University of Southern California

Moses Ogbonnaya
The Path to Entrepreneurship
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Undergrad Institution
University of Southern California
Houston, Texas

The global Trojan Family

Moses Ogbonnaya first understood the strength and reach of the Trojan Family during his trip to Hong Kong with the Learning about International Commerce (LINC) program his freshman year. “Alumni from all over were helping us—taking us around, showing us the culture and even making sure that we had food,” he says.

He was particularly impressed to meet USC alumnus and trustee Ronnie Chan, chairman of global conglomerate the Hang Lung Group. “He took time out of his day to tell us about his company, about international business, and where he saw China going in the future,” recalls Moses. “For a man who has millions of dollars to really give back to the school and take the time to teach us about what he does—it was unbelievable.”

Knowing he would be able to go abroad his freshman year was one of the key selling points for USC Marshall. “And USC offered a great blend of academics and social life,” he adds.

Invaluable experience

Moses enjoyed his time in Hong Kong so much that he returned during the summer of his sophomore year for a two-month internship with J.W. Marriott, through the competitive USC Global Fellows program.

In addition to again immersing himself in Hong Kong culture, he learned how to market the relaunch of a five-star hotel after a $20 million renovation. His duties included creating a sales and telesales presentation for the hotel’s managers to prepare them to inform core and prospective customers about completion of the project.

Moses also earned a coveted spot on USC Marshall’s New York weeklong leadership trip his junior year, visiting the New York Stock Exchange and meeting investment bankers and other finance industry executives.

And another internship, with Procter & Gamble, led to his new position as part of the company’s Costco team in Seattle. “I grew so much interning with P&G,” he says. “The internship really opened me up and made me want to continue working for P&G full time.”

Professors with real-world knowledge

Even more than the travel and internship experiences, Moses says he learned the most from his Marshall faculty. “Each of our professors is deeply experienced in what they are teaching. I soaked it up.”

As just one example, he notes Professor Tommy Knapp, whose 25 years as an entrepreneur in the action sports industry began when he launched his first company while a USC undergraduate.

Moses’ favorite professor was Julia Plotts, who led the LINC program to Hong Kong and informed him of the New York leadership trip. “She’s just been a great mentor to me. No matter what opportunity was out there, she was always telling me about it and making sure I knew what was going on around Marshall, around Los Angeles and around the world,” says Moses.

The budding entrepreneur’s favorite class was Venture Management, in which teams of four students launch and run their own company with $50 or less. Through the course, Moses explains, “You understand team dynamics, how to sell to the customer, how to get that customer to begin with, and how to work with others to start your own company.” The course also taught him about himself, he says.

Students helping students

Moses believes his Marshall classmates also taught him a lot, especially about how much he should expect from himself. “I look at what they’re accomplishing, and I ask myself: How can I better myself? What am I really doing to change this world and to make a difference?”

One of the things Moses did to make a difference for others was joining Marshall Student Ambassadors, which hosts prospective USC students as they visit campus. He even started his own outreach program, Marshall Insiders, which paired 33 upperclassmen with 90 incoming freshmen, to help them assimilate to Marshall, USC and to Los Angeles.

“When I got accepted to USC, I was on a choir tour,” he recalls. “I got this phone call welcoming me to USC and asking if I had any questions. That was a great feeling—an unbelievable feeling—and I wanted to be able to provide that to others.”