Brad's Deals is pleased to announce the winners of the Brad's Deals Scholarship, formerly known as the Shop Smart Scholarship. Applicants competed for $10,000 in scholarship money with essays explaining how their college experiences are or will be "enabled by remarkable frugality, ingenuity, effort or thrift". The five winning essays, chosen from more than 4,300 applications, demonstrated unique, and sometimes extreme, money saving strategies while pursuing a college education. Each scholarship winner received a $2,000 scholarship from Brad's Deals and Shop Smart LLC.
Jannatun Nabila, New York University
Jannatun financed her college experience by looking to her Bengali-Muslim heritage and learning to tailor women's salwars, a popular fashion item. Her mother was experienced in tailoring salwars, and she'd been doing it for years to earn a bit of extra income for the family. Jannatun saw real potential in her mother's side business and took it upon herself to learn the skills needed to pitch in.
After countless lessons of working with silk, georgette, and katan, Jannutun was ready to step in and assist her mother. Almost immediately, their customer base grew exponentially and they soon had enough money to make payments on her existing student loans and pay for upcoming semesters, eliminating the need to take out additional loans. At a net profit of about $200 per salwar, Jannatun and her mother's efforts became much more than a supplemental side business.
Lana Ferris, Whitworth University
Lana found a creative solution for getting through college - by gardening. During her freshman year, she began growing heirloom tomato plants as a simple hobby. Noticing her tomatoes were in demand, Lana soon started selling them at local farmers' markets and on Craigslist. Soon enough she was growing over 300 plants at a time, at which point she applied for a business license from the State of Washington.
The next summer, Lana upped production by growing 600 tomatoes at a time - by this point she had built a greenhouse in her backyard for her tomato business. Over a few short months, Eureka! Tomatoes pulled in an impressive $3,000 in revenue, which went a long way toward Lana's college expenses.
Ryan Lenea, Claremont-McKenna College
Ryan used his entrepreneurial drive to start a small business while still in high school - Ryan's Garden Beds. The business built all-custom cedar garden beds, installed and fitted with premium garden soil and organic vegetable starts. Ryan's goal from the onset was to develop a sustainable business that could be passed down to future students, and to say he succeeded would be an understatement. Ryan's Garden Beds grossed nearly $20,000 in revenue at a 50% profit margin... in the first year alone.
Ryan's Garden Beds grew and Ryan helped classmates and friends get in on the business, as he commissioned classmates $25 for each bed sold. Next year, Ryan intends to double sales - a tall task, but I'm not betting against an entrepreneur as shrewd as Ryan.
Charles Blumsack, Columbia University
Charles helped pay his way through college by putting his tech skills to use. While working two part-time jobs, he built an iPhone app called Snacks4u. For a seventy-five cent charge, Snacks4u would deliver a candy bar, chips, or fruit to a hungry, studying student's dorm room or the library. Within a few weeks, the app had exploded in popularity, and Charles' team of 8 employees was working around the clock to deliver snacks and earn money.
Soon, however, the university caught on and forced Charles to take down his app. Never one to give up, he and his friends started working on EasyEssay, an app that will print out a student's paper and have it hand-delivered to the class where it's due. Charles hopes to have the app up and running with the start of the upcoming school year.
Ryan Johnson, University of Pittsburgh
Upon starting college, Ryan quickly realized that the unfortunate diet of Ramen Noodles that some students survive on wasn't going to cut it. He was training for a marathon and needed to recharge his body with something other than salty, preservative-packed noodles. To finance his diet, Ryan turned to Twitter and quickly noticed he could win free burritos from Qdoba by answering trivia questions. As Ryan puts it, he mastered the art of answering the trivia questions and won "dozens and dozens of delicious free burritos."
Ryan soon found another free food strategy. A local burger joint was offering free burgers for life to whoever could create the best original song and video promoting the restaurant. Ryan used free computer software and his musical talents to quickly churn out a winning video, and he became the proud winner of hundreds of free burgers.
