Lots of entrepreneurs do their homework before starting a business. But few go as far as Mark Swislow -- who turned his in for a grade. Back in 1981 Swislow was a salesman by day and an M.B.A. student by night when he was assigned to research a business niche for his marketing class. On the advice of a distributor friend, he looked into dustcovers for computers. That initial research led Swislow and his friend to rent a booth at the Comdex computer show, peddling dustcovers as yet unmade.

The result? Enough leads that Swislow quit his job and went into business. Today, he reports, Chicago-based Computer Coverup Inc. employs 50 people and has "several million dollars" in sales. As for the business degree, CEO Swislow somehow never got around to finishing it. "What happens in the M.B.A. program is nothing like the real world," he argues. Maybe so, but you sure can't knock the homework.

-- Martha E. Mangelsdorf