Catching Up With Christopher Gray
As he prepares to graduate, the Scholly founder talks about his company's progress since Shark Tank and looks back at his time at Drexel.
May 12, 2015
by Zach Epstein
As he wraps up what is perhaps best described as a unique final year at Drexel, we spoke to Scholly founder Christopher Gray — a LeBow College of Business and Close School of Entrepreneurship student majoring in entrepreneurship — about his company’s new White House connection, how Shark Tank has changed his life and the advice he’d give to young Drexel entrepreneurs.
You recently announced your partnership with My Brother's Keeper, in which Scholly is being provided to every student in the program. How did you get involved?
It’s a program that helps minority boys get access to opportunities, whether that’s opportunities for college or opportunities for their career. Daymond [John] supports the organization, and he is working with the White House. He was actually at the [announcement] event, so he brokered the deal and he set it up. It came out of nowhere. Daymond’s team called us on a Friday, and by Monday it was done.
And you have a personal connection to the program…
The program speaks to my background. It helps students who are underprivileged get opportunities, something that I had to fight for. I’m very passionate about it personally. I’m going to get involved more on a personal level. Being aligned with what the White House is doing is exciting.
It’s been almost three months since your episode of Shark Tank aired. How has your life changed since that moment? Has anyone recognized you in public from your appearance on the show?
Things have been surreal. From random people on the street to the firefighters in a fire truck yelling my name, Shark Tank has really created that celebrity effect of sorts. On the company side, we have been extremely busy with different deals, cities buying Scholly, being endorsed by guidance counselors, non-stop press, and a lot more.
What’s your relationship with Lori and Daymond like now? Have they helped you to handle all the post-Shark Tank success?
Daymond and Lori are great and have been incredibly helpful. Their connections have been invaluable in our recent progress. We definitely chose the right investors on the Tank.
You just won $75K at the Cupid’s Cup in Maryland. How’d you get involved with the competition? What was the entry process like?
The competition representatives reached out when Scholly was named one of Inc. Magazine’s “Coolest College Start Ups.” It was a great opportunity that I’d never heard of until then. There is a semi finalist round, and then the finals are a big production. There were around 1,300 people attending the event. It was a big deal.
You’ve presented Scholly at competitions and in front of big time investors before. Was this different? Were you nervous?
No, I wasn’t nervous. I have given the same pitch numerous times so it was pretty easy.
The Cupid’s Cup is chaired by Kevin Plank. What did he say to you? Did he offer any words of wisdom after your victory?
Kevin Plank is a very charismatic, charming leader. He loved Scholly and thought the company had lots of potential. He and I are actually having lunch soon to talk. He wants to support Scholly.
Tell me about the partnership with the city of Memphis. How did that come about?
After our deal with Saxbys got some press, a city councilman in Memphis reached out to get Scholly for the city’s students. He was passionate and really wanted to help.
Do you hope to do more of these partnerships with city governments, local schools, etc.?
Yes, we have other cities and even states in the pipeline, as well as the White House program.
As you prepare to graduate and leave Drexel, have you found yourself looking back on your experience here? What sticks out?
Drexel has been a fun ride. Although I spent most of my college career working more than socializing, to be able to accomplish so much before I even graduated has been an amazing experience. It’s hard to pinpoint one experience that sticks out, but I think Shark Tank takes the win on the coolest experience.
What’s surprised you the most about running a company?
Running a company as a student is certainly a learning curve. You are young and passionate, but you still have a lot to learn. It’s a process and I have made mistakes, but I was able to learn from those mistakes and grow.
If you could tell a younger version of yourself one thing, perhaps as you were just starting out with Scholly, what would it be?
Before you go to market, create a solid plan on how to maximize every opportunity. The reason I would say this is because while Scholly is doing well and has had some amazing opportunities, with more planning and organization, we would have gotten even more out of some of those opportunities.