Aspiring young entrepreneur talks scholarship searches

Before heading off to Bennett College, Nandi Reed-Bandele (right) spent this past summer prepping Durham teens for summer jobs. Her coaching revolved around completing job applications satisfactorily and having professionalism in the workplace. (Photo by Qaadir McFadden/PYO)

Nandi Reed-Bandele is a Durham native currently studying business at Bennett College in Greensboro.

Partly because of her business-sense, Reed-Bandele recently received the 2017 UNCF/Koch Scholarship from the Koch Foundation. Beginning in 2014, through a $25 million grant, Koch Industries, Inc. started granting the scholarships to scholar entrepreneurs who have a love of innovation, challenging themselves and others and finding better ways to break down barriers to opportunity.

The 18-year-old college freshman creates Afro-centric t-shirts, called ThrowBlack Apparel, in her homegrown business. She is currently not making shirts because she is trying to plan out her business with a goal to start production back up next semester.

Reed-Bandele’s scholarship is for $20,000, or $5,000 per year. She said she found the opportunity through her parents.

“It’s a scholarship for aspiring entrepreneurs and its purpose is to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset by exploring how the study of entrepreneurship, innovation and economics contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities,” Reed-Bandele said.

In order to be eligible to apply for the scholarship one has to do/be:

  • An African American citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • A high school senior with a 3.0 minimum cumulative GPA.
  • Apply to or be admitted to, or enrolled in a full-time four-year college or university.
  • Pursuing one of seven eligible disciplines, including Accounting, Business, Economics, Engineering, History, Philosophy or Political Science.
  • Submit a current FAFSA.
  • Be willing to participate in an online community throughout their academic calendar year and have an interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and economics.

Reed-Bandele, whose parents are both Durham educators, said she was raised to figure out ways to pay for college without going into debt, and she said this is not the only scholarship she received. She did receive more scholarships from her school. She believes scholarships are very important because it makes the transition into college as smooth as possible.

Reed-Bandele said coming from Durham and receiving competitive scholarships made her very proud.

“It makes me proud that I can say I come from a small city compared to most and I was selected out of a certain number of students from around the U.S.,” she said.

According to, the average college graduate in 2016 held more than $37,000 in debt after graduation, but across the country in 2015-2016, scholarships paid for 34 percent of college costs.

Reed-Bandele said there’s a great deal of work in researching and applying for scholarships and that many, like the Koch Scholarship, are highly competitive.

“I started applying for scholarships in January 2017, so I was ecstatic when I received the email stating I was selected as one of the 2017 recipients,” she said.

The scholarship isn’t enough to cover an entire year of studies at Bennett, an all-female HBCU, where tuition is about $33,000 total. But it’s a good start.

Reed-Bandele said her advice to anyone in high school is to “work hard because it truly does pay off.”

“If I would’ve slacked off in high school it would’ve been hard for me to receive certain scholarships,” she said. “Make sure you go to the guidance office and pick up transcripts to see your class ranking. Stay on top of your work and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.”

To get started learning more about scholarships for people of color, women and other underrepresented groups, visit, or