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Meet Kelsey White, 2019 NRF Foundation Next Generation scholarship top recipient

By Diana Stallworth

On January 13, 2019, Kelsey White was awarded with the Next Generation Scholarship, our pinnacle scholarship program which provides $25,000 to its top recipient — a stellar student with an unrelenting passion for retail. We spoke with Kelsey about the impact of the Next Generation Scholarship experience, her dream retail job and driving 45 minutes to find a Vogue magazine.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Ever since I learned what a buyer was, I’ve wanted to be one. As soon as I was able to, I threw myself into the retail world. I began at the local general store where I grew up and worked tirelessly once I moved to New York City to be a part of houses like Carolina Herrera and Chanel. More often than not, I can be found searching the city’s retail world for innovation and excitement, perusing my favorite small bookstores, planning out travels, or plotting my next career move.

Kelsey White, 2019 Next Generation scholarship top finalist
Kelsey White, 2019 Next Generation scholarship top finalist

How has receiving this scholarship from the NRF foundation impacted you and what effect will it continue to have on your future?

Receiving the Next Generation Scholarship from the NRF Foundation is an absolute dream come true. At my very first Big Show back in 2016, I was able to learn what the scholarship was, and it has been my goal ever since. The impact of the award is twofold; firstly, it allowed me to gain amazing real-world experience, and now enables me to enter the job market with the validation of the NRF Foundation behind my name, which has already been extremely impactful. Secondly, this generous scholarship gives me the financial freedom to pursue my dream job.

What was your favorite part of the Next Generation Scholarship process?

My favorite part of the Next Generation Scholarship process was definitely the final round interviews. That morning, I was able to sit at the same table as my retail icons and I was reminded why I work so hard; because I want to be sitting in their seats down the line.

And the most challenging?

The BJ’s Wholesale Club case study was definitely the most challenging aspect for me, but also the most rewarding. My experience is mainly in the luxury market, so digging deep into the wholesale club market forced me far out of my comfort zone. But, I loved being put into the mindset of a different consumer, and learned that I have great interest in an industry sector that I may have not considered before.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from working in retail?

The biggest thing that retail has taught me has probably been the power of sheer dedication and hard work. Our industry is constantly changing, evolving, and growing. To keep ahead of the curve takes great energy, but I cannot imagine a greater reward.

What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I think people are always surprised to learn that I’m not from New York, but in fact grew up with cows and cornfields of rural Pennsylvania! It was a 45-minute drive to find somewhere to buy Vogue, but I still managed to find fashion.

You previously mentioned that this scholarship has given you the financial freedom to pursue your dream job. What is that dream retail job?

As my career progresses, I see myself learning and growing with a company whose mission, values, and culture I can be truly aligned with and passionate about. One day, I aim to be at the helm of a heritage brand, finding ways to preserve and embrace legacy while also pioneering retail innovation.

Applications are now open for the 2020 Next Generation Scholarship. Check out our 'How to apply' page for more details.