If you think standing in front of five millionaires on national television trying to find money for your business is intimidating, imagine how hard it is for students all across the country to find money for school. That search was the motivation for Christopher Gray to develop Scholly, an app and website that helps students find scholarship money to attend college. Banking off of the initial success of the app, Gray decided to take the company to the next level by appearing on the popular TV show Shark Tank. Chris spoke to EBONY.com about his business and his experience with the sharks:
EBONY: Why did you decide to develop a scholarship app?
Christopher Gray: After a tedious and very long process during school, I won 1.3 million dollars in scholarships! It took me months simply to find a list of scholarships I was eligible for. Also, before I created Scholly, I spent three years consulting and helping other students to find and apply for scholarships as well. The amount of time it took to simply help a student find scholarships they actually qualified for was absurd. With college costs rising, I knew there had to be a better way! That’s why I created Scholly!
EBONY: How does it work?
CG: Scholly is a mobile and web app that gives high school students, current college students, and graduate students a fast and simple way to find scholarships to pay for college. You simply open the app and provide some information about yourself – the state you live in, your GPA, intended major… Press MATCH and there you have it – a list of scholarships that you are eligible for. With our web version, students can receive alerts when scholarship deadlines are coming up, when new scholarships are added to Scholly that they qualify for, and even follow scholarships that have passed to be alerted when those scholarships open up again.
EBONY: How many scholarships are in your database? Who is eligible for a scholarship?
CG:There are several thousand scholarships in our database and we are always adding more. Student of all races and economic backgrounds are eligible. There are lots of scholarships for current college students and graduate students as well.
EBONY: How did you get on Shark Tank?
CG:The producers reached out to me after seeing our article in USA Today.
EBONY: How would you describe your experience on the show?
CG:It was amazing! Talking to the Sharks was like having a conversation! I’ve done so much public speaking in the past that the rapid fire questioning from the Sharks didn’t really bother me. I was surprised that I got a deal so quickly and for exactly what I asked for. No matter the company, the Sharks generally ask for more! Regardless, I was excited to accept the deal!
EBONY: Were you satisfied with the outcome?
CG:Yes! My team and I are incredibly excited to be working with Daymond and Lori! They believed in Scholly as both a business and as a venture that will help millions of Americans pay for college! Those are the kind of investors I want. In regards to the “Shark Fight”, I could have easily answered the questions Mark and Robert had. However, Daymond and Lori gave me exactly what I asked for in addition to believing in Scholly and me. The decision was a no brainer.
EBONY: Any advice for other entrepreneurs thinking about Shark Tank for funding?
CG:If you are looking to get on the show, you need a product and/or a story that appeals to the audience as well as the Sharks! If you do get the opportunity to go on the show, know your pitch and business inside and out. Even though Mark and Robert didn’t get to ask me any business related questions, I came prepared to answer them!
EBONY: What’s next for Scholly?
CG:Although we are focused on the scholarship search at the moment, we are working to make the scholarship process even easier. Next, we are working to move beyond scholarships and evolving into a platform that students can use to get into college and until they graduate from college. There are lots of barriers to entry for college, especially for low-income minorities. Scholly is looking to change that!
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