In 2016, 25-year-old Rutgers alumni Chisa Egbelu was walking away with a Bachelor’s degree and also with his first investor, IDT Corp underneath his belt. Labeling himself as a journalist, Egbelu has always enjoyed storytelling and giving talks. He majored in Journalism & Media Studies and minored in Digital Communication Information and Media, which shows that Egbelu is not afraid to get behind the lens and shoot. He is currently working on producing a docuseries that is set to be completed in the coming years . From this description, one might see Egbelu becoming a writer for the Wall Street Journal or a producer for a broadcast company, which could still happen. But first, this budding journalist decided to start a company. Egbelu is now the CEO and cofounder of the company PeduL.
Developing a bond over the love of music, Egbelu and his roommate, Jarrett Mead one day were having a conversation about Mead’s band and how successful they were becoming. Mead had recently been offered an opportunity to go to a music school in Boston. However, Mead couldn’t afford to attend the school even with scholarships and loans. Concerned about Mead’s situation, Egbelu thought about what he could do to change this problem that millions of other students also had. At that moment a light bulb went off in Egbelu’s head. He was going to create a company that would help students raise money for their education. That company became known as PeduL.
Egbelu and his partner, Kayla Jackson organized PeduL. A company that helps students who are actively seeking financial aid to raise money through two phases. Phase one is crowdfunding, raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. Phase two is through a common application for scholarships, which allows students to apply for multiple scholarships with one application. Students can eliminate their debt before starting college by starting a campaign on the PeduL website and finding sponsors. Egbelu and Jackson’s overall mission is to make sure that all students have equal access to academic and career opportunities.
Egbelu didn’t have much experience running a business, but he did have experience with asking questions and finding answers. His search began with putting up fliers and assembling a team of people who knew things about starting a business that he didn’t. Egbelu and his team hustled, working 12 hour days on Sunday, learning how to code and write business plans to build the brand and develop the idea accordingly. That determination flourished into a business that gained the attention of fellow students and future colleagues.
The Baton Rouge, Louisiana native experienced culture shock when he first came to Rutgers. Feeling that there was more racism on campus and in the state of New Jersey, Egbelu realized he had to change his perspective in order to adjust to this new environment he was going to be attending for the next four years. “I had to learn how to take the racial injustices that I was witnessing not only on Rutgers campus but in the state of New Jersey seriously,” he states. Instead of letting those inequalities affect his experience, Egbelu stayed focus and worked hard.
Egbelu took advantage of multiple resources such as, libraries, learning centers and workshops during his time at Rutgers. He was greatly involved in a number of clubs and organizations on campus. He participated in Rutgers Radio, RVision, Rutgers TV programming, the Quidditch team,which he was the President and captain of. He also is a lifetime member of Collegiate 100 as well as the Cap and Skull: Senior Honors Society.
The hustle didn’t come without speed bumps though. Egbelu and his team had to overcome many learning curves such as, stepping into a field where they needed to know the language of tech. They didn’t have a fair understanding of coding languages and weren’t able to explain what’s imperative to having a decent product, which Egbelu initially suffered from. He had to adjust to the business atmosphere by focusing on his comprehension of numbers for future deals and budgeting. Going through these experiences helped Egbelu become a better and more knowledgeable business owner.
Egbelu’s company PeduL has taken him places all over the country and the world. He’s been to Los Angeles, Austin, Miami, Atlanta, and just recently Australia, pitching PeduL to different companies that he hopes will invest into PeduL. Egbelu says he is excited for where PeduL will take him in the future.
Egbelu gives a lot of credit for where he is now to Rutgers University. He describes the university as an incredible network of people from across the country and world. “Rutgers is a place where you do work and see the results,” Egbelu notes.
President of PeduL, Kayla Jackson expresses a similar feeling about the university. “Chisa and I believe that the single most important aspect of college is network. We would have never met if it weren’t for Rutgers. Our professional trajectory is directly correlated to our incredible academic experience at Rutgers.”
That first investor mentioned earlier that Egbelu walked away with, happened because of a connection he made with a fellow student on campus. Another Rutgers alumna, Tatianna Amatruda, noticed the hard work Egbelu and his partner were putting in and wrote an article about their progress. They were then connected with someone who pitched their idea to different corporations. From that, Egbelu and his partner put together a pitch the night before finals. The following day, they had an offer.
Today, Egbelu is truly spiritually, mentally, and financially, on track to being the person he has always wanted to look up to. A firm believer in Christianity, he expresses that he wouldn’t be the man he is today if it wasn’t for his belief in a higher power. “If I didn’t have the faith I have I wouldn’t have been able to withstand the hate and evil I have seen or be able to tolerate moving forward.”
Since launching PeduL last January, over 1,300 students have raised over $25,000 towards tuition from just crowdfunding. What makes PeduL different from other sites is that they provide transparency and security by sending the funds students raise directly to their institution. Egbelu’s growth and development with the company has been a gradual process. However, it has not gone unnoticed by his peers.
“I think what he’s trying to do is great. I always thought it was a wonderful idea and being a former college student I could relate,” said Rutgers alumni and friend of Egbelu, Jacinta Hall.
“I’m very proud of Chisa. I think it’s amazing he’s done something no one has done before. He put in a lot of work that some people can’t handle,” Collegiate 100 member and friend, Seyvona Forrester commends Egbelu for his accomplishments. “I think PeduL is gonna be the biggest name out there and that’s gonna be how students are able to go to college.”
Egbelu believes he is still developing as an individual and is learning more about himself everyday. He wants to be being able to spark the potential in anyone he meets and make an impact by contributing to his home state. As he closes out deals with investors, Egbelu plans to make sure that they are building a company that is ethically and morally correct. By this, Egbelu means making sure that they don’t screw over people over in route to what they have decided is success.
Throughout the company’s progression they have encountered people who are not trustworthy and don’t fit the company’s M.O. Egbelu wants to maintain a moral fortitude and not succumb to their level, so that they can serve PeduL to the best of their abilities. “Excellence Without Compromise,” is a saying Egbelu and his employees like to say. By following this slogan and doing all of the above, Egbelu believes he will be able to achieve his goal of making PeduL the scholarship platform.