An Entrepreneurial Approach
Maria Jones-Sechrest ’87 began her entrepreneurial career with a T-shirt business while she was working on her degree at the USC Marshall School of Business with an emphasis on marketing and advertising. Instead of following the traditional route of a corporate career, she launched her own production company and then began a packaging company that specializes in the cosmetic, skin care and personal care industries.
During her student years at USC, Maria never imagined she’d be fortunate enough to do something that she’s passionate about, much less that her current line of work existed. “You never end up where you think you’ll end up,” she says.
A mentor to numerous young people over the years, she urges them to set high goals and start early. “It’s harder to get into USC because there is more competition. But it is not unattainable and nothing worth having is going to be easy.”
Of her own years as an undergraduate, she recalls: “Going to college took what I had—all this raw stuff—and formed it into something marketable. I grew up in the hood. I was street smart enough that I could get through any system and figure things out. But USC polishes you. It’s not so much about learning accounting skills, it’s about the total experience and exposure to music, art and professors who are extremely knowledgeable and share their stories with you. The things you learn come back to you when you need them.”
Maria found her way to USC in the footsteps of her older sisters, who also received USC Latino Alumni Association scholarships. After their mother passed away in the early 1990s, Maria established a scholarship in her memory and became actively involved in LAA as an event chair and later as head of the LAA Board of Directors.
“I’ve known some of the board members for 20 years; some I went to school with at USC,” she says. “It’s like being part of a family.”
Of her support of LAA as a donor and board member, she adds: “It’s important to be part of something that I was so fortunate to benefit from. I do feel like that LAA not only helps students but also gives back to our university.”
For young alumni who may not feel they have the resources to support the university while they are busy launching their own careers, Maria says: “We have so many things we need help with and we need your talent. I started with a small little donation and then my time. As I became more successful, I could make more substantial donations and still give my time. I know people who have been donating their time for 30 years and it’s amazing how dedicated people are to USC. They find it in their hearts to make it a major priority.”