Washington

Keith Frome MTS ‘89, JB Schramm MDiv ‘86; Founders, PeerForward / College Summit

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Keith Frome and J.B. Schramm became friends at Harvard as College proctors and Divinity School students. Their friendship powered their social entrepreneurial journey at College Summit.

What inspired you to become entrepreneurs and co-founders of College Summit?

Keith Frome: J.B. and I co-founded College Summit (together with our colleague Derek Canty) drawing from our own experiences as youth. J.B. attended urban public schools, where he had friends who were “college material” as much as J.B. was. But since their parents hadn’t gone to college, they missed out on the coaching that helped J.B. make it to college. The college opportunity changed J.B.’s life as much as the missed opportunity affected the trajectory of his friends’ lives.

JB Schramm: My experience was different. Even though I was a good high school student, my parents discouraged me from applying to college. Determined but without family support, I washed dishes and took classes at a local 2-year college which served as a launch pad for my journey to Harvard Divinity School and eventually Columbia University where I received a doctorate in education and philosophy. My first-hand experienced is what led me to College Summit: that encouraging and supporting students’ hopes, dreams and aspirations can make all the difference.

What three pieces of advice/lessons learned would you give about the entrepreneurial journey?

  1. Dive in and measure from the outset. Get involved in a messy challenge that people think is ‘unsolvable.’ As you roll up your sleeves, you will encounter seemingly intractable barriers that will make you smarter and inspire solutions, forcing the insight out of you.

  2. Be a pitbull. Entrepreneurs take “no” as an invitation to try new approaches. Relentlessly.

  3. Focus on your core insight and don’t be distracted from it. For us, the core insight is that same age-peers matter. For close to 25 years, we’ve helped partners create opportunities by helping young people tap peer influence

What do you enjoy most about being entrepreneurs?

Being able to see and measure the impact on individual students our team creates.

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern/formula to becoming successful entrepreneurs?

  1. Experience and serve in the field so that you understand its topography.

  2. Dive-in (see above)

  3. Find some way to unstick what’s stuck in your field

  4. Experiment right away; try out your hypothesis. Test how customers and the market responds.

  5. Refine, repeat, record, until you’ve got measurable proof of impact.

  6. Scale

How has your Harvard education benefited you personally, professionally, as entrepreneurs?

Early days…

Early days…

Mentors and professors including Rev. Peter Gomes, Richard Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard Marius, Stanley Cavell, and Sharon Parks taught us to combine intellectual rigor with moral conviction. On the College side, as proctors, Deans William Fitzsimmons, Burriss Young and Hank Moses taught us the power of building authentic relationships with students through the power of narrative and stories. Our peers were an amazingly talented group of people who became life-long friends, many of whom continue to help build College Summit today.

College Summit is now PeerForward