Today’s interview is with Dan Stelmach Founder of ChangeEd. I got connected with the ChangEd team back when I was writing for Forbes. Then the guys had received an investment from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank helping them grow on this journey in helping students deal with their student loan debt.
And I’ve been pleased to hear about the updates. I definitely want to cheer on anyone helping students get into a better financial state. I also got to share their story for Authority Magazine on Medium for the Social Impact Heroes series.
So on to Dan to see where ChangEd has come from, where they are going, and the lessons learned…
*Questions in bold followed by Dan’s responses.
Thanks for joining us, Dan.
How Does ChangEd help Student Loan Debt
Can you tell our readers a little bit about ChangEd for those who are not familiar?
ChangEd is a mobile platform that acts as a hub for all of your student loans to get you out of debt sooner. ChangEd allows you to connect all of your student loans and spending accounts in one place. ChangEd then analyzes your debt and makes helpful recommendations to pay it off smarter. Finally, we analyze your spending, help save in small increments such as roundups from daily purchases, then automate those savings to your student loans saving you time and money off your loans.
Such a helpful solution. You saw a problem, a huge problem with student loan debt. What made you take the entrepreneurial path to help fix it?
This problem affected me personally and still does today. When I started ChangEd one of the first things I did was talk to my friends and family about this issue. I realized that most of them that went to college and had the same issue with student debt and no game plan to repay it. They were making different financial decisions due to this debt and most wanted to ignore it.
I graduated from college in 2014 with almost $70,000 in student loan debt. My monthly minimum payment was close to $1000 a month. I had plans to get my own place and finally moved out of my mom’s house just like most graduates. I saved up enough money for a down payment, applied for a mortgage, actually got approved but ended up walking away from one of the most important financial decisions due to my student loans. This is what gets me up every morning and motivates me to continue to help others in the same situation I’ve been dealing with. I want to help as many people get to that next step sooner.
So many businesses are born out of a personal story like that. It’s great that you took your student loan debt problem beyond yourself to help others too.
Did you guys come up with a solution like a light bulb moment or was it more of a brainstorming process?
I came up with the idea of ChangEd sitting at work, my dead-end sales job. I looked at my student loans like this huge mountain to climb and I thought how can I scale this back and make a difference today? How can I set up a game plan for every day and make a difference to get ahead and that’s when I wrote a bunch of ideas on a sticky note.
I came to Nick who was dealing with his own student loans and once I told him about the solution he was in 100%.
In case our audience doesn’t know, Nick is your brother and CoFounder and you guys were on Shark Tank! Both having personally dealt with student loan debt. Can you tell us a little bit about how that happened?
Nick and I were hanging out on his birthday and we received an email from a Shark Tank producer that was doing research around the student loan space. At first, we thought it was fake but then did a little research on the person. They found out what ChangEd is all about and wanted to chat with us. They loved our approach to the problem but they said “I can’t guarantee you anything but you should apply”. Nick and I were Shark Tank fans since season one and put all we had into our application process.
The only way to describe it is that you’re on a roller coaster but you can’t see where you’re going.
I bet that was a wild ride. So, I hear that ChangeEd just hit a huge milestone! Can you tell us a little about that and what you believe has been the key to continual growth?
ChangEd has reached $10 million in payments for our members. This is a huge milestone! What this really means is that we’ve helped hundreds of people completely eliminate their debt and have helped thousands get ahead of their student loan repayment. We’re helping Americans save a ton of money and potential interest costs and get debt-free years sooner so they can save more and get to their next financial steps.
If you could do something differently looking back, what would it be?
I don’t know if I have one thing I would do differently, but I am a big believer in learning from mistakes. You aren’t moving forward if you’re not doing something wrong every now and then. Student loans are difficult to understand to the average person. Our members have helped us steer ChangEd to what it is today and they’ve helped us come to this point and beyond. Life is full of things you want to do differently, just don’t waste too much time thinking about what you should have done.
Yes, failure is an important part of our growth. For anyone of our readers that see a problem to solve, huge like student loan debt or even something small, the entrepreneurial way, what advice do you have for them?
Use and grow your network. The people around you and the ones you don’t talk to that much are always willing to give a helping hand to solve an issue. I ask our customers for help and the response is always tremendous.
Also, be lean with everything you do in the early stages of your journey. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money to figure out if something can work.
That’s great advice.
Going forward, what are the plans and how can readers get involved?
The vision for ChangEd is big. We want to help as many borrowers as we can to help them better manage their debt and develop a healthy relationship with debt. Once we conquer student loans we look to continue to help in other debt repayment avenues.
You can see what we’re all about here GoChanged.com
Thanks, Dan. If you know a student who could use the help of ChangEd, please share.
Studying and working from home? Check this out 7 Tips For Students Now Balancing Remote Classes With Work From Home