Businesses to start instead of spending the 200k on a grad education?
January 27, 2012 1:31 AM   Subscribe

Businesses to start instead of paying for grad school?

Before I commit to dropping around 200k on a grad education (law school/MBA), please help me brainstorm what else I could do with the money.

So far I have experience/undergrad credential in international finance, working abroad, speak a bunch of languages. I like real estate. I like nutrition. I'm pretty good at getting stuff done. I like giving advice. I like having a positive social impact- particularly in terms of education. I like arguing/negotiating SO MUCH and making deals. My fiance is willing to support any dreams I have with his computer software engineering skills, if that comes into play.

Whenever I try to think of a good business idea, I fail. Do you have any ideas for me? I thought this would be a good exercise before spending all that money on a degree.
posted by saraindc to Work & Money (18 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
You could answer this question in five minutes if you stepped back from all that you like and start thinking about what really frustrates you.
posted by parmanparman at 3:20 AM on January 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

Parmanparman's right. Starting thinking of pain points, and the concepts will flow. Check out; it's a website on the entrepreneurial mindset and what people *actually* do when they are starting a business (as opposed to what is taught in b-school).
posted by emkelley at 4:49 AM on January 27, 2012

Before you commit to dropping around 200k on a grad education, you should distinguish between law school and an MBA. The degrees give you such categorically different outcomes. If you are lumping them together at this point into a "grad school option," then you don't really want either one - you're just interested in buying time (really costly, structured time) while figuring your stuff out. Grad school is indecently expensive. Go in with clear purpose, or don't go at all.
posted by sestaaak at 4:56 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: i'm not really interested in answering the question 'should i go to grad school' using this forum, but rather, 'what kinds of businesses could I start with the money instead'

i have a pretty well developed view of why i would go to law school/business school combined,which I don't feel like going into (i'm busy writing a bunch of essays about that). What I want to do with this question is step back and ask myself what other roads should i consider that I may have overlooked.

I spent not just 5 minutes, but 15 minutes, thinking about what frustrates me, as parman suggested, with no luck in coming up with business ideas. i did have some luck twisting the question into 'what frustrates others but doesn't frustrate me'

looking forward to any business ideas :) Thanks!
posted by saraindc at 5:20 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason that you want to make Step 1 starting a business, rather than working for an existing business?
posted by prefpara at 5:25 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You could also look for a cofounder who is passionate about a business idea but lacks your business & negotiation acument; this is not uncommon amongst technical founders, for example.
posted by anildash at 5:32 AM on January 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Prefpara- I've gotten a lot of feedback from family and my last boss that starting my own business would really suit my personality, and it's started me thinking. I want to follow this train of thought and see where it might lead....

Anildash- i really like this idea. especially since the fiance's always been interested in starting a computer software company.

looking for more ideas! thanks!!!
posted by saraindc at 5:35 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get in touch with your local SCORE chapter. They're a really great way of getting in touch with the local business community. What you want to do here is network, i.e. get in touch with other people who are thinking about starting a business. Some of them will have skills and/or assets that you don't, and hopefully some of them will want skills and/or assets that you have.

This is how a lot of these things get going.
posted by valkyryn at 5:56 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take a look at Startup Ideas We'd Like to Fund, a list by Paul Graham at the tech startup accelerator Y Combinator. Even if you're not interested in founding a tech startup, this might help spark some ideas.
posted by brother at 6:13 AM on January 27, 2012

Hmm... what frustrates me lately and also may imply some form of business.

There is no good sushi here in London; it's way overpriced. Also, there is almost no bubble tea. I miss these things, and they're ubiquitous in other cities I've lived in.

It is hard to find umbrellas that are colourful and/or whimsically patterned, yet also sturdy, and not child-sized. Also, in general, men's clothing and accessories are almost always plainly coloured.

It's only been a year or two, and already my laptop battery barely holds a charge.

It's really hard to have exotic or esoteric things shipped to Canada without paying an exorbitant fee. 90% of Amazon Marketplace or Harbor Freight or other online mega-stores don't seem to offer it.

Last time I flew, I accidentally broke the connector to my headphones because I crushed it against the seat-rest where it was plugged in.

