December 17, 2012 | Queens College
Gold-plated, four-jewel Swiss movement, five-year battery life, water-resistant, adjustable, even unisex. Stainless steel with a sleek Danish design, it can be labeled “Made in the U.S.A.” But there’s one thing the Queens College Quartz watch doesn’t have: a high price tag.
Taking this classy watch from concept through manufacturing and marketing provided a real-world business experience for 27 highly motivated Queens College undergraduates. They were the inaugural members of QC’s BALA Student Entrepreneurial Initiative, a two-semester course in the Business and Liberal Arts (BALA) program.
Their 500 watches will arrive from the factory in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, just in time for the launch of QC’s 75th anniversary year. That milestone, commemorated on the dial, became “the perfect tie-in” once the class was under way, notes BALA instructor Steven Leventhal.
Leventhal divided the class into three teams to handle (1) creating a watch, based on their extensive research on the industry, (2) coming up with a marketing plan, and (3) honing the finances: budget, pricing, and inventory. The President’s Office put up funding, but Leventhal had Team 3 proceed as if it had to secure venture capital. Each group “went through all the frustrations of setting up a business. Even the simplest of tasks turned out to be not so easy,” their professor recalls. With deadlines ticking, he warned them, “You have to be self-motivating. No excuses. Get it done.” The President’s Office is supporting internships this fall for six of the students to handle sales.
To appeal to alumni pride, Team 2 came up with the slogan “Created by Students . . . Designed for You.” They turned to QC’s video services to help produce campus ads, purchased a domain name (qcquartz.com), and created a website to offer their timepiece—valued at $400—for only $225. “It’s great quality at a great price,” points out Howard Levitt ’77, former president and CEO of Tourneau LLC.
At each critical step, students could draw upon the expertise of Levitt, who is credited with transforming Tourneau, a company in disarray, into one of the world’s leading watchmakers and retailers. Levitt hadn’t been back to campus in 30 years, but after being invited to speak at a QC Business Forum, he began to think about how he might guide students in undertaking a hands-on entrepreneurial project. This course was the result.
“This course turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had,” Levitt notes. “I’m proud to be associated with the 75th Anniversary.”
For more information and to order a watch, visit www.qcquartz.com
Assistant Director of News Services