Save Your Money, Skip The MBA, And Go To Startup Grad School Instead

Source | fastCompany : By ELIZABETH SEGRAN

If you have dreams of one day launching your own startup, the idea of getting an MBA may have crossed your mind. After all, business schools are great at explaining how successful companies got off the ground and providing networking opportunities so you can connect with potential investors and cofounders. That’s probably why U.S. Department of Education data indicates that the MBA is the most popular graduate degree.

But Jen Rubio and Steph Korey, who founded the luggage brand Away last year, would encourage you to give business school a miss. “I actually got an MBA from Columbia,” Korey tells Fast Company. “But it was—truthfully—less helpful than startup grad school.”

A recent report from the global leadership consultancy DDI supports Korey’s reasoning. Students can only be exposed to conceptual learning, according to the findings, and they often aren’t able to hone necessary skills like being results-oriented or visionary. That and the cost can be prohibitive. In the U.S., tuition alone for a graduate degree can cost $30,000 at a public college or university and $40,000 at a private school, according to data from Peterson’s.

“Startup grad school” is their term for what Rubio and Korey did in the early years of their career. They met at Warby Parker in 2011, when the company was still only two years old and just finding its place in the market. They were both in their twenties and were given big responsibilities. Rubio ran Warby Parker’s social media efforts while Korey managed its supply chain.

They each left the company to go work at other startups including a British pressed juice brand and Casper, the mattress company. They believe these experiences gave them the skills, industry knowledge, and networks they needed to launch their own direct-to-consumer brand.

Here, they share their thoughts for creating a startup grad school of your own.


Rubio and Korey quickly became friends when they met at Warby Parker because they had compatible personalities, a mutual interest in traveling, and enjoyed hanging out in their spare time. But the reason they knew they would be great business partners was due to their very different skill sets. “We ran such distinct areas of the business at Warby,” Korey recalls. “We were hardly ever in meetings together.”

While Rubio was tasked with helping to tell the brand’s story on social media, Korey focused on the nuts and bolts of the supply chain, managing sourcing and manufacturing. Rubio would describe herself as a creative, while Korey is firmly in the operations side of the business.

The idea for the company came to Rubio when her suitcase broke while she was traveling. When she texted her friends to ask what brand they would recommend, none of them had a positive response. As a brand expert, Rubio immediately spotted that people did not appear to have brand loyalty for luggage companies. Luggage seemed to be just a utilitarian product. She felt she could create a superior brand experience for consumers, but to better understand how luggage was made, she immediately turned to Korey.

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