Nearly a quarter of all Americans earned money from part-time “gigs” over the past year, reports CNN Money. Millennials are more likely to have a side hustle than any other age group, and universities, seeing a decline in corporate opportunities for graduating seniors, are exposing millennials to part-time business opportunities in classrooms across the nation. “Direct selling should be included in class discussions about the sharing economy,” says DSEF’s 2017 Educator of the Year, Dr. Brenda Cude, Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator at the University of Georgia (UGA). “DSEF campus events are a great way to educate students about direct selling companies and their independent salesforce.”

DSEF partnered with Dr. Cude to host the “Direct Selling as a Business Opportunity” campus event on October 18, during FACS Week, the signature event of UGA’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) that celebrates communities, academic excellence and the future of families. Executives from leading direct selling companies were invited to explore topics on ethical business practices, direct selling as a side hustle and social responsibility with nearly 1,000 students at UGA and Athens Technical College throughout the day.

Unlike most income-earning opportunities in the gig economy, direct selling offers several distinct advantages to independent contractors.

In many companies, direct sellers serve not only as entrepreneurs, but intrapreneurs, who provide solutions to company leaders that enable course corrections. “I have a council of creative partners who provide feedback on products, sales campaigns and new team members, says Britney Vickery, CEO and Founder of Initials, Inc. “As I grow my team, it’s all about what we can do together. That’s the power of direct selling.”

Direct selling also offers opportunities for people to invest their time in social causes. Millennials, in particular, want work with a purpose, according to Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey. Karin Mayr, CEO and Founder of Sabika, Inc. shared her company’s remarkable story of partnering with its jewelry consultants on two social causes – Breast Cancer Research and ChildLaw Services to assist abused children. For the past seven years, Sabika consultants have raised $1.7 million for breast cancer research through product sales and commission donations, which the company matches dollar-for-dollar. “I wanted to connect women from all walks of life. We chose direct selling because it enables us to do that,” says Karin.

Moreover, direct selling affords micro-entrepreneurs business support that most side hustles do not. “In direct selling, you work for yourself, but not by yourself,” says Dave Merriman, Executive Vice President of ACN, Inc, a telecommunications and energy services provider. “You run your business, manage your costs, build and train your team, but the company creates training tools and provides websites for each independent business operator.”

Furthermore, start-up and overhead costs are minimal for independent contractors, based on the provisions of DSA’s Code of Ethics. Konrad Mayr, Special Advisor to Sabika, explains. “At Sabika, we have a trunk show system. Consultants place orders for display products for their home parties and send any unused items back. We don’t require our consultants to hold inventory. The risk is ours to manage.”

In addition to providing students with a real-world view of direct selling as a business opportunity, the event inspired future entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and their business ideas. “When I started Initials, Inc., I was told by an investor to go home and be with my kids,” says Britney. “My advice is that you can’t listen to naysayers; you have to buck up and go do it. When it’s your idea, you can see farther than anyone.”