Cabell Maddux is a recent graduate of Wesleyan University and founder of Scholarships Expanding Education, Inc (SEE). SEE is a crowdfunding for education startup that hopes to empower a new generation of philanthropists for education.
SEE launched a beta-version of its unique scholarship creation and fundraising platform at giveandsee.org in late December and has helped create eighteen scholarships that have raised nearly $14,000. The SEE concept has been featured by business magazine Fast Company, innovation blog NationSwell, and style blog Refinery29.
In this interview, Cabell shares his advocacy to help students afford college. Through his crowdfunding platform, he is able to make it possible for anyone, who shares his advocacy, to provide support for education.
Hi there! Be glad to. My name is Cabell Maddux. I’m a recent Wesleyan University grad from Danville, Virginia, a small, southern town right on the North Carolina border. Last December, I founded Scholarships Expanding Education, Inc. (SEE), a crowdfunding startup that hopes to empower a new generation of philanthropists for education.
The mission of SEE is to promote broader support for education. We believe there are potential supporters of education that are willing to use their time and network to make a difference for deserving students.
The opportunity to create a named scholarship is traditionally restricted to the mega-wealthy. Through our scholarship creation platform at giveandsee.org anybody can design a one-time, named scholarship in honor of a loved one.
We then give these scholarship organizers the tools to reach out to friends and family for contributions. Finally, we handle the logistics of getting that scholarship to a school of the scholarship organizer’s choice.
The idea is that the right tools make it possible for anyone to provide meaningful support for education.
Two high school friends and I came up with the SEE concept in February 2013 while researching crowdfunding for education trends. At the time, the platforms that were trying to utilize crowdfunding to help students afford the rising cost of tuition weren’t working.
These sites let students create profiles, discuss their credentials, and describe their need. As students ourselves, we decided it would be extremely difficult to essentially sell our story to, and ask for contributions from, complete strangers.
We decided to provide a simple vehicle for anyone interested in giving, rather than receiving, a scholarship to initiate the fundraising process and utilize their personal network to crowdfund a scholarship.
We ran the concept by friends and family and a lot of the feedback was very positive, so we set out to teach ourselves enough programming to build a prototype. After five months of work, we actually created a fully-functional crowdfunding platform. We soft-launched the giveandsee.org scholarship creation and fundraising platform in late December and, in January, our story was picked up by Fast Company, with a great response; so here we are!
During this soft-launch we’ve helped create 18 scholarships that have together raised nearly $14,000. Eleven of those scholarships have been transferred to their designated institution and are being awarded to students right now.
So far, we’ve sent scholarships to Harvard, Fordham University (Bronx, NY), The University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC), Averett University (Danville, VA), and Roman Catholic High School (Philadelphia, PA).
The remaining seven scholarships are still fundraising and a number of them have done very well, including a scholarship organized by Buddy Rawley, in honor of his wife’s 60th birthday, that raised $2,000 in three days!
The biggest obstacle has been focusing our concept and message. As ‘green’ business owners and ‘startup rookies’, we came up with this great concept and thought the product would sell itself.
I’m sure any marketing experts and new small business owners are now shouting ‘a products NEVER sells itself!’.
Now we know. We realized that our message and the way we explained our process were lacking. I repeatedly have to remind myself that each word we use on our site, on social media, or while explaining the concept, is important. Our message and explanation are constantly being refined for focus and clarity.
All of this is brand new to me! I think that’s what makes it exciting. I was a chemistry major at Wesleyan and have no business experience, so I learn something new every single day.
Part of the day I’m having to educate myself on business finance and then switch right over to teaching myself web design. The breadth of learning that is involved in starting a business is bananas (in a good way).
Couple that with small successes; getting to do an interview like this or having a contribution come through, and I’m hooked.
We have a plan that focuses on making every single user experience fantastic and keeping overhead low. When we first started we thought ‘Wow, there has been great feedback here…we’re ready for this to explode!”, but as we’ve been through the process a few times, we’ve realized that each user deserves our full attention.
If each organizer of a SEE scholarship is blown away by their experience, we believe that growth (while perhaps slow) is inevitable. And we think that by keeping overhead low and doing as much as possible in-house, we can manage growth that is a bit slower in exchange for providing a product and service that users love.
Anyone can create a scholarship in honor of a loved one and get started fundraising at giveandsee.org.
Very soon, I’m planning to create a scholarship in honor of my grandfather for his 84th birthday (cause I’ve given him enough ties), so if you’re looking for an example of the concept at work, be on the lookout for The Webb Maddux Scholarship. Otherwise, check us out on Facebook (facebook.com/giveandsee.org) and Twitter (@giveandsee) to keep up with the latest on SEE.