Christopher Gray | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Christopher Gray

Background:  

Scholly is a Philadelphia-based startup whose signature app helps connect students to scholarship programs. Launched in 2015, the app has already been downloaded by 600,000 users—and has helped students access $20 million in financial aid.

The Mistake:

When we appeared on "Shark Tank" [in February 2015] I don't think we were really prepared for what would happen next. We got all of these hits and downloads, and looking back, we probably didn't prepare as much as we should have. As a result, we ended up missing some opportunities, to the extent that some of the clients we have now were actually people who were reaching out to us months ago. For example, we have a deal in the works right now with an organization that had reached out to us four months ago. We didn't even see the email. So I feel in a way we didn't really take advantage of that moment.

Even looking at the price of our app — we changed it from 99 cents to $2.99 and it didn't effect [sales] at all. So we could have had all that additional revenue from day one, but we just didn't know that at the time. I guess the biggest challenge then was just being young and not having the industry experience — maybe just not being as prepared as we could have been.

The important thing is being prepared when you know an opportunity is coming.

The Lesson:

I think it's all about maximizing opportunities ... and then turning those opportunities into additional opportunities. That's how you build. When you're young maybe you can get caught making assumptions about what is going to happen, but I think we could have done more [after ‘Shark Tank’]. The important thing is being prepared when you know an opportunity is coming — even spending some time a couple of weeks in advance of a potential opportunity and writing down a bunch of ideas on a whiteboard. It's about turning momentum into more momentum, and that's all about preparation.

Follow Christopher Gray on Twitter at @cgray91.