University of Southern California

Exploring Entrepreneurship with Area Students
Lloyd Greif Center Professor Crookston Spends Summers Teaching High Schoolers All About Business
September 1, 2009 • by Anne Bergman

Learning entrepreneurship isn’t just for Marshall MBA students. Just ask William Crookston, a full-time faculty member at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, who’s spent five summers in a row teaching high schoolers business theory and entrepreneurial practices.

This summer Crookston guided a class of 42 through his USC-based seminar, “Exploring Entrepreneurship.” He immersed his students, some of whom came from as far away as Saudi Arabia, in the real world of establishing and building a company. The high school juniors gained hands on experience by going “behind the scenes” to various local businesses, including New Deal Studios, the visual effects house owned by Marshall alum Shannon Blake Gans, who’s also a member of the Greif Center’s Advisory Council.

One of Crookston’s students Jacqueline Garcia had won a scholarship to take the class from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship based on her business plan for her costume jewelry business. The Greif Center also awarded her a fellowship. She recently told Los Angeles’ Spanish language newspaper La Opinion that the class gave her the push she needed to fine tune the marketing and strategic planning to launch her own enterprise. So far she’s raised $7000 by selling her jewelry for local weddings.

“Many high schools don’t have anything that resembles business or economics,” Crookston explains. “It’s not part of a normal high school curriculum. We try to provide a taste of university life, asking the students to go through rigorous exercises, write papers and prepare presentations.” Not too unlike what a business student faces at Marshall.

One exercise Crookston asked his summer seminar students to perform—where each student is given $5 and a weekend to see how much money they can earn —has even made its way into his USC Marshall entrepreneurial class this fall. One of Crookston’s previous summer students excelled by heading over to Leavey Library and offering chair massages for $1 a minute. (This summer’s proceeds went to purchase six industrial-grade wheelchairs for disabled people who live in areas with difficult terrain such as dirt roads and cobblestones.)

Such social entrepreneurship doesn’t end with just raising money for a good cause, as this fall Crookston is also leading about 20 MBA.PM students in a field research project for Goodwill Southern California (GSC), which each year helps more than 44,000 people with disabilities or vocational disadvantages with education, job training and placement programs.

According to Crookston, last year Goodwill’s clothing retail shops made $20 million, but with government grant money drying up, they want to be able to increase their throughput of surplus making projects. Crookston’s students will develop resource-expanding recommendations.

Whether his students are 17 or 28, Crookston believes it’s imperative that they get out of the classroom and away from their computer screens. “I want to make certain that all of our students spend more time looking at things rather than that square thing on their desk,” he says.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.