
Sabbaghian saw the potential in the scalability of the business model and immediately knew she wanted to not only be part of the project, but also lead it.
“I told them…I wanted to own this project, and I wanted to be here and build this division,” Sabbbaghian said. “That’s when I got hired full-time…and then the next month, Psych2Go made seven times the original revenue, the revenue from four more videos.”
Sabbaghian’s ambition to continue his career at Flighthouse, however, was stained with doubt. She knew she wanted to stay in school, but juggling her schoolwork with a full-time job and making time for her social life seemed extremely daunting.
She reached out to her teacher and mentor, professor of entrepreneurship, Michael Napoliello, as she transitioned from her role as a digital content intern to a leadership role.
“I remember him saying distinctly, ‘I hate the word ‘balance’ because there is no balance in life. Come in, get your hands dirty and do it instead of leaving the scared to stop you,” Sabbaghian said. “He was the one person that I think of more than anyone, really unlocked that belief that I could do it.”
Napoliello had been struck by Sabbaghian’s extreme potential as soon as she enrolled in his class; Sabbaghian had convinced him to let her in despite the fact that she would be the only freshman in the room.
“That level of ambition stood out for me, the willingness to take the leap,” Napoliello said. “She said, ‘I know I’m not quite qualified, but I’m willing to take the risk, if that’s okay with you. And my response was, “People who are willing to take risks are always inspiring.”
Sabbaghian finally decided to accept the offer in the end. Now she leads a team of 15 people who analyze channels to develop a content strategy based on what works well. They scour YouTube for creators who have the potential to succeed on Snapchat as a secondary platform.
Her clients have never doubted the executive despite her youth, but she recognizes and acknowledges the apprehension others might feel. However, Sabbaghian feels that her age makes her a more effective voice.
“We’re all young, we’re all learning, but we’re legit and generating real revenue for these creators…making a difference in their lives, and in the lives of the people who watch it too,” Sabbaghian said. . “Never use your age as an excuse why you can’t do something great.”