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Why Graduate School is the Best Time to Start a Business

Many students go to business school with entrepreneurial aspirations. But why wait until you graduate to start turning your goals into reality? Graduate school is a great time to start a business! Here’s a closer look at five reasons to launch your startup while working toward your MBA.

Nov 14, 2019
  • Education
Why Graduate School is the Best Time to Start a Business

1. You’ll have freedom and flexibility you won’t have after you graduate

Unless you’re able to pull off starting your own company straight out of your MBA program, you are likely to end up with a corporate job. But corporate jobs come with corporate commitments, including long hours, limited vacation time, and other constraints. While MBA programs are demanding, they also have more flexible schedules with built-in time off during the summer as well as throughout the year.

MBA graduate Sanjay Patel told Business Insider, “There is, of course, a lot going on during business school. With all the classes, group meetings, clubs, and socializing, time to work on an idea can be short. But in reality, you can make a lot of free time for yourself if you actively want to. I probably took a nap 4-5 times a week, went out to dinner/drinks 3-4 times a week, and watched almost as much TV as when I was 10 years old.”

While Patel waited until after business school to start his business, he urges others to take a more proactive approach. “Don’t make the same mistake I did – use this free time to work on your business,” he urged.

Furthermore, if you’ve got a corporate job, you will likely have to tread carefully when it comes to using company time and resources. These concerns won’t be factors when you’re in graduate school — especially if you choose an entrepreneur-friendly program.

And then there’s the fact that the longer you stay within the safety of a high-paying corporate job, the less likely you will be to break out alone, with all of the risk (as well as freedom) that comes with it. Conversely, starting a business while in business school typically involves far less risk. Ultimately, the phrase “now or never” applies!

2. You’ll have an abundance of expertise at your fingertips

Faculty and staff, guest visitors and speakers, alumni, and fellow classmates are all invaluable resources. While these resources may not be easily accessible in the real world, they’re all readily available for students. Whether or not you have class with a particular professor, it’s always possible to seek advice and feedback. A robust alumni network, meanwhile, can further increase the number of doors that open in front of you.

Patel adds, “The combination of your peers and professors makes up a once-in-a-lifetime pool of resources. Your classmates will always be more than happy to bounce ideas back and forth and help you develop your business model. Most of your professors, who often charge large sums of money to consult to companies, will be excited to work with you for free (let’s ignore the cost of tuition for now) to develop your sales strategy, marketing plan, revenue model, financial projections; they’ll even put you in touch with investors. These are all services that you would pay tons of money for in the real world, so put your tuition dollars to work and take advantage while you can.”

And who knows? You may even find your future business partner sitting next to you in class! After all, huge companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, Reddit, Wordpress, Google, Time Magazine, and Dell all trace their beginnings back to university.

3. You’ll be able to capitalize on connections

Starting a business in business school isn’t just about gaining access to knowledge; it’s also about gaining access to real opportunities. In addition to theoretical coursework, many contemporary MBA programs are increasingly focused on helping students learn to apply the topics learned in the ‘real world’. Additionally, many 21st-century business schools offer other programs aimed at further supporting entrepreneurship, such as incubators and startup labs.

4. You’ll be ready to hit the ground running when you graduate

Not only does starting a business in business school allow you to immediately start using what you learn, but it also gives you a serious jumpstart when you do graduate and enter the real world. Plus, you will have had the chance to work out any kinks within a supportive and nurturing environment designed specifically to help you move forward.

And then there’s the fact that, if your business does succeed, you’ll be spared from the job hunting process while positioning yourself to work for the best person in the world for the job: yourself! “The recruiting process is miserable. Yes, I said it. Countless cocktail receptions, company presentations, and interview prep all to get a job that, based on what my peers are telling me, most people don’t like. So start your own business, and if it’s good enough to get some funding, you’ve got yourself a job by the time you graduate – a job where you are the boss and control your own destiny,” said Patel.

Even if your business doesn’t take off, it’s likely you won’t really be worse off than if you had not given it a go. You can still get a job — and with your new, entrepreneurial skills showcased on your resume.

5. Some business school programs are uniquely ripe for innovation and entrepreneurship

Not all business schools are created equal. Some, particularly the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, which was ranked 10th in the U.S. for entrepreneurship by Bloomberg Businessweek, put innovation and entrepreneurship front and center! This is no better shown than with the school’s flagship Lab to Market course series, an immersive experience unique to Rady during which participants learn how to transform their ideas into viable market opportunities, while simultaneously acquiring the skills they need to make it happen.

Aimed at creating growth-oriented managers for both emerging and established companies, Lab to Market begins in the classroom and progresses into a project-based environment over its three-course sequence -- all the while with access to Rady’s network of external advisors and coaches.

Julio De Unamuno, from Rady’s FlexWeekend 2014 program, is just one Rady School alumnus making waves in the business world. He identified a key issue for biotech startups — gaining access to expensive laboratories. Just five years on, his San Diego tech startup LabFellows, which makes software helping labs automate paperwork and thus frees up scientists from menial tasks, is being used by some of the biggest names in consumer science, including Impossible Foods, which counts no less than Jay-Z, Trevor Noah, Katy Perry, Jaden Smith, Serena Williams, and as investors.

“Rady has made a big impact on my career and my career growth. I went from an individual contributor to now leader of a startup,” he says. “Lab to Market was a great experience. In fact, I really think of Lab to Market as a process. It taught us the lean process. How can we build a sustainable business model and look at the value proposition we are trying to offer — and take it apart? What are the riskiest pieces that your business model hinges on? And how can you really find out — quickly — if it’s a winner...or a failure?”

He also has high praise for StartR, Rady’s startup accelerator program. He says, “[It] was a great experience for us as a team. I started as a solo entrepreneur and I was able to work with the network that comes with Rady to work with and attract a passionate team who saw this vision and wanted to get behind it.”

Sher Ali Butt, co-founder and CEO of biotech company CB Therapeutics, which specializes in the biosynthetic production of cannabinoids from sugar, is another Rady Lab to Market success story. Butt says, “CB Therapeutics was put together while I did my full-time MBA. I learned the different aspects of the art and science of startups, and applied them to get an idea on paper [and evolve it] to a company with a 10,000-square-foot production space in Carlsbad. It really helped to make local connections in the San Diego area, while Rady was a huge help getting our first lab space (1,645 sq.ft.), and subsequently our new pilot facility in Carlsbad. Lab to Market is a great course, and I highly recommend it to anyone considering startups while at Rady.”

Why dream about starting a business one day when you can start one while in business school? Rady’s top-ranked MBA is designed with exactly this in mind!

Article written in association with Rady School of Management.

Joanna Hughes


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.