Exclusive Q&A with Christopher Gray, Founder/CEO of Scholly on How to Make a Social Impact with your Startup

Are you passionate about launching a business venture that makes a profound social impact? If so, you’ll love our Q&A with Christopher Gray, the Founder and CEO of Scholly.  He and his startup were recently featured on Shark Tank and landed a deal with two sharks, Daymond John and Lori Grenier, as well as made into Forbes’ “30 under 30” list.

Christopher Gray, Founder and CEO of Scholly

In this Q&A, we’ll talk in brief about Scholly, social entrepreneurship and tips on how to find scholarships. Read on.

Ivan Widjaya (Q): Hi, Christopher – please kindly introduce yourself to our readers

Christopher Gray (A): I’m Christopher Gray, the founder and CEO of Scholly, a web and mobile app that helps students find scholarships for college. I was actually still a college student at Drexel University when I created Scholly in an effort to help others pursuing a route that was all too familiar to me.

Growing up in an inner city school system and a low-income household headed by a single mother of three, trying to get what I needed to attend college was a challenge. Despite that, I was determined to go and spent long and laborious hours searching and applying for scholarships on the only devices available to me at the time, my cell phone and public computers. Ultimately, my hard work paid off and I won more than $1.3 million dollars in scholarships to fund my education.

While an undergraduate at Drexel University, I decided to help future students avoid the painstaking application process I had endured and decided to streamline the process by developing Scholly. Scholly has an adaptive matching engine that performs with laser-like focus, delivering smarter, targeted lists of scholarships and saving applicants valuable searching time. In less than two years, the app has helped students win over $35 million in scholarship funds.

Scholly website

Q: You Co-founded Scholly. It’s a very useful app! Can you share with us what Scholly is and how did you come up with the idea?

A: (Please see my response above) The app was conceived out of my own frustrating experiences when applying to colleges and trying to find scholarships. The search process took me months and there was an ungodly amount of grit and persistence required. It can take some students even longer and most just give up altogether. I knew there had to be an easier way to match students with scholarships they qualify for.

As a result, I developed Scholly. Scholly is an integrated app and web platform on a mission – to provide access to untapped funding sources for students everywhere. I designed it to simplify the search for scholarship money and promote student success. Scholly uses my patented 8 parameter system to instantly connect students with the scholarships that fit them best. Now in its second generation, Scholly has several new features that streamline the experience even further. For example, applicants can start and manage their search online and continue on a mobile device when on-the-go, or vice-versa. The goal of Scholly is to streamline the search process and to give students access to funds to pay for college.

Q: You are featured as Forbes’ “30 under 30” – congratulations! What is getting featured means to you, and how does it impacts your business?

A: Being named on Forbes’ 30 under 30 was so exciting and such an honor. To be recognized among so many other distinguished young professionals helps reaffirm that we are truly making an impact here at Scholly. My hope is that this recognition will allow me to make connections with other young entrepreneurs who are interested in our mission. Additionally, I hope that the feature helps spread the word even further about Scholly, in turn arming more students with the tools they need to find scholarships and attend college.

Q: What’s your plan for Scholly’s future?

A: Scholly’s mission is to provide access to opportunity. While we are starting with scholarships, we plan to begin to match students with and promote other educational opportunities as well. Our slogan is, “opportunity for all” and we plan to provide that access through our platform.

Q: Any tips for our readers who are looking for scholarships but don’t know how to get started?

A: Here’s a couple tips that are important to keep in mind:

  • High School Students should start searching for scholarships during their junior year of high school to create a cumulative list of the scholarships they are applicable for.  Then senior year can be devoted to the actual process of applying for the scholarships.
  • A good number of scholarship essay questions are very similar to one another.  It is smart to write a few essays and then find scholarships with similar essay prompts. This allows students to apply for more scholarships with maximum efficiency.
  • Apply for smaller scholarships. Smaller, less well-known scholarships tend to receive fewer applicants because students think they won’t make an impact in the overall cost of college. However, if you win ten $1,000 scholarships, I think you would agree that it’s worth it.  It might require you to apply for a larger number of scholarships, but in the end you are increasing your chances of getting selected.
  • Apply for scholarships that have a very specific requirement such as being vegetation, LGBT or left handed. Since some scholarships are so specific, they tend to be less competitive.

Many thanks, Chris, for your time!