Stacie Whisonant, Founder of Pay Your Tuition (PYT), an early-stage startup helping college students complete the last stretch their college education with a unique microloan which brings together traditional bank funding, alternative data, and crowdfunding.
Whisonant has over 13 years of experience in the banking and finance industries.Having worked at HSBC and with an extensive knowledge of mortgages, structured settlements, and annuities Whisonant believed that there can be an innovative solution to the tuition debt problem.
She discusses the personal reason for founding PYT and what change she would like to see in her industry.
Project Entrepreneur: What inspired you to start your business?
Whisonant: I personally faced the tuition debt problem, and at the time the only solution I could find was to join the military and serve my time in the U.S. Army. My sister also faced this problem and she battles month after month to pay down the high-interest rates from student loans that were offered to her at the time.
Because of this inescapable problem, I decided that with the time I spent at HSBC and in specialty structured financing, we could innovate this antiquated space. I will not rest until this is done.
What's been the biggest challenge you've faced so far?
Having a fintech platform is not just about finance, but it also includes technology. It can be a little difficult breaking into the industry when capital is required to execute the product, but then you also need to have money to prove the product works. For example, your platform can be tech-enabled, but to truly be fintech there is a financial component that most fintech companies are developing.
Therefore, having the capital to execute the product can be difficult because you have to have the money for both the company and to execute the product.
What's been the greatest reward?
Crossing the finish line with students and families; I almost feel like I get a degree every time. Helping families receive a degree in higher education is always the greatest reward, but also being able to push through when others have given up in the space is something that encourages and motivates me even further.
What is the biggest thing you'd like to see changed in your industry, and how are you working toward making that change happen?
I would like to be able to redeploy capital in the banking industry. Capital is typically gone to serve traditional financial products, so I would like to get banks to be more innovative and interested in trying to serve more people.
Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?
I believe in a motto: do the right thing and money will come. Follow the goal, stick to it, help as many people as you can and money will follow.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to another entrepreneur just starting out?
Follow your work, not money. Go after big problems but make sure the problem is really a problem, don't create a problem to solve.