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Students' entrepreneurial spirit blooms at ASU

August 28, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

Charles Crawford may have done well at just about any university, but when he put down roots at ASU two years ago, he flourished like a plant on Miracle-Gro. As a young man with an entrepreneurial bent, he found the perfect environment for his interests.

Crawford had started earning his own money as a jazz pianist in restaurants when he was in seventh grade in Kenosha, Wisc., and had become focused on technology and e-commerce in high school. By senior year he was building websites, reading up on real estate investing and hoping to start his own company one day.

As a freshman finance major in ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, he was fascinated to hear an older student, Michael O’Brien, speak in an introductory class about his own entrepreneurial experience. The two clicked instantly, and they began meeting each week in the dining hall at Barrett, the Honors College to talk about stocks, investing and marketing ideas.

Last fall the two formed their own digital marketing company, Crawford and O’Brien, that focuses on search engine optimization, web development, social media marketing, lead generation and conversion, and technology consulting. Building a client base of dentists – starting with Crawford’s father –  they became profitable quickly, often helping their clients add a patient a day.

“So many dentists don’t know about marketing, but they need it,” says Crawford, 20. “We’ve just started a campaign for a dental practice in Shreveport, La. and they got three new patients in two days.”

He and O’Brien, 24, are animated as they discuss their future plans, hoping to branch out to reach other professions. They also want to emphasize service. This month they launched a free web and Android app aimed at young entrepreneurs, listing nonprofit incubators and collaborative workspaces such as Seed Spot, Gangplank and CoHoots, and ASU’s own Changemaker Central, Area 48 and Skysong.

Aiming for a hip and appealing vibe, their app,, also includes little-known restaurants, events, happy hours and landmarks.

“The app will help students, entrepreneurs and other Phoenix residents find out about places and events they’ve never heard of, and allow for entrepreneurial collaboration. It will be crowd-sourced, so anyone can publish events and entrepreneurial workplaces. It’s available at or at the Google Play store.”

O’Brien, a Scottsdale resident who is no longer an ASU student, started doing computer repair at 16 and soon branched out into web design and development. He was a co-founder of the Open Source Project, a collaborative art space/music venue/coffee shop, and has been project manager on numerous mobile and web apps.

Most often the two can be found at the Tempe campus’s Changemaker Central, a key gathering and work space for ASU students who are social innovators. They also like meeting with George Olander, ASU finance lecturer who has been a mentor.

“Dr. Olander is very open, always available to talk,” says Crawford. “He teaches me cool things about investing and stock trading. We have great conversations.”

ASU has been the perfect place for two young men who dream, and who want to forge their own pathway in the world to nurture their ideas.