We are a platform that brings together both families and banks to find solutions to pay for tuition. We partner with private student loan companies to create solutions where the traditional credit profile family would be turned down.
Who are the key members of your team?
- Stacie Whisonant, CEO and founder
- Richard Adams works with schools to market the product and walk students through our platform. He works works with both users and customers. Richard is able to get in front of a lot of students and work with them directly which allows us to build trust.
How do you differentiate yourself from competition?
We combine crowdfunding with reducing the debt burden. We encourage students to raise funds first to lower the tuition need. This also serves as social capital. If friends and family that are willing to help, this proves to us that the students has support from within their community.
What is your target market?
Students or their family with a credit score of 700 or less, $80,000 in combined family income or lower. We primarily work with juniors and seniors in college with proven academic, social and professional success to help them bridge the tuition gap to graduation.
Where can customers buy your product?
Students find us through financial aid directors, online, through friends and family, community organizations such as mentor groups and college success programs. They can engage with us through www.gopyt.com.
What trends do you see in the market?
Student debt burden is getting higher and higher because the costs of tuition continues to rise while the resources remain stagnant. The private student loan market is getting bigger because students need to find ways to fill the gap. We are trying to offer an alternative for those students who either never qualified or have exhausted traditional student loan options.
Why did you choose RVA to launch your company?
I was born and raised in South Hill, Virginia, so Richmond was always the closest city. Joining Lighthouse Labs to take PYT Funds to the next level was a good way to come back home!
What’s your background?
I am a U.S. Army veteran. After eight years of active service I spent the next 14 in the banking and finance industry. That’s where I discovered the inefficiencies in the market that leave so many students unserved.
What has shaped you as an entrepreneur to date?
My time in the military ingrained in me an attitude of not giving up and being pushed to my maximum capacity. Looking back, I see how my family built this foundation by giving me the moral support throughout my upbringing. I don’t remember anyone in my family ever trying something and not continuing it. Not just in terms of entrepreneurship; I’d say we were always nurtured by a mindset of tenacity.
Tell us about a recent win in your company you are excited about.
We just signed our second big partnership this summer which allowed us to bring to market our first no co-signer product: 90% of student loans today require a cosigner like a parent, the launch of this product was the first to the market where parents aren’t required.
Describe your Lighthouse experience so far. What has been your biggest take-away to date?
The Richmond startup community has been great; I always feel like people are anxious to find ways to help us move forward, even if it’s not their area of expertise.
What is one specific need that we as a community can help you with right now?
If you know a family that needs additional help in paying for tuition, send them our way!
What books do you recommend for budding entrepreneurs?
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.