For student entrepreneurs, the hardest obstacle often isn’t coming up with fantastic business ideas but lacking the means to get them off the ground.
College students often don’t have the financial means or specific platforms to turn their innovative business ideas into reality.
Enter the Trojan Start-Ups Student Business Challenge, an innovative event launched by students in The Art and Adventure of Leadership (MDA 365) that provides student entrepreneurs with a platform to pitch their business ideas to businesses and a chance for the business to win a semester of free rent in the University Village.
The winner of the event, Yoki’s Garden, will eventually begin selling clothes and accessories made from game-worn USC athletic gear in the space left by the former USC Blood Donor Center.
USC should encourage more entrepreneurial ventures like Trojan Start-ups.
The students who founded the event and the competition’s participants illustrate that the best business ideas and leadership endeavors often come from college students themselves.
These students should be provided with every opportunity to puruse their business ideas. The Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the Marshall School of Business is ranked as one of the top three entrepreneur programs in the country.
Its curriculum reflects its importance. In one introductory entrepreneurship class, students are given $5 and have to make as much money from it as possible in a span of one week.
USC Startup Weekend, an intense 54-hour event held last September, brought together people from different backgrounds who are all passionate about entrepreneurship and startups to focus on building a web or mobile application that could sustain a credible business.
Events such as Startup Weekend and the Trojan Start-Ups Student Business Challenge are fantastic, but USC should do more in addition to competitions to promote entrepreneurship and nurture the entrepreneurial talents of its students.
More scholarships geared toward high-performing students who plan to pursue entrepreneurship as a career or who have made progress in entrepreneurship during their time at USC can encourage students to branch out to non-traditional ways of practicing business.
More mentorship programs, in which student entrepreneurs could be paired with more experienced faculty or mentors who have successfully started their own businesses or work in related fields such as venture capital, can combine what students learn in the classroom with real life experience.
For example, the USC Stevens Institute of Innovation’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch training and mentoring program helps Los Angeles nonprofits grow and develop, but there isn’t a similar program that provides mentorship to USC students specifically.
The promotion of opportunities for cross-collaborative learning between different schools outside of Marshall would be especially helpful, as there are students in other majors interested in entrepreneurship. The university already attempted to establish a collaborative learning environment.
A Writing 340 class, intended for instruction this semester, that pairs Viterbi students with business students to work on an international consulting project was canceled after not enough engineering students signed up for the class.
Perhaps the class was not publicized enough within Viterbi or the opportunity itself was not adequately promoted to the rest of the student body.
USC should create unique classes that merge resources, capabilities and teachings from different schools.
The Lloyd Greif Center could partner with the USC School of Architecture to provide an elective course on how architecture students can start their own firm or practice, or it could partner with the School of Cinematic Arts to offer a course on how students can start their own film company.
USC could provide endless opportunities and programs to encourage students to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. If those students are provided a helpful nudge in the right direction, they’ll be more than on their way to inventing the next big thing.
Jasmine Ako is a senior majoring in business administration.