A Humble Beginning
CandidWorks was born during the 2008-09 Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis. As a result of the fallen economy, founder Nick Brown was unable to continue funding his higher education, and returned home from college his freshman year. Only a year later, news broke on the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster. As an able bodied construction worker at the time, images of devastation on the Gulf became a call to action, and he set his sights on traveling to the coast to do his part in the clean-up. After being approved for time-off and carefully planning a budget for food, gas, and lodging; however, he came to find it wasn't his living expenses that would hold him back - only his student loan debt. Watching as thousands of paid temp workers were shipped in to facilitate the clean-up, and finding his student debt had not only prevented him from completing college, but also volunteering for the causes he cared about, he set his sights on how to reverse the impact the cost of college has on our ability to provide for ourselves and others. From the wake of the BP Oil Spill to the beginning of the student debt crisis came the idea for CandidWorks: an innovative new platform that provides students and graduates the ability to source funding to their student debt, so they can give back to the causes that impact us all. Through nearly a decade of hard work, Nick made it back to college in 2017 to complete a BS and MS where he teamed with the VCU da Vinci Center and Unstuck Labs Start-Up Accelerator to make that dream a reality.
At $1.3-1.4 trillion and growing, national student loan debt is the second highest debt group in existence today. Impacting 44 Million Americans and trailing only our total US mortgage debt, it will take an astronomical amount of funds, or a new way of processing student loan debt to alleviate the burden it places on our nation’s young adults and the pursuit of a higher education. While nearly a quarter million students abandon the idea of higher education each year, an estimated $410 billion are contributed to charities annually. That’s a large enough sum to not only reverse the estimated $45 billion growth in our student loan debt each year, but also begin to reduce the impact it has on our indebted and the economy.
As young adults, we're passionate about supporting the same social and environmental causes that our current charities and non-profits are; however, the pressure of student loan debt often makes it difficult to find the means to support them financially or physically. Contributing funds could mean going further into debt, and volunteering could mean taking time away from our second jobs, or extra career efforts trying to find the means to make our next step in life. We also can’t just start asking people to start making charitable donations to us. That would divert money away from other good causes that we care about. What we would be willing to do; however, is contribute significantly more time volunteering for the social and environmental causes we care about if we weren’t so burdened by our debt.
To bridge the gap between access to higher education, and social and environmental service, we created CandidWorks to enable students and graduates to crowd-source funding for their student debt in exchange for their commitment to provide volunteer service. By supporting a student or graduates volunteer efforts, you are not only helping relieve the impact of the student loan debt crisis, but also making your contributions go twice as far to improve the social and environmental causes you care about, all at a fraction of the cost of a traditional charity.
Nicholas Brown; Founder & CEO
CandidWorks Founder; Business Strategy at Genworth
VCU; MS of Product Innovation; BS of Mass Comm
Nicholas is an experienced entrepreneur and project management professional with a history of successful product/service launches across multiple industries. Nick has a passion for improving our humanitarian and environmental conditions, and founded CandidWorks in 2019 with the mission of making higher education more accessible to those with limited means while providing support to the causes they care about.
Wa’il Ashshowwaf, Partner & Strategist
CEO and Cofounder of Unstuck Labs; Founder of Reyets
Harvard; Ex. Ed – Strategy, Georgetown; MS of Business Leadership, CSU BS of MKTG
Wa’il is an impact driven leader, entrepreneur, tech guru, UI/UX designer, and creative startup strategist. His professional experience spans a range of industries including roles at Walt Disney World, Pepsi, HSBC, and cofounding numerous startups. As of Fall 2019, Wa’il and Unstuck Labs partnered with CandidWorks to accelerate the business and tech development of the current CandidWorks user interface.
Charles Castelly, Finance & Partnership
Director of Business and Partnerships at Unstuck Labs
Mary Washington; BS of Leadership and Management
Charles Castelly has a long history of service spanning from his role in the military, to providing business development assistance for over 50 start-ups through his work at Unstuck Labs. Charles is an experienced entrepreneur, and with extensive experience in business finance and expansion. Since partnering with CandidWorks this Fall, Charles has been integral in model development and networking.
CandidWorks is a current partner of UnStuck Labs in Rosslyn Virginia. Unstuck Labs is a multidimensional start-up accelerator that assists in taking big ideas to a deliverable level. Unstuck Labs is a digital agency that specializing in providing companies with a variety of technical services, including website and mobile app development. And the founders are entrepreneurs and dreamers in their own right: They believe in, and invest in other products and companies, as well.
Virginia Commonwealth University da Vinci Center
CandidWorks is a current partner of Virginia Commonwealth University’s da Vinci Center. The VCU da Vinci Center provides cutting edge, innovation-based programs focused on merging the study of arts, business, and engineering into real world problem solving and entrepreneurship. The VCU da Vinci Center has been a support platform for entrepreneurial education, networking, and planning for our projects early stage development.
Become a partner in supporting the social, environmental, and educational causes you care about.
As a start-up focused on social impact, we are constantly looking to connect with any and all entities who are interested in our social, environmental, and educational improvement. If you are part of a charity / non-profit that could use support - a commercial venture looking to give back and support the community while supporting education – or even have a bright new idea for service, contact CandidWorks at CandideWorks@gmail.com! We look forward to hearing from you, and, as always – wish you and all those you impact the best in all your endeavors!