When new USC students today apply for and receive their ID cards, the process takes all of five minutes.
You can thank Ian Chestnut ’00 for this efficiency. He built the system and brought USC into the 21st century.
The founder and CEO of IVC Productions, a full-service web design, marketing, graphics and cyber security company based in Houston, Chestnut launched his business as an entrepreneurship student at the Marshall School of Business.
“I was a business major with a minor in internet multimedia,” he laughs. “That’s what we thought the internet was back in the late ’90s.”
“It [Marshall] taught me the basics, which I literally use every day. But it also taught me to think critically about different situations. You can have 2,500 websites and no two are the same. But I can listen to a customer’s problem and identify a solution tailored for that customer. We pride ourselves in that.”—Ian Chestnut '00, founder and owner of IVC Productions
Although he always knew he’d be an entrepreneur one day, it was Marshall that gave him the foundation—and opportunity—to discover a pain point that needed fixing. He found it as a student worker who realized how behind the technological curve the university was.
Getting to ‘SC
Born in Cleveland and raised in Houston, his parents were longtime business owners. He wanted to do the same some day.
Chestnut was a top student in high school, and had his choice of universities to attend. He got into his top 3: Cornell, Stanford and USC.
He and his parents visited them all. Cornell was impressive, but had unbearable winters. Stanford was great, with perfect weather—but it didn’t have an undergraduate business program. Strike two.
Then they traveled to Southern California.
“USC blew my mind,” he said. “It had everything AND a program with which I could take third-year business classes in my freshman year. I was sold.” He matriculated at USC as a Trustee Scholar.
He wasted no time integrating himself into student life, becoming a student leader on the executive board of the USC Black Student Assembly and Marshall’s Black Business Student Association. He was the RA of Somerville Place in Fluor Tower and an orientation advisor.
He loved his business classes too. “My Greif classes, organizational behavior and marketing—I soaked it all up,” he said.
Then there was his student job.
“I was the database manager for the USC Office of Student Orientation,” he said. “I kept track of the students coming to USC. But it was all on paper. They needed someone to transfer the paper files into an electronic system. “
It was a daunting task, but one Chestnut took to immediately. He was analytical, yet understood systems design and with it the potential of the nascent internet. He successfully integrated an old paper system into a searchable database. He also successfully created the school’s first online credit card acceptance function, before creating a similar system for USC Card Services.
“For me, it was the jump off the cliff,” he said. He launched a company, IVC Productions, with USC as his first client.
IVC Productions assists clients across the country. Some 65 percent of Chestnut’s business is in higher education.
The rest of his clients are small businesses and individuals, from foundations to celebrities. “We give them a solution to control their websites and have a strategic plan.”
Keeping True to Trojans
Today Chestnut keeps his alma mater close. He serves on the Advisory Board of the USC Black Alumni Association, and mentors students in computer science and business entrepreneurship.
“What was done for me when I was coming up, I want to offer to upcoming leaders,” he said. “I try to fashion my advice to them not so much as a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on their ideas, but to offer them the opportunity to think it through.”
Chestnut credits USC Marshall with giving him the foundation on which to launch and grow his enterprise.
“It taught me the basics, which I literally use every day,” he said. “But it also taught me to think critically about different situations. You can have 2,500 websites and no two are the same. But I can listen to a customer’s problem and identify a solution tailored for that customer. We pride ourselves in that.”
Chestnut lives in Houston with his wife and two children and their black Labrador puppy, Hershey.