Costa Mesa, Calif., March 6, 2024 – A four-student team from Bowie State University (BSU) took the top prize in the #IYKYK Pitch Competition (If You Know, You Know) for their business idea to address the financial challenges from student loan debt, sponsored by Experian and HomeFree-USA.

Their winning concept, “Lotus Wallet” is a multi-generational app with credit education resources, human and AI-driven advisors, and income-earning resources (such as grants, scholarships, and internships). Because student loan debt can affect more than just the student alone, the app enables users to connect their families so they can learn and build generational wealth together. Lotus Wallet even offers merchandise; one of the students created plush lotus plants to attract younger consumers to learn about credit and finances, and planners for those who are more comfortable working with paper and pen.

Nicknamed Team Lotus, student captain Lauren Kelly and teammates Taylor Payton, Calvin Charles III, Jazmin Feliz Orellana earned a $40,000 scholarship.

“We strongly believe you need community for accountability. If you’re a high school student with parents paying for things, they should also have the resources to manage debt. If you’re already navigating college life, pairing with your support system so you don’t feel alone tackling student loans is a key part of this app,” said Kelly. “Lotuses can grow out of mud into a beautiful flower. And anyone can grow from their situation to being financially stable and debt free.”

The #IYKYK Pitch Competition, powered by Experian’s B.A.L.L. for Life initiative, challenged students to create a business solution to eliminate student debt within five years of college graduation, including those who are not part of the credit ecosystem. The competition was the culmination of a six month program as part of the Center for Financial Advancement® (CFA) Credit Academy sponsored by Experian and HomeFree-USA that brought together 300 students from 15 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in live sessions with Experian credit education experts and self-paced modules. Finalists from BSU, Alabama State University and North Carolina Agriculture and Technical State University presented their ideas live at Experian’s North America headquarters. The other finalist teams received a $10,000 scholarship.

"It’s inspiring to see the shared commitment by Experian, HomeFree-USA and the scholars to financially empower young adults through our credit education and their innovation. Together, we are creating change, normalizing and modernizing the conversation about finances and generational wealth,” said Raudy Perez, Senior Director of External DEI Partnerships for Experian North America.

“The students really dove into what they’ve learned in our program and how it can broadly appeal to their peers. We saw a lot of innovation in the use of technology and content – meeting students where they are. This experience we’ve created with Experian is a critical piece of our financial literacy program for HBCU students. It’s giving them a voice, exposure and opportunity,” said LuWanna Williams, University Director for the Center of Financial Advancement.

As part of its mission of financial inclusion and empowerment for all, Experian partners with HomeFree-USA to provide continuing education for its housing counselors and resources for their clients. The company created the Home Preservation Grant, which supported homeowners at risk of losing their homes due to COVID-related hardships with credit education and mortgage relief. Inclusion Forward – Experian Empowering Opportunities™ harnesses Experian’s data, analytics and technology to help clients provide more affordable credit access to diverse communities. To learn more about Experian’s work in diverse communities: visit

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About HomeFree-USA

HomeFree-USA is a nonprofit started by Marcia and Jim Griffin in 1994 with a vision to close the homeownership gap. The organization gives African Americans the guidance they need to achieve and sustain homeownership, and bridges the gap between financial strength and homeownership for people of color across America.

As a HUD-intermediary, HomeFree-USA serves the diverse interests of 6.3 million consumers through its nationwide network of over 50 affiliated community-based nonprofits that specialize in guiding people to first-time homeownership, sustainability and increased financial capacity.

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About Center for Financial Advancement

The Center for Financial Advancement™ (CFA) is a solution to the industry’s call for more diversity. HomeFree-USA partners with, recruits, trains and places students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) into internships and careers in partnering mortgage, real estate, and financial services companies. Participating CFA Scholars are exposed to credit, money management and homeownership in order to become a savvy consumer and future homeowner.

About Experian

Experian is the world’s leading global information services company. During life’s big moments – from buying a home or a car, to sending a child to college, to growing a business by connecting with new customers – we empower consumers and our clients to manage their data with confidence. We help individuals to take financial control and access financial services, businesses to make smarter decisions and thrive, lenders to lend more responsibly, and organizations to prevent identity fraud and crime.

We have 22,000 people operating across 32 countries and every day we’re investing in new technologies, talented people, and innovation to help all our clients maximize every opportunity. With corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, we are listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and are a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

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