University of Southern California

Lloyd Greif Scholarship Winner Tops National Youth Entrepreneurship Competition
Teenage Businessman takes Home First Prize
November 12, 2009 • by Anne Bergman

When 17-year-old Kalief Rollins of Carson, Calif. met President Barack Obama on October 19th, he gave the president a custom-made 'Caution: Educated African American Male' T-shirt.

The T-shirt was not merely a gift, it was also the embodiment of Rollins' labors as the head of his own clothing business--a business that had just won him the top $10,000 prize in the 2009 Oppenheimer Funds/Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Challenge and an opportunity to meet the president.

Rollins beat out 24,000 entrants for his development of a business plan that sells tee shirts with positive messages, fine tuning both his plan and his presentation skills in Clinical Entrepreneurship professor Bill Crookston's summer seminar at USC for high schoolers. Jackie Garcia, who also completed the four-week "Exploring Entrepreneurship" course, advanced to the NFTE Challenge semi final round with her line of costume jewelry.

By the time of the summer entrepreneurship seminar, Rollins had also attended an NFTE program at Downey High School and Garcia a program at Soledad Enrichment Action Firestone. After winning their classroom competitions, they advanced to NFTE's regional competition held at USC's Town & Gown where Rollins placed first and Garcia took the No. 2 spot, earning them both Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurship scholarships to attend the "Entrepreneurship" seminar.

The scholarships paid Rollins' and Garcia's $6,000 tuition, as well as their dorm rooms, meals and books. Crookston and his fellow Marshall School of Business professors also personally invested in their students' success. According to Crookston, "The faculty all zeroed in on Kalief and Jackie to give them one-on-one opportunities to build up their presentation skills."

The work paid off as the pair headed to the nation-wide NFTE competition in New York City.

"I think the seminar really made an impact on strengthening their business ideas," said Estelle Reyes, program director for NFTE-Greater Los Angeles, who noted that both Rollins and Garcia mentioned the "Exploring Entrepreneurship" seminar during their final presentations on October 7 in Manhattan.

Rollins and Garcia were among the 28 finalists who came to New York for the daylong finals of the competition. There they were judged on their business plans and presentations by a panel of business leaders including Steven Brill, Co-Founder & CEO, Journalism Online and Bobbi Brown, Founder & CEO, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics.

Amy Rosen, President and CEO of NFTE pointed out, just as President Obama invites the winners of the Super Bowl or the World Series to the White House, he invited the NFTE Challenge winners to meet him in the Oval Office. Said Rosen: "That's a hugely important statement about the value of teaching entrepreneurship to youth and the significance of this competition in inspiring students to see the potential of their own dreams."

As for Rollins and Garcia, according to NFTE's Reyes, both are currently attending local junior colleges to pursue their dreams of transferring to USC.

To major in business, of course.

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.