Renae Harrison of South Dakota State University
In addition to working part time, Renae sells cigarettes to the drunks at the bars and washes and folds laundry for others, bringing in extra money to put towards tuition. "My small businesses may seem minimal now but in the entire scheme of things I have a net income of roughly an additional $100 to go towards tuition."
Amogha Krishna of Ohio State University
After falling in love with computers as a child, Amogha made a business of building computers from scratch using scavenged parts from thrift shops, store closing sales, wholesalers and more, and then selling them at a 200% profit. Amogha also builds websites. "The world of technology and the internet is an ever expanding world, ready to provide for the next big idea, the next boom, the next future and I plan on using this to pay for my own future by using my skills with building computers and websites to make money to pay for my education."
Maura Cadigan of Georgia Institute of Technology
Maura uses the money she gets as a Mechanical Turk worker to invest in her domaining business, which, she hopes, will pay her tuition in turn. "Right now, I am looking for domain names for potential 2016 presidential candidates. Owning the domain name for a presidential candidate could be lucrative."
Zach Sekulich of University of Chicago
Not only does Zach run his own sunglasses business on eBay, he also buys broken Xbox consoles and iPods from Craigslist to repair and resell. He also uses bots to farm currency from an online computer game that can be sold for real cash. He also sees his decision to attend a community college instead of a university as a smart financial decision. "Everyone from my high school wondered why I went to a community college. Now when I see them today, they tell me they wish they had gone as well to save money."
Tom Rogers of University of Maryland University College
After a warehouse job proved to be too difficult to manage as a college student, Tom launched his own web services company that offers website and logo design and provides a steady income he uses to pay down his student loans. His online pursuits also led him into the world of extreme couponing. "It can be embarrassing sometimes when I pull out a stack of coupons at the check-out counter, but the embarrassment quickly goes away once I see the final price."
Rachel Chaney of Greensboro, North Carolina
Rachel taps into her university's monthly surplus sale, snapping up odds and ends like typewriter ribbons and CPR dummies while others are fighting over laptops and computers. She then resells them for a profit. "It's kind of ironic when you think about it," she writes. "The university ups the tuition to buy new stuff and I buy the old stuff to resell to pay the new tuition."
Carlos Ovalle of New Milford, New Jersey
Carlos offers haircuts to his fellow dorm residents. "My dad has been cutting my hair ever since I was a small child so naturally I picked up his technique and applied it to a service." He also turns a tidy profit by stocking up on soda, bottled water and energy drinks and selling them to other students. "My idea was that if I can sell these drinks to the people in my building for a reasonable price, they would forfeit a trip to the cafeteria and just buy their drinks off me. It worked!"
Jamie Scott of Gainesville, Florida
Looking for a way to reduce her grocery costs while in school, Jamie discovered a talent for extreme couponing. She had amassed a large stockpile of toiletries and non-perishables when she got the idea to resell her purchases to others in her community who were also looking for ways to cut costs. "I made sure that my prices were low enough to help everyone else out too," she wrote. "An item that would typically cost between $5 and $10 at a retail store, I sold for $2. I sold over 1000 items to people in my community. This money helped me pay for two classes that semester as well as books."
Erin Supinka of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania
Erin was inspired to try living on $40 per week by a tweet from the White House about how a payroll tax cut might affect American families. "It asked Americans to share what losing forty dollars a week would mean to their budgets and daily living. Forty dollars, a recurring theme; how much did it mean to me?" She then took her efforts a step further, sharing her experiment in frugality on her blog. "I share my expenses, my failures and tips I figure out along the way. I hope, that although they may not go to the extremes I have, students and fellow budgeters will find my blog and see what I'm doing to make a little bit of money go a long way."
Haley Thatcher of Dayville, Connecticut
In addition to picking up and reselling discounted electronics, shopping at discount food stores and working two part-time jobs while in school, Haley set out to survive a New England winter without heat in order to cut costs. "At night I would use a space heater so that it was at least slightly warm," she notes. "Paying an extra fifty dollars on electricity as opposed to hundreds in oil saved me much more."