BestPrep’s Communications and Events Intern and past Minnesota Business Venture (MBV) student, Keagan Eng, had the opportunity to speak with Grace Schillewaert, another MBV alum and co-founder of the Monticello Education Connection. Grace shared how her experience at MBV helped shape both her college and career aspirations.
Grace attended MBV as a camper in 2016, after reading about the program on a poster hanging in her business teacher’s classroom at Monticello High School. “I loved the program,” she recalled. “It was so fun to get to hear from industry leaders, meet new people, and have a mini Shark Tank experience.” Grace returned to MBV the following year to lead a small group of campers, or “company”, as a CEO. Serving in both roles helped her learn the process of starting a business, gain public speaking skills, and ultimately realize her potential as a business leader.
Grace had many successes in the years following her MBV experience. “I can honestly say that almost every moment of my current life can be traced through a domino chain all leading back to MBV,” Grace disclosed. At MBV, Grace learned about DECA, a business extracurricular program used by high schools around the country. Using her newly-gained business experience from MBV, Grace started a DECA chapter within her high school and went on to attend the 2018 DECA International Career Development Conference. Later in her high school years, she received scholarships through BestPrep and the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program.
Following her work with DECA, Grace was driven to develop two more student groups throughout high school and college, including Students4Change and the Melting Pot. “I learned so much about the work that it took to start an organization.” After being asked to tutor for a family friend during the COVID-19 pandemic, she thought about other families in the same situation and had an idea. With the help of five other students, Grace recently launched Monticello Education Connection (MEC), a nonprofit organization focused on offering free K-12 digital tutoring in all subjects and providing other resources to students, teachers, and parents. Grace and her co-directors were able to develop and launch the nonprofit within a short timeframe of 14 days. Since its launch, MEC has hosted over 250 tutoring sessions and have seen 4,000+ unique site visits.
Grace currently attends Vanderbilt University, majoring in Economics and minoring in the Communication of Science and Technology. She is continuing to work on developing digital technology platforms like MEC. Her dream is to earn her doctorate and start her own business someday. When asked about her personal goals, Grace shared: “I hope to work on things that I know make a difference and are creating a positive impact in the world.” Eventually, Grace would like to work on expanding broadband internet access in rural Minnesota in order to minimize the education gap.
As an ambitious female entrepreneur, Grace stressed the importance of putting your passion to work. “Take risks and put yourself out there. Start something new even if you only have five people that are interested. Reach out to someone that you want to talk to.” She advised students to be fearless when taking on a new and risky challenge. “Instead of getting caught up in the negative what-if’s, focus on the positives! The worst they can do is say no,” Grace concluded.
We are planning to host Minnesota Business Venture 2021 virtually July 12-15 and 26-29. Registration will open soon, so stay posted!