For former UBC student Madison Guy, this past summer was anything but relaxing. Instead of being out and enjoying the warm weather, Guy was in her office working 10 to 14 hours per day just to keep up with the steady stream of students signing up for GrantMe, a startup she founded this past May.
GrantMe is a service-based company that helps students access the millions of dollars in scholarship funding that goes unclaimed every year. Since May, the service has helped students claim over $120,000 in funding.
“All you see are these big entrance awards or these other big scholarships where you need like a 90 per cent average in order to qualify,” said Guy, a recent graduate of the UBC Sauder School of Business. “Those are the ones that are marketed and that everyone sees.”
“[But] unless you’re doing a ton of research, you’re not going to come across the smaller ones — not smaller in terms of money, but smaller as in not as well known.”
With GrantMe, students fill out an eligibility form that Guy uses to determine likely sources of funding by navigating through thousands of potential scholarships and then narrowing it down to only a few.
“When [students] have limited time already, they can’t afford to spend hours sifting through a thousand different scholarships to find the ones that they are eligible for. That’s why I make it really simple, by only offering one or two,” said Guy.
The concept of GrantMe began when, after her 2016 soccer season at UBC had ended, Guy found herself with a lot of spare time on her hands. The previous summer, Guy had been researching scholarships and had managed to secure herself over $50,000 in funding which led her to wonder whether others knew how much funding was available.
After taking her findings to the UBC athletic department, she began presenting to varsity teams. Before she had spoken to more than a few, one thing became obvious: nobody knew there were millions of dollars in funding that they could be accessing, according to Guy.
“They were just dumbfounded that they was money just sitting out there, waiting for them, that they just weren’t touching,” Guy recalled.
Guy said she started out with the athletic community because there was already a personal connection.
“I knew I could get myself in front of them as I was an athlete myself, and I think there was that automatic sense of trust because we were in the same community.”
According to Guy, she owes a lot of her initial success to the support she received from UBC’s athletic community.
“I think without me having gone to the varsity athletics in the first place, none of this would have happened for me. They were the people that got behind me right from the get-go and believed in me and what I was doing.”
Despite having a clear source of interest from student athletes, Guy still had to gain the trust of her clients.
“I think the hardest part for me was getting people to believe that it was real. It wasn’t until I actually started helping them physically apply for these scholarships, then seeing the results, that they kind of were like, ‘okay she knows what she’s doing,’” she said.
After helping a number of students find scholarships she decided to formalize her services, which lead to the founding of GrantMe.
“Honestly, I can say there is nothing that can prepare you for entrepreneurship,” said Guy, noting that her time at UBC’s Sauder School of Business certainly helped make the project possible. “I can’t even count, on both my hands, how many times at Sauder [that] I had to get up in front of 50, 70 people and present. Now, I present to a hundred-person football team.
“That’s something that if I didn’t have those experiences in my undergrad, I definitely wouldn’t have been prepared for.”
In the coming months, Madison hopes to hit the big varsity programs across BC. But her greatest challenge won't be finding new clients, it will be expanding her staff so she can focus on big picture aspects of the business.
“The hardest thing for me is building a team. For the past six months I’ve been doing it completely all on my own.”
Though, as her company expands Guy maintains that giving students personalized advice is still her number one priority.
“For me, giving students accurate information and making sure that I’m taking care of them, that’s what is most important to me.”