Approximately 44.7 million Americans have taken out student loans, and the average borrower owes $32,731. In 2019 alone, America’s total student loan debt reached $1.52 trillion.
The average cost for a student to go to an in-state college in the U.S. is $20,770 per year. The only way to lower the price of tuition, without taking out a loan, is by finding grants or scholarships, which can be tricky to find and compete for.
This is where Minorities to Majorities comes in.
Officially founded in 2016, MTM works to connect underrepresented students with scholarships and financial aid opportunities so schools can maximize recruitment and retention.
The spark of an idea
“I always tell people, I kind of fell into entrepreneurship, probably tumbled and tripped into it,” said the founder of MTM, Jasmine Chigbu.
After Jasmine was rejected from all 25 medical schools she applied for, she decided to pursue graduate school. Her next challenge? She had to find a way to pay for it.
“I was like, ‘what’s an opportunity I can get that would be high yield for someone like me?’ So the Black female, maybe the first-generation American, what would that look like?” she said. “I started creating an Excel spreadsheet for myself, looking for different scholarships. And then I quickly realized that there are so many opportunities out there, they’re just so hard to find.”
Oftentimes, going down the rabbit hole of scholarships can be a frustrating and difficult experience. Jasmine spent hours scraping websites and links, only to find herself at a dead-end via a 404 error page.
So, Jasmine wanted to share this spreadsheet filled with scholarships to not only her friends but the public as well.
She said that even though she is ‘non-technical,’ Jasmine always found applications interesting, and she found a company that allowed her to use their pre-made app and put in her own information.
“And so I started playing with it and MTM kind of was just born out of that,” Jasmine said.
Putting in the work
Jasmine had her idea, but the next challenge she faced was turning this concept into a functional reality.
She needed to find out if other students were encountering the same problems she was when looking for scholarships. Luckily, some of her friends are college counselors, so she asked them if this is a problem for the students they help. Their answer? Yes.
“That was my first step. Just figuring out if this was actually a problem for them in their students. So, ‘I have this issue, I was working on this thing, but do other people find this as an issue?’And then from there, it was the process of figuring out the best way to get this information out there,” she said.
After validating her idea, she began to scour the internet for resources and teaching herself the basics of how to create an app.
She said from there, it has been constant refining.
“The first version we put out in 2016, it was horrible if I look at it now, right? Like horrible, horrible, horrible,” Jasmine laughed. “But I think it’s still important to get your vision out there. Get people to give feedback as soon as possible, as quickly as possible. And you should be embarrassed by your first version! I think if you spend too much time perfecting it, you’ll be missing out on getting that critical feedback.”
Jasmine ended up meeting her first team member, Nadiyah Johnson, through the MTM Facebook page.
“Verbalizing what you’re doing can also help attract the appropriate people who you need to build your team and build your mission,” Jasmine said. “It’s been trial and error. We started off with a mobile app and we learned a lot from that. That’s kind of why we transitioned to a web app, and we’re still learning. But I think the biggest key is putting it in front of as many people as you can and getting feedback.”
Rising to the challenge
On April 8 and 9, NC Central University’s School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business hosted their First Annual Pitch Competition. Pitch gives Black student-founders and recent alumni from across the U.S. the opportunity to showcase their business to investors who have committed to investing in Black-founded and Black-led growth businesses.
MTM was one of the many businesses competing to take home the first place $25,000 cash grand prize from Visa and the $25,000 “MVP” design and technology build prize from Carimus.
MTM first applied in January and worked hard to make sure their application and pitch deck was tight and competitive. In March, they found out they had been selected as one of the 16 semi-finalists in the competition.
“From the second we were selected, we were matched with different coaches. So I think three business coaches and one Pitch coach, for a total of four coaches, which was the most valuable thing of the entire competition. I can’t speak to anyone else’s coaches but my coaches were amazing. I think they were very frank, very honest, which is what you need,” Jasmine said. “They all offered different perspectives, and I think that helped our business become stronger, regardless of the outcome of the Pitch competition.”
Jasmine said MTM became stronger before the competition portion even began, thanks to the resources she had been connected with.
Another one of the key takeaways Jasmine gained from Pitch was around pricing. MTM had been trying to figure out the best way to price their product in a competitive market. Jasmine learned companies need to base their pricing not only on their competitors but also to reflect the value of what they are offering.
Having a clear and concise story was also key for not only the Pitch competition but for the business overall.
“I think one of the reasons MTM had success in terms of the pitch, right, is that people could connect with our story regardless of where you come from,” Jasmine said. “So sometimes simplicity is best, right? Especially when you want it to translate information and when you’re trying to sell or get people involved, I think that’s a big thing.”
Jasmine said another important factor to take into account when creating a business is knowing your market. Knowing your market size or competitors can help you take your business to the next level.
“Being deeply ingrained in your numbers and your data will just make you a stronger company,” she said.
In the end, MTM took home the gold, and this is how their relationship with Carimus began.
The road from here
Jasmine said the MTM team has been wanting to rebrand for a while. They don’t want to just be a name, but to have a brand and persona matching who they truly are and what they do.
Winning the prize to work with Carimus presented the perfect opportunity to finally follow through.
“We always say that we are a tool for freedom and opportunity. We want to put more money in the hands of students and we believe money is freedom, it’s choice, it’s an opportunity,” Jasmine said.
MTM wants a brand identity to resonate with this mission so their users feel this in every interaction they have with MTM.
Carimus believes in working on projects with the people and companies we admire. This belief allows us to work on projects we are passionate about, and MTM is one of those projects.
Jasmine said working with Carimus has been an exciting and helpful experience for her and the MTM team.
“I actually enjoy working with you all. It’s not only what you all have been able to produce, but I think the energy, the excitement, how interested and intrigued and even just the chemistry of both teams, I think seems to very much flow. And I think that makes our entire team excited to come and come to work. And we really do feel like you all are invested in helping us build the best brand identity possible,” Jasmine said.
Carimus looks forward to continuing our work with MTM, and we can’t wait to see where this project leads us! Make sure to follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter so you can stay up-to-date on MTM’s progress.