The Problem: Student loans are a debt trap for millions of Americans, with $1.4 trillion in loans outstanding.
The Epiphany: After working as an investment banker at JPMorgan Chase, Kelly Peeler saw that financial institutions often profit from delinquent college-money borrowers. “People are making the biggest financial decisions of their lives at 18, without guidance,” she says. She was sympathetic to the struggling ex-students, so she hatched an idea to start a business that might help.
The Execution: Through NextGenVest—which Peeler launched in early 2016 with the help of a Kauffman Foundation grant—teens who open a free account get access to a trained mentor who guides them through best practices when applying for loans. The communication is all done via text message. Peeler markets the product through virtual campus tours on Snapchat, along with in-person workshops at high schools.
The Result: In 2016, NextGenVest helped around 2,000 students in six cities select better-value colleges, navigate loan applications, and sometimes even negotiate tuition reductions. Peeler plans to expand her operation to more than 30 cities by the end of 2017.