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Actor And Activist Jesse Williams: 'I'm Certain I'm Making A Difference'

Actor And Activist Jesse Williams: 'I'm Certain I'm Making A Difference'

Jesse Williams recently sat down with NPR and spoke about how he's making a difference. We were honored to have a substantial place in that.  It was a wide-ranging interview that focused on acting and activism. We're proud of him, and our relationship with him. Below is an excerpt where he mentions us, and how important our mission is to creating opportunity for all.

On his collaborations on mobile apps

"I'm proudest of collaboration; I'm not proudest of any independent action. You mentioned mobile apps, and to be clear, I'm a co-founder of Ebroji, a GIF-kind of cultural language keyboard, but Scholly — I have come on as a board member and a brand ambassador and partner in the company, but it was founded and created by Christopher Gray. And that is a mobile app that aggregates and connects students to millions and millions of dollars of scholarships every year.

There's over $100 million in scholarships every year that go unclaimed. People just aren't aware of them. And on the Scholly app, you plug in your information, your demographic, your height, you're left-handed, you love the clarinet, you used to wrestle, and we would pull together all the scholarships that are available to you. And we've connected students to over $70 million in real scholarships, in real money so far."



The Smithsonian Awards intro video ...

The Smithsonian Awards intro video ...

Several weeks ago we were honored by The Smithsonian as M. Night Shyamalan introduced Christopher Gray with the American Ingenuity Award for Youth Achievement. We wanted to share this exceptional intro video that celebrates and summarizes our story on how we're bringing opportunity to all people, by making their scholarship search more efficient and more successful. Winning these awards isn't about ego for us, it is a reflection that we are making progress on our vision to help all students achieve their potential. We will continue to earn it, every day.

Christopher Gray on How to be a Social Entrepreneur.

Christopher Gray on How to be a Social Entrepreneur.

Recently the New York Times published this awesome article on Scholly's Founder, Christopher Gray. In it, he shares advice for students hoping to launch a sustainable social venture — we wanted to paraphrase a couple points from it in case you may have missed it. While Christopher may have made his social entrepreneurial contribution by inventing a scholarship-search platform that connects students with money for college, the ingredients can be consistent through any venture. 

Find Your Motivation

Being from Birmingham, Ala., you tend to want to get out of Birmingham, Ala. I wanted to be a tech entrepreneur. I wanted to escape and get to a place where I could do that. My brother and sister were 4 and 2 at the time I was going to college. I wanted to break the cycle and create a better life for them. They now have someone they can see who’s different than what’s around them. All the success is just surreal, and it’s emotional. When I started Scholly, my goal wasn’t to make a billion dollars. It was to help a lot of people.

The ‘Aha’ Moment

Realizing there’s a big market, that’s when I knew this could be a business. At Drexel I was around a lot of kids who had different backgrounds. I saw, it’s not just me. Both parents could make 100K, but they have three kids in college. They need scholarships, too.

Make a Deal

To get on “Shark Tank,” my advice would be to find a producer and have a conversation. A producer spoke to one of my friends at Drexel and I ran up to ask for an introduction. I pitched my story and ended up calling him, like, six times. Be persistent. The producer I talked to had to find scholarships of his own, so he understood. Find people who identify with what you’re doing.

Leverage Your Peers

You have a lot of people around you who want to get experience and will work for free. And a lot of your friends have connections. One of my investors is Springleaf and that came from a guy I partied with. His dad is the C.E.O.

Leverage Your University

Your university wants your success as much as you do. I was a student when I appeared on “Shark Tank.” That’s a big thing for the school. Drexel helped promote us. Your university has tons of networking events and marketing opportunities. Students don’t have money, so we have to figure out the most inexpensive way to get the word out there.

Tap Student-Specific Cash

There are so many funding opportunities specifically for students. I think students miss that sometimes. I won $75,000 from Cupid’s Cup, an entrepreneurship competition for students and recent graduates. At Drexel, I won $32,000 in an incubator competition.


When you’re a student, you study hard for a test and you make an A. You have a degree of control over your success. When you’re an entrepreneur, you can work eight months on a deal and it may not go through. Markets change. Investors change their minds. When that happens, be resilient. Students may not be used to dealing with that yet. If a little boy from Birmingham, Ala., can go to college, pay for it and build a successful company before the age of 25, so can you.

And the 2016 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Youth Achievement goes to ...

And the 2016 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for Youth Achievement goes to ...

It is with great pride that we're finally able to announce that our Founder and CEO, Christopher Gray, is to be honored as a winner of the 2016 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards for creating Scholly.

From their site: First introduced in 2012, the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Awards was created to recognize the previous year's shining achievements, of individuals in nine categories, who have had a revolutionary effect on how we perceive the world and how we live in it. Groundbreaking innovators are across categories including technology, performing and visual arts, natural and physical sciences, education, historical scholarship, social progress and youth achievement. The honorees embody the Smithsonian Institution's mission of increasing and diffusing knowledge.

As the winner of their Youth Achievement category they further explain that, "Christopher Gray is the founder and CEO of Scholly, the groundbreaking web and mobile app that matches current or future college students who need financial support with scholarships that can help them. Scholly has been downloaded 850,000 times and has connected college students with some $50 million in scholarships. Philadelphia-based Gray, an ABC “Shark Tank” winner and recipient of a $100,000 grant from philanthropist Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest competition, sees his digital platform as a 21st-century tool for helping countless young Americans achieve their college dreams without piling on crushing debt."

We are truly humbled by this great honor and to be in the company of Jeff Bezos, Aziz Ansari, OK GO, David Lynch, and other incredible people this year. We don't do what we do for the recognition, but we'll be honest with you, when we get it from an organization like The Smithsonian well... it sure  does feel good. 

See the other winners here.


Scholly gets "The Oprah Effect"

Scholly gets "The Oprah Effect"

I was first introduced to Oprah when I was in pre-school. She was constantly on my great grandmother’s (may she rest in peace) television. At that point in my life, all I wanted to do was watch cartoons and play video games, so I sat impatiently until the Oprah Winfrey Show went off or until my grandmother fell asleep. 

As I grew up and started Scholly, and as I became a social entrepreneur, I really started to understand the value of all the amazing things she has done for people in need, and the example she has set for people of color in terms of success, education, and hard work. Her influence and impact on the world in quite arguably, unparalleled.

So when I found out I made her inaugural Super Soul 100 List, alongside stars like Jesse Williams, Amandla Sterling, Linked In CEO Jeff Weiner, India Arie, and many more I was ecstatic. To be named essentially as one of her “Favorite People” is a dream come true and something I will treasure for years to come (likely for the rest of my life).

In Oprah's own words, "Scholly has helped students across America win over 30 million dollars in scholarships and counting." To have our work recognized by the most influential woman on the planet means that our work has only begun, and we have an even higher bar to reach for.

So help us help you and students across the nation find money to pay for college by downloading Scholly and sharing the app with your friends.

Join Scholly and Oprah and all of the others who are backing Scholly, as we work together to change the world! 

Blast from the past: A compliment, from Mr. Wonderful?!

Blast from the past: A compliment, from Mr. Wonderful?!

Remember the big fight we started on Shark Tank that caused Mark, Robert, and Kevin to walk out?  Chris appeared on CNBC last year and had Kevin O'Leary compliment his pitch, calling it Masterful... watch it below. While we're super-proud to receive a compliment from Mr. Wonderful himself, what we're really proud of is the fact that since then, we've helped students raise over $35 Million in scholarship awards. If you haven't checked out Scholly, you can create an account right here!