First World Problems, in other words, heh. All these business ideas are yours free of charge.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:28 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you like to make deals, maybe some sort of broker is a good fit. A middleman/woman between a manufacturer or producer and the consumer. If you like to shop--maybe being a personal shopper? Personally, I'd love to be an organic food broker--finding small growers and working with them to get to markets, etc..
posted by Ideefixe at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2012

You could start a school, such as the (controversial, for-profit) international school in NYC: Avenues
posted by xo at 7:17 AM on January 27, 2012

Following up on Anildash's suggestion, you could start attending entrepreneur gatherings, like the MIT Enterprise Forum. If you tell us what city you're located in, people could offer some specific networking suggestions.
posted by alms at 8:07 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Finding apartments to rent in New York is annoying. Zillions of brokers spam Craigslist with the same listings, then lie to you when you ask questions and charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege.

If I'm buying a tube, I can search by material, size, pressure rating, etc, etc, etc. If I'm renting an apartment, my choice is apparently "yes we have a cat".

Brokers ought to be replaced with software, is what I'm saying. The only service they provide is letting people in to apartments. But replacing physical door locks with a remotely programmable electronic solution would only cost a few hundred bucks -- way less than a broker's fee.
posted by novalis_dt at 10:41 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am an entrepreneur. My favorite exercise is to pick up an object, any object, and ask myself, how would I make this better? Or visit websites and do the same thing.

Another great exercise is asking yourself, what would my perfect life look like, and what products or services would help me attain that life? Because if it would help you, it will help lots of people.

At the end of the day though, you have to look inward at your own passions and expertise rather than simply identifying good opportunities. For example, I had a really great business idea, but it was in an industry where I had no experience -- so I had no network, didn't speak the lingo, and didn't really understand the day-to-day life of those who work in that industry. For this reason, my idea never got off the ground.

Once I tapped into my interest and expertise, my confidence soared, and success became much easier.

I spent not just 5 minutes, but 15 minutes, thinking about what frustrates me, as parman suggested, with no luck in coming up with business ideas.

Uh, 15 whole minutes? I go WEEKS pacing my house in a daze, trying to tap into my creativity. Shut off all media, isolate yourself from the world, grab a notebook and let your inner vision spring forth.
posted by blargerz at 11:30 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing I've always thought would be cool to set up (but I don't know if there's really a market, plus I'm lazy) is a website where people contribute names and ideas. E.g. a great name for a florist shop. Or the perfect title for a book on X. Or great band names. And then if you want a name for something, you pay a small fee to get access to the website for a short time. Maybe $20 gets you access to browse it for a week. If you choose a name from the website, $10 of that fee goes to the person who contributed the name.

A big hurdle is that the website really doesn't provide value until there's already a lot of good names in a lot of categories, so you'd probably have to put in lots of your own ideas first, and they'd need to be good.

I would also love there to be a similar website with ideas for research projects. I'm always coming up with ideas for research projects in my field that I will probably never do because I am working on other unrelated things right now, or because the logistics are difficult, or I'm in the wrong country to make it easy. I'd happily give those ideas away to other people. And I imagine that potential phd students trying to come up with a project, would like to be able to browse a giant list of ideas. It's probably too niche to be marketable, though.
posted by lollusc at 5:47 PM on January 27, 2012

You can now apply to Y Combinator even if you do not have a product idea.
Y Combinator is trying an experiment this funding cycle. We're going to have a separate application track for groups that don't have an idea yet.

So if the only thing holding you back from starting a startup is not having an idea for one, now nothing is holding you back. If you apply for this batch and you seem like you'd make good founders, we'll accept you with no idea and then help you come up with one. (We'll consider single founders too, but we prefer groups.)

Why are we doing this? Partly because we realized we already were. A lot of the startups we accept change their ideas completely, and some of those do really well. Reddit was originally going to be a way to order food on your cellphone. (This is a viable idea now, but it wasn't before smartphones.) Scribd was originally going to be a ridesharing service.

The other reason we're doing it is that our experience suggests that smart people who think they can't come up with a good startup idea are generally mistaken. Almost every smart person has a good idea in them. A good startup idea is simply a significant, fixable unmet need, and most smart people are at least unconsciously aware of several of those. They just don't know it. And we now have lots of practice helping founders see the startup ideas they already have.
posted by alms at 7:29 AM on March 15, 2012

Another option to check out is Founder Dating. Maybe there's someone out there with an idea who's looking for a cofounder just like you.
posted by alms at 7:46 PM on August 5, 2012

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