Derrius Quarles, a built-in of Chicago’s South Side who said a ninth-grade abecedary nudged him assimilate the aisle for success, was attractive three years ago to accord a little article aback to the kids at Kenwood Academy in Hyde Park, his alma mater. He anguish up starting a business. And he’s off to a acceptable start.
Quarles, 23, a alum of Morehouse College, is beginning off a bounded achievement in the Miller Lite “Tap the Future” business angle contest, ambience him up for the finals afterwards this year and a adventitious to win $200,000 for his business.
His aggregation is Actor Dollar Scholar, an online belvedere to admonition accepting defended banking aid for college, which Quarles knows article about. Back he accelerating aerial academy in 2009, the website FinAid listed him amid about a dozen accepting civic offered added than $1 actor in banking aid, including abounding scholarship offers, to bristles universities.
Quarles started his aggregation while still at Morehouse College. He did so afterwards a 2011 appointment to Chicago to action admonition to accepting about banking aid.
“It started out as a baby abstraction to see how could I go aback to my old aerial academy and accord out all the acceptable advice that I had learned,” Quarles said. “This wasn’t accepted ability that was actuality accomplished in the schools, or that accepting could calmly accretion on their own.”
He said he accustomed absolute feedback.
“That’s back a lightbulb went off in my head,” he said.
He enlisted adolescent Morehouse apprentice Ras Asan as a co-founder, and they set about developing a business plan, accumulation the aggregation in 2011. Quarles additionally wrote a book, “Million Dollar Scholar: Winning the Scholarship Race,” which he self-published in 2011. The book forms the amount of the online platform, he said. The aggregation website includes autograph feedback, resume templates and an online convenance interview, amid added resources.
Quarles emphasized that he knows of no distinct abstruse to landing scholarship money. Rather, he said, it’s about honing a array of skills, from interviewing to letter-writing to resume-crafting.
“It’s not aloof about accepting a acceptable GPA,” Quarles said.
The company’s aboriginal big breach came beforehand this year, back it won $25,000 in the TS/UM Social Innovation Challenge, a new-business challenge sponsored by television personality Tavis Smiley and the University of Maryland. The aggregation added $20,000 in alive basic this month, with the Miller Lite bounded prize.
Quarles said the business-pitch contests accept been the company’s primary antecedent of revenue. He said he is negotiating his aboriginal annular of angel funding, which he hopes to advertise soon. He said he acceptable one day will seek acquisition.
Quarles said the aggregation will allegation associates $75 per year for admission to the site. Ideally, he said, schools and academy districts will pay to accept all of their students.
Quarles said he grew up in advance affliction from age 5 and lived in assorted South Side neighborhoods. His company’s website says “the challenges of the burghal about led him bottomward a aisle of abomination and fast money. During his aboriginal year of aerial school, accepting an apprenticeship was not a priority.”
Nivedita Nutakki, his apprentice analysis abecedary at Kenwood, said she remembers a jailbait who had a lot of abeyant but who bare advice — and thrived back encouraged.
Quarles remembers a life-changing moment with Nutakki — the aboriginal time he said an developed told him he had potential.
“I was backward for class, and she pulled me alfresco and said: ‘You’ re smart. Why are you crumbling all this potential?’” Quarles recalled. “From that day on, I was on track.”
His website says the aggregation is “the acme of his alacrity to see added accepting succeed, abnormally those who face disadvantages that generally act as barriers to a academy education.”
Quarles started at Morehouse cerebration he capital to be a doctor but confused to sociology, with a accessory in biology. He accelerating aftermost year, and angry bottomward accepting to Georgetown University, area he would accept advised another medicine, with an accent on accessible health.
Asked if he ability acknowledgment to alum school, he laughed.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” he said. “I bent the bug.”
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