Namaqua Mills ‘21 (management information systems) is currently preparing for his third co-op with Bank of America. A Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) student from the Bronx, Mills used his Saunders education to co-found Scentablez: a start-up company producing organic air fresheners.

We sat down with Mills to learn more about his experience from HEOP student to small-business owner!

Q: How is life treating you right now?

Namaqua: Life is good; can’t complain. I’m thankful for life.

Q: Why did you choose to attend Saunders College of Business?

Namaqua: I chose to attend Saunders because it allowed me to take advantage of RIT’s co-op program.

Q: Why did you choose to study in Management Information Systems?

Namaqua: I have always loved computers and technology overall, but I knew I wanted to be a businessman. With MIS, I saw the perfect path to be exposed to both sides of business and technology.

Q: Has your experience with Saunders’ MIS program been satisfactory?

Namaqua: I think it has been. I have met professors that have inspired me to want more, and I thank them for that. My mindset coming in was to learn as much as possible, whether it be from my professors or my peers.

Q: I understand you attended Saunders under the HEOP program. How did you first hear about it?

Namaqua: I first heard about HEOP from my high school counselor, Ms. Torres. EOP was more common in the majority of my conversations about attending college, but I never heard about HEOP until she mentioned private schools. She was adamant about me applying because she was confident that I would be accepted, and here I am.

Q: How has the HEOP program helped you throughout your college career?

Namaqua: HEOP gave me access to resources such as tutors, textbooks, study sessions and genuine counselors, mentors, and friends that pushed me to do better.

Q: How did you come to form your company: Scentablez?

Namaqua: Well, I was informed about the idea by my friends, who are also co-founders. Since my peers played sports, we knew we need to have something to curb all the unwanted odors. We wanted an easy-to-use solution for on-the-go freshness, so my partner wrote the business plan, we reviewed it, and got right to it.

Q: What challenges did you face in the process of developing your company?

Namaqua: My team and I did not face as many challenges as many would think. Since we developed the idea through the Simone Center Accelerator Program, we were given a safe space with mentors and coaches to bring together what is now Scentablez.

Q: How has your education in MIS at Saunders prepared you for the development of Scentablez as a product and a company?

Namaqua: Classes like Business 1 & 2 motivated me and equipped our team with the resources to create a business plan right away. Many entrepreneurs believe that their idea is “the one” and create something based on that thought alone. Our coaches at the Simone Center instilled the importance of Customer discovery and indicated that it was better to find out for sure and build something that consumers really wanted. With my MIS background, I was more open to this logic because I knew the value of data analytics and identifying findings that would have been otherwise unknown.

Q: I understand you have had internships with Bank of America twice and that you are considering going back for a third time. What about working for Bank of America has you coming back?

Namaqua: Well, Bank of America’s work environment and self-development is what keeps me coming back. From the first day I started with the bank, it was all about coming there with all the knowledge I got from college while continuing to learn every day to improve my skill set. Everyone is so friendly and always open to help if you ask. It is not just work, work, work, but they give you time to work on what you want to do while pushing ‘work-life balance,’ and that is really important to me.

Q: How has your education in MIS at Saunders prepared you for your job at Bank of America?

Namaqua: MIS has prepared me for Bank of America by providing me with the knowledge both in business & technical aspects. At RIT, if it’s a business class it tends to integrate leading technology into the syllabus and vice versa if it is an MIS core class, presenting us with real world business cases & problems to solve with technology.

Q: Do you plan on staying with Bank of America as you continue your career, or do you have other plans?

Namaqua: Well, I hope to stay with the bank as long as possible. My long term goals consist of many calculated investments in different industries that I have been eyeing for a while now, and to one day open my own philanthropy to give back to the communities that created who I am today.

Q: Do you plan to continue developing Scentablez as you continue with your career at Bank of America? If so, how do you intend to do both?

Namaqua: I hope to, but I know work can get hectic at times. My partners and I have had that conversation multiple times throughout our journey.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to say?

Namaqua: I would like to say thank you to everyone who has helped me thus far. I am blessed and highly favored to have gotten so many opportunities. The Marathon continues!

Learn more about the HEOP Program