College CEO: College Prowler

CEO: Luke Skurman, Carnegie Mellon University
www.collegeprowler.com

Luke Skurman’s first job was as a hot dog vendor in San Francisco. His favorite part of the gig was that the cart was all his. “I started getting internships in college and I never got that feeling again,” he says. “I wanted to feel empowered.”

For a project at Carnegie Mellon, Skurman created the skeleton for what has become his publishing company College Prowler, which produces student-written college guidebooks. He grabbed two student business/entrepreneur awards, and with $1,500 in prize money, began working immediately after graduation.

In the beginning, Skurman and his four partners (also recent grads) earned little if no money, had no health insurance and “worked on pure adrenaline.” “You might have a great idea but nothing happens overnight,” Skurman says. “Everything costs twice as much and takes twice as long as you expect.”

Slowly, people took interest, and in 2004 College Prowler got its biggest break yet. Glen Meakem, founder of FreeMarkets, invested $500,000 and became chairman of the company. Word has spread (to parents and students) through grassroots techniques: a huge PR push, posting info on message boards and using student writers to advertise. The books are sold in many places, including CP’s site, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and several college bookstores.

In the next few years, Skurman’s team looks to include more universities (right now there are about 200 college-specific guides and others such as ‘Untangling the Ivies’), create graduate program books and make the Web site more interactive.

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