Grant Me founder Madison Guy on $3.6 million in scholarships, “lone-wolfing-it” and leading a team
Three years ago, Madison Guy couldn’t imagine herself in the start-up world. Now, at 25 years old, the start-up founder manages 24 staff. Six of those people joined her company in the last month alone.
“I always knew I wanted to end up managing people one day,” laughed Guy from her Vancouver office. “I just never thought it would be my own company.”
It all started during the summer after Guy’s second year at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, which she spent securing $50,000 in scholarships online. When she realized that other students weren’t aware of the funding available to them, she envisioned Grant Me - a new venture to help them gain financial freedom during their education. As one does.
“The first thing I did was run my idea past friends and family. I tried to convince myself I wasn’t crazy,” Guy joked. Through the initial support and feedback from fellow students, she launched the company the following year.
“I always knew I wanted to end up managing people one day. I just never thought it would be my own company.”
Grant Me’s first function was to use short questionnaires to match students to scholarships they would be eligible for, saving them time during the application process. Initially, Guy was making all the matches by hand.
For a small fee, Grant Me now offers programs to help students get funding, including application editing and coaching, scholarship matching and university application assistance. The company works with 600-700 students at any given time – it’s like “running a mini high-school,” said Guy.
One former program participant won $115,000 in scholarships over a single year (yes, you read that right). Now, he works full-time with Grant Me while also attending school at UBC.
“Because of the program, his education is fully in his hands – he can design it with no financial pressure,” said Guy.
The company has built a community of more than 50,000 Canadian students and has helped the students that they work with secure over $3.6 million dollars in scholarships. They’ve had to move office spaces to adapt to their own growing team.
“The biggest challenge has been learning how to manage people,” said Guy. Though her business writing, data-collection and Excel spreadsheet skills were vital to the initial development of the company, she said that now, her focus has shifted to the high-level development of people and culture.
“My highest leverage point is having my team have the highest output possible,” she explains. “Most of my time is now spent building the team culture and making sure people have the space to perform at a very high level. But it’s not perfect – it takes will-power not to jump in myself.”
“Before that, I had no entrepreneurial experience. There was a lot of lone-wolfing occurring.”
She said she learned a lot from reading, and from the community of entrepreneurs in Vancouver, some of whom she met during her time at the League of Innovators accelerator.
“Before that, I had no entrepreneurial experience. There was a lot of lone-wolfing occurring,” she joked. “I’ve really been able to connect with other female start-up leaders here – there are a lot of resources in Vancouver supporting female and young entrepreneurs.”
Now, as she grows her team, she looks for people who bring a variety of skills, often creating custom roles for people she feels would fit well with the company culture. Coachability and an entrepreneurial mindset – which she describes as “willingness to learn anything” – are things she looks out for in either FLIK apprentices and future hires.
“The most rewarding thing, and challenging thing, has been building and supporting a team,” said Guy. “And I could never have predicted that three years ago.”
Written by: Irene Galea, FLIK’s Creative in Residence. Learn more about Irene’s work or reach out at http://www.irenegalea.com/.