22-year-old graduated debt-free. Few 22-year-olds can claim to be debt-free, to be saving up for their retirement, and to work for themselves. Gabriella Carter, though, is unique.
The young businesswoman made headlines as a teenager by winning more than $2 million in academic scholarships, enabling her to leave Princeton University in 2022 debt-free. She didn’t stop there, though.
Carter became aware that she could transform her experience into a lucrative side business by working with brands to promote scholarship possibilities and mentoring specific students after sharing her experience and advice for others to achieve similar success on social media.
Prior to coming to London, where she spent the most of her youth, Carter was born in Jamaica. She was 13 years old and just entering middle school when her family moved to Florida.
Carter was a committed student-athlete who excelled in academics as well as extracurricular activities like softball and track during his time in high school. She knew going to college was the next natural step to build on her achievements, but she was initially taken aback by the cost.
Carter was terrified by the staggering cost of college, which, according to the Education Data Initiative, ranges from an average of $25,707 per year at a public in-state institution to $54,501 per year at a private university. She didn’t want to join the millions of Americans who are struggling with student loan debt because she was aware of their numbers. She then began her scholarship search and application process.
The application process was grueling, but Carter was persistent, applying to over 100 different programs, she says. “The more scholarships I applied to, the better applications I was able to submit and ultimately have more success down the line.”
“I didn’t even know people were really making money like that from posting online until I was approached with an opportunity from a major retailer and they paid me $2,500 to share about a scholarship opportunity that they had,” Carter says. “Once that happened, I was like, ‘OK, I see the value in the information that I’m offering.’”
Carter continued to utilize her platform to share advice and leads on scholarship opportunities as a result of her personal scholarship success inspiring others and attracting a sizable and engaged audience. This attracted the interest of other businesses and organizations wanting to promote money they wanted to give away.
Carter obtained a 9–5 position as a marketing analyst in finance after graduating from Princeton in 2022. Even though Carter’s $90,000 yearly starting salary was more than many of her peers were earning (according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, even graduates with the highest-paying majors earned an average starting salary of just $75,900), her side business was starting to pay off.
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Carter was able to leave her full-time work in February of this year in order to concentrate on Growing with Gabby and a more recent project: taking part in NBCUniversal’s first Creator Accelerator program. Carter and 10 other social media creators were chosen by the program for a 12-month paid learning opportunity that will provide them an inside look at television production and aid them in creating content for NBCUniversal platforms.
“Quitting my job was liberating, but very scary as well, especially since I’m pretty young and very early in my corporate career,” Carter says. “But I realized the uniqueness of my business, the opportunity to scale and the rare opportunity that I have with NBC, so that gave me a lot more confidence.”
Carter wants to manage his money responsibly despite being still relatively young and making a respectable wage.
Carter’s parents taught her the value of having a positive relationship with money and how to manage it so that “your money is working for you and you’re not consistently working for your money,” despite the fact that her family wasn’t particularly wealthy while she was growing up.
Carter prioritizes taking care of herself when it comes to money management, allocating a significant portion of her salary to investing and saving for the future.
“I just want to give myself a good head start and to be able to do what I want,” Carter says. “If I want to travel, I don’t want to have to be worried about that, or if I want to start a different business venture — money opens up a lot of doors to be able to explore your dreams and have really unique experiences.”
Carter’s collection of scholarships not only made it possible for her to attend college without worrying about money, but also gave her the power to shape her immediate future. Carter was able to quit her full-time work thanks in large part to the success of Growing with Gabby, but it also helped that she didn’t have to spend any of her hard-earned money on school loans.
“Debt doesn’t have to deter you from making the decisions that are best for you in your life, but it definitely can make some decisions like [quitting] harder,” Carter says.
“I do have an abundance mindset now for the most part,” she says. “But sometimes when I get paid I do feel that temporary relief that I’m paid now, but when is my next [check] coming?”
She is aware of the influence of money and how doing what you love versus doing something out of obligation might be determined by having enough.