Christopher Gray, the eldest of three siblings, struggled a lot growing up. He and his siblings were raised by their single mother who did not have much. Gray found role models through reading. He read books by seasoned authors including Snowball, the biography of Warren Buffett and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Those books helped him identify his potential.
As an eight-year-old growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, he also found inspiration in comic books and superheroes like Batman, according to Smithsonian Magazine. “He had a moment where everything fell apart. He lost his family, lost everything. He had to overcome that, overcome those fears, by using everyday things around him,” Gray said of his attachment to Batman.
At the tail end of his high school, his mother lost her job as a result of the 2008 recession. The odds of not attending college were starring him in the face. His mother’s credit score was not good. Moreover, no member of his family had ever gone to college.
His hope of finding scholarship grants online was also becoming frustrating because he did not have a computer. Instead, he made use of a public library where had to spend just 30 minutes so as to make way for others. He had to complete his research in a short time, log off, and then wait until a computer became available again. The process took him about seven months to find credible scholarships to apply for.
The stressful process eventually paid off for him, he said. He landed $1.3 million in scholarships and enrolled at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he majored in business administration. According to him, the scholarships covered him until his Ph.D.
Not oblivious to his own struggles to finance his education, Gray decided to create a solution to assist people like him. This led him to found Scholly, a platform that makes it easier for students to find scholarships. Prior to starting Scholly, he found out that each year, some $100 million in scholarships go unclaimed. Yet, students were drowning in debt.
In 2015, his breakthrough came when he appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and convinced the sharks to invest in his idea. He secured $40,000 in capital. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the Scholly website was inundated with requests, 80,000 in a few hours after the program was aired.
Since then, thousands of users have downloaded the app. What is more, the app has already helped students with over $100 million in scholarships.