Starting your own business can be a daunting endeavor with no guarantee of success. But University of Denver graduate Matt Holmes knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he wasn’t going to let this uncertainty — or his student debt load of $100,000 — hold him back.
After graduating, Holmes took the road less traveled to manage his loans, see the world and start a business. Here’s how he made it all work and ultimately got his big risk to pay off.
Leaving school $100k in debt
After earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Denver, Holmes went straight into an MBA program. Even with a grant and help from family, Holmes had to borrow a large amount in loans to pay for all this education.
“The bill ticked over $100,000 at its peak, despite graduating a little early,” said Holmes. This amount was spread out over eight different loans, which had interest rates as high as 7.8%.
While the loan payments were heavy, Holmes knew he needed to free up monthly cash flow if he was going to start a business. To do this, he put his federal loans on income-driven repayment.
“I was on [an] income-based repayment plan right out of school because I was launching my first real estate company and had no extra income,” he said. “That meant I showed no income on my tax return, which allowed my student loan payment to be $0 [per] month.”
Thanks to income-based repayment, Holmes was able to keep his loans current and not go into default. But his debt kept accumulating interest — more than $7,000 per year — so he got to work increasing his income.
Launching his online businesses
Holmes’s first entrepreneurial endeavor out of graduate school was an online enterprise called Holmes Real Estate Company, which connected out-of-state investors with properties in Denver.
After learning the ropes with his first company, Holmes pivoted into public speaking and consulting. He founded Handshakin.com, a company that helps other entrepreneurs build their personal brand and grow their businesses.
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