A Response to Ramit’s 8 Stupid Frat Boy Businesses

I am sure that many of you have already have a chance to read Ramit’ 8 Stupid Frat Boy Businesses as it was featured in the Carnival of Entrepreneurship and I also saw many other sites having links to it. I’ve been a fan of Ramit’s Blog IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com for a little while now, but was not expecting to see a post come like this. If you haven’t had a chance to read the post, check it out now before reading on.

For any of you who haven’t read the post take a quick read through and it return back to continue reading here, or you can just check out the list of 8 business ideas that he bad mouths below:
1. Book Exchanges
2. T-shirt companies
3. Coffee shops/restaurants
4. Anything that is “the Netflix of __,” “Flickr + __,” or “MySpace + ___.”
5. Ideas that compete on price
6. Discount Cards
7. Yet another social network
8. Anthing where you plan to make money exclusively from ads.

Now, I have to say that I do agree that some of these are bad ideas and ones that many, many, many college students think of and try to turn a profit without doing much real research or even thinking about it all. They come up with the idea (not that it’s a new one), post some flyers around campus, and just go for it. But, some of the ideas listed above are indeed viable and, if done correctly, could make the student founders some real money, which is what I wanted to talk about today.

Ramit’s very first business idea of book exchanges shocked me. This is something myself and many others have thought about doing. The problem with this idea is that there is a lot of prior work and research that would need to go into setting up a used bookstore/book exchange. These businesses are not something that can be thought about and put together in a matter of one night of drinking with your buds. Putting together a book exhange service (and I do not mean just a message board for people to say “I have this book and need this one, lets trade”) but a real book exchange or used bookstore takes a lot of time and planning. Some main points students would need to look at is how they are going to be able to compete with the existing on campus bookstore and any other off campus bookstore already existing. If you can figure out how to get the upper edge on teh campu bookstore, then you may have found a winning strategy. The next things you are going to have to do research on are the funding for the bookstore (where are you going to get money to pay rent on a store front, where will money come from to buy the textbooks for the students), how you are going to market your service to the student body besides just flyers (perhaps a coupon that gives $5 off for every $75 you spend on books) and other advertisments.

If you are able to find the winning strategy to compete with the already established campus bookstore (which is probably already backed by Barnes & Noble) and find the funding the back your venture, I say go for it. Be the extreme entrepreneur that you have dreamed about and start a business in the area of your college that “sticks it to the man” and makes you feel you are making a difference in a students life when you are able to pay them more for a book then the on campus bookstore and also sell books for less than the same bookstore.

Ramit puts down the idea of starting a t-shirt compan, even though he did so and had one successful t-shirt (www.bittershirts.com). I think if you are going to go the humor t-shirt route such as that of College Humor’s Busted Ts or others, then you will be in the lane of the other failures who have come before you, unless you find the niche for your humor shirst. Having personally done so myself with an organization that I am involved in on campus, you can create and market humor t-shirts or just t-shirts successfully. Take the niche of your college campus, find something everyone on campus knows about, and put the two together to create a shirt. Take an annual campus event and create a shirt design for it and offer it to the student body to be worn at that event. Create different shirts for each class level student body (Class of 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010) or create t-shirts for graduation and alumni. If you are able to create t-shirts that fit into a specific niche that no one else is offering, then you can have a winning business model. Make it and they will buy it (or at least you hope)!

The other ideas that Ramit throws forward as stupid frat boy businesses, I agree with. Yet, no matter what the idea or how stupid it may really be, you have the ability to create it and attempt to make it work. This is the greatness of entrepreneurship. Every single person has the ability to start a business whether you are a high school student, a college student, or a retired senior citizen. Go for it!

2 Responses to A Response to Ramit’s 8 Stupid Frat Boy Businesses

  1. Dan Marques June 14, 2006 at 6:24 am #

    My problem with Ramit’s post (and I wrote about it on my blog recently as well) is that he is assuming all these ventures are not viable or worthwhile. My feeling is that he has gotten himself all tied up in the VC/high growth mentality that anything other than the ‘next google’ is less than truly entrepreneurial.

    There is a difference between a high growth venture and a lifestyle venture, there are tons of small & viable college ventures that make good money for the young entrepreneurs…they are still entrepreneurs even if it will never be the next google.

  2. Ramit June 14, 2006 at 1:27 pm #

    Thanks for the comments. Dan, no way am I too into the VC/high-growth model. I still do small side projects that are just for fun and would never, ever be funded, and I’m a huge fan of people that do the same kind of small projects.

    But my list of frat-boy business ideas are ones that people start to make money–and they ignore that almost all of the same companies before have failed!

    I’ve written a ton about doing entrepreneurial stuff, which will teach you a lot whether you succeed or fail. But my point is if you’re going to do something entrepreneurial (which is awesome), why not do some research and investigate why most of your predecessors failed?

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