Here we have a talk with Benny Joseph, a recent graduate of Chicago Booth and SoFi entrepreneur who heads the startup GoodApril, an awesome site that will help you save money while filing your taxes. In this post Benny talks about his experience at Booth and offers fantastic advice for incoming Booth students or those thinking about applying to Booth. Thanks Benny!
Accepted: First, some basics: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Benny: I was born and raised in Michigan, in the suburbs just north of Detroit. I decided to stay close to home for college and attended the University of Michigan where I majored in Computer Engineering. After graduating, I moved to San Francisco where I worked in several software engineering roles before deciding to go to business school.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend Booth? Looking back over the last two years, would you say you made the right choice?
Benny: Chicago Booth’s location, reputation for academic rigor, and flexible curriculum convinced me that it was the right school for me. Chicago is an amazing city and I wanted to try something different and experience my MBA in a city rather than a college town like I did at the University of Michigan. I also didn’t want to take the basic classes, and Booth (for the most part) allowed me to skip those classes and enroll in those that I thought would be valuable in my career. My classroom experience has certainly prepared me for my career, and my Chicago Booth network seems to be always introducing me to new career opportunities. But I think more importantly, the great friends I made during the program leave no doubt in my mind that I made the right choice.
Accepted: As a recent Booth graduate, can you offer some tips to some of our readers who may be starting Booth in the fall? Is there anything you wish you’d known about the program before you started?
Benny: It is no secret that business school is about expanding your personal network. That said, you need to work at it. Get to know your classmates. Do all the fun trips, events, and other social activities because that is where you will make those friendships that will last a lifetime.
The other thing that is important is to really spend this summer thinking about exactly what you want to do after your MBA. There isn’t much time to think when you start classes and recruiting literally kicks off the second week of school. Looking back, I wish that I took some time off from work to focus on this by reaching out to people that were currently in the position that I wanted to be in and learn how they got there, what they do every day, and what they like and don’t like about their career.
Accepted: What was your favorite class?
Benny: That is a really tough question to answer. I had several great professors and learned so much. But if I had to pick one, I would have to say the New Venture Challenge was my favorite. I took that class during the last quarter of my 2nd year and it gave me the opportunity to put everything I had learned together in the creation of a new business. Our team ended up placing 3rd that year and we learned quite a bit about the business creation process, especially on how to pitch your company to potential investors.
Accepted: Where you involved in any clubs? How central to student life is club involvement?
Benny: Clubs are certainly a big part of the MBA experience. That said, I think most students make the mistake of joining too many clubs. My advice is to pick a few and be deeply involved in them. I was involved in several clubs at Booth, some social and some professional. I was one of the Co-Chairs of the Hi-Tech Group, a club that helped MBA students prepare for and find careers in technology companies.
While professional clubs are certainly important, the social clubs were equally important and a great way to get to better know your classmates. For example, I was a part of the Risk and Gaming club, which was a fun way to interact with my classmates over a weekly poker game, trips to the local casino, and an annual trip to Las Vegas for the MBA World Series of Poker.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your experience with SoFi? What does it mean to be a SoFi entrepreneur?
Benny: I found out about SoFi because I was searching for a way to lower the interest rate on my school loans. That said, I decided to sign up for SoFi because I really liked the concept of connecting with alumni who were interested in helping and interacting with recent graduates. One example of this is my experience as a SoFi Entrepreneur. GoodApril, the company that I founded, was selected to the inaugural SoFi Entrepreneur class.
SoFi is a company led by a stellar team of serial entrepreneurs who have spent several hours with us reviewing our investor pitch materials and improving our elevator pitch. They have introduced us to several angel investors and recognized us publicly on their website and to the press. SoFi is also hosting a demo/pitch day where several alumni investors will have an opportunity to learn more about and potentially invest in GoodApril.
Accepted: What does GoodApril do? Is that something you knew you wanted to do before heading to b-school? If not, how did the idea develop?
Benny: I always knew that one day I would be an entrepreneur, but I didn’t know exactly what business I would try to start until after I graduated from Booth. The idea for GoodApril was a result of my own personal frustration when I filed my taxes and found out that I would just barely miss out on some deductions that I had thought I would qualify for. I discovered a fundamental flaw in the way that Americans file their taxes: By waiting until April to deal with your taxes, you miss out on any opportunity to take action to lower your taxes. However, there are no good planning tools on the market that can help you with these financial decisions. GoodApril is your year-round tax guide, helping you make better financial decisions today so that you are prepared for and paying the least amount of taxes come April.
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