Helping students tap into a wealth of scholarship opportunities

Posted 2020-08-07
It was a straight flush at this year’s BC Business 30 Under 30 Awards with four UBC Sauder alumni and one staff member making the list of B.C.’s most enterprising young business leaders. In this summer series, we interview one winner each week and find out what entrepreneurship means to them.

Madison Guy is only 25 years old but clearly comfortable with all the responsibility that comes with leading an organization. As captain of the UBC women’s soccer team, she led the Thunderbirds to win the national championship in 2015 and today leads a high-growth technology start-up in the education space.

“I feel like everything I’ve learned has been primarily through sport,” says the founder and COO of GrantMe, a company that helps students apply for scholarships.

“I’m super results-oriented and incredibly competitive, but as a leader I think my biggest strength is the ability to motivate people to get the result without having to tell them, but rather for them to see for themselves that it’s something they want. I would attribute that to sport and being an athlete.”

Madison Guy was captain of the UBC Thunderbirds women’s soccer team where she learned about strategy, taking risks and learning from failure – experiences that she now applies as an entrepreneur.

Guy’s inspiration for her business came from personal experience. Growing up playing competitive soccer in Langley, she was awarded a scholarship to play for the Thunderbirds while pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree at UBC Sauder. While the money was welcomed, it didn’t cover all of her tuition and living expenses.

Training 30 hours a week left little time for Guy to find a job that would pay enough to cover her costs. Rather than going into debt, she did some digging to find out what other scholarships were available. What she discovered was a treasure trove of scholarship opportunities that go unclaimed year after year.

Guy started applying for scholarships and awards while keeping a database of all the opportunities she could find. That database turned into a business idea. “I was in my last year of school and was looking for a way to give back to the student athlete community,” recalls Guy. “Many athletes had never applied for a scholarship even though they were great candidates and at the same time, some of them were going into massive debt, which was crazy.”

Guy reached out to all 600 athletes at UBC and presented to every team. “I handed out free pizza and got myself in front of the 100-person football team, the swim team and other teams and I basically said, hey guys take a chance on me. Let me help you win some scholarships.”

Madison Guy has recruited several UBC Sauder alumni and Co-op students to the GrantMe team.

GrantMe took off and when Guy graduated from UBC Sauder in 2017, rather than hunting for a job like her classmates, she decided to scale up her venture.

“Initially I took a percentage of the scholarship funds won by my clients, then I started providing educational consulting to support clients in the application process,” says Guy. “Today, GrantMe uses a digital platform where students enter their information and then they’re matched with scholarship opportunities,” explains Guy. “It’s a free service at that point. Then we charge a consultation fee to support the application-writing process.”

In just three years, GrantMe has helped over 2,700 Canadian students win more than $4.2 million in scholarships ($9,200 per award on average.) The business, which will triple its revenue this year, has shifted from varsity athletes to high school students. Staying true to Guy’s aversion to debt, the company has not taken out a business loan or partnered with any venture capitalists, preferring to invest the profits back into the business to fund GrantMe’s growth strategy.

Given the long hours and heavy responsibilities that come with being a business owner, Guy’s advice to others interested in entrepreneurship is simple: Do something you love. “I think it would be very hard to meet the challenges you face as an entrepreneur if you weren’t incredibly passionate about waking up every day and tackling some big problems. So my advice is try to align yourself with something you’re really passionate about because you will be able to work ten times harder, think ten times bigger, and ultimately generate ten times the impact if it’s something that you are actually passionate about.”

Sound advice from a 30 Under 30 Award winner who has pivoted from an athletic career to a career in tech while carrying with her all of the wisdom and resilience that comes from experiencing both the victories and the setbacks of building something new.