Celebrating 15 Years of Impact and Innovation


Changing the Face and Voice of Marketing and Advertising

As we celebrate our 15th anniversary in 2024, we reflect on the strides we’ve made in diversifying marketing and advertising.

Support our mission

Our Impact

Over the past 15 years, we've achieved significant milestones:

  • Introduced over 5,000 high school students to careers in marketing and advertising.
  • Offered more than 800 paid internships to high school and college students.
  • Arranged over 175 professional mentorships and hired 32 young professionals for paid fellowships.
  • Facilitated nearly 300 equity and inclusion workshops in industry workplaces.
  • Awarded over $280,000 in scholarships.
  • Expanded from one high school program to three markets across the Midwest.

Our mission is to change the face and voice of this profession, and we invite you to join us on this journey.

Read our 15 year press release

Our History

Founded by John and Cindy Olson on July 7, 2009, The BrandLab began as a local initiative to address the diversity gap in Minneapolis' marketing and advertising profession.

Over the past 15 years, we've grown into a Midwest-wide organization with a powerful impact on the profession and the content marketing professionals put into the world.

Mission and vision

Our mission comes to life through our four pillars:

Equity - Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) in marketing and advertising workplaces through State of the Industry, Fearless Conference, and Fearless workshops. Get Fearless.

Exposure - Inspiring 15- to 25-year-olds with marketing and advertising career pathway exploration through Spark workshops and field trips. Connect students.

Access - Real-world learning and skill-building through paid college internships. Host interns.

Opportunity - Creating long-term pathways to the industry through college scholarships and a professional job board. Post a job.


A 15 Year Anniversary Poem

Coloring Outside The Lines
by Kelli Williams, CEO of The BrandLab

In places where stories tend to blend,
And voices sound the same, my friend,
The BrandLab’s voice begins to rise,
Changing our world, opening our eyes.

Fifteen years we’ve walked this path,
To lighten loads and clear the math,
Of businesses where ads are made and spun,
Where just a few folks had the fun.

We bring colors, bright and bold,
Unlocking tales that must be told,
BIPOC youth with dreams so bright,
We give them opportunities to reach new heights.

Their stories, shared, real and true,
Breaking the old, embracing the new,
Our mission is clear, our purpose grand,
Creating space where all can stand.

Every shade, every voice and tune,
Heard and valued, morning to noon,
Ads reflecting varied souls,
Diverse lives, unique roles.


Breaking chains of old routines,
Erasing pasts, unfair scenes,
Media’s mirror, shining bright,
Showing the world in different lights.

No more bland coloring in the lines,
But rich with every joy and sign,
The BrandLab’s work, a worthy fight,
Setting the marketing and advertising world right.

Fifteen years of changing hearts,
Playing fair, in all our parts,
So, let’s all join this vital quest,
To lift each other, do our best.

In diversity, we truly find,
The true voice of humankind,
This year, we mark these fifteen years,
Of breaking barriers, shifting gears.

Here’s to more stories, voices strong,
Together, moving ever on,
The BrandLab’s mission, clear and true,
Creating a world that’s bright and new.


Alumni Impact Stories

We are so proud of our The BrandLab alumni and their amazing accomplishments!

Each week from July – September we will add 15 alumni impact stories.

Travon Sellers

Sr Designer at KNOCK, 2009 TBL Alumn

From intern to creative to board member, Travon shares how The BrandLab paved his path to success.

"Internships provide a unique platform for exploring a potential career pathway, offering more than just skill development. By immersing African American youth in the marketing and advertising profession, The BrandLab facilitates a firsthand understanding of industry practices and cultural dynamics. This exposure not only broadens cultural knowledge but also fosters a sense of inclusion within an industry that historically lacks diversity.

As interns navigate a career in marketing and advertising, they bring back valuable insights and experiences to their communities. This knowledge transfer becomes a source of empowerment, inspiring others and fostering collective resilience within the African American population. The ripple effect is a community that can adapt to challenges, confront disparities, and work towards holistic well-being."

IGNITE Gala: Celebrating 15 Years of Changing the Face and Voice


Join us at the IGNITE Gala to celebrate 15 years of impactful change!

This year’s gala promises to be a memorable occasion as we honor the youth served across the Midwest and raise vital funds to support The BrandLab’s programming.

Date: Thursday, September 26, 2024
Time: 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Location: Heritage Center of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

Don’t miss this chance to IGNITE change! Join us in celebrating our progress and contributing to a brighter future.

Details & Registration

Get Involved

Imagine an inclusive marketing and advertising industry that fosters a landscape where diverse voices, perspectives, and narratives thrive. Companies with leadership from all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds actively seek diverse talent, voices, and experiences within their teams, fostering an environment where creativity flourishes from varied viewpoints.

In this vibrant ecosystem, the industry sets a standard where every person feels seen, heard, and empowered through the messages they encounter. Indigenous, Black, Brown, AAPI, and Hispanic/Latinx (BIPOC) youth are drawn to the dynamic possibilities for creative expression, strategic thinking, and ongoing innovation within these career paths, with ample opportunities to kick-start their journey.


  1. TIME – Invest your time to learn about our mission and vision, make connections on our behalf, and support our alums.
  2. TALENT – Volunteer your own skills or leverage the expertise of your organization’s talent as volunteers to support The BrandLab, our programming, and/or serve on our committees/board.
  3. TREASURES – Provide financial support to our general operations, programming, and events as an individual donor or as part of your organization’s philanthropic giving efforts.

This is how we equip the next generation of creative problem solvers.

Volunteer Donate