To change the face and voice of the marketing industry by introducing, guiding, and preparing students for careers in marketing.

Every year The BrandLab inches closer to its vision, to make our great state the place where talk about diversity becomes action, and we develop the most inclusive and diverse creative industry in the nation. Inspired by the momentum of this banner year, we are extremely proud to share our annual report with you.

Read full letter.

Christine Fruechte Board Chair

Ellen Walthour Executive Director

You can't ask for a job if you don't know it exists.

In our Classroom Program, our high school level students complete a rigorous curriculum that introduces them to creative problem solving needed for successful marketing and advertising careers. Students learn the history of media, ethics in marketing and advertising, how brands are developed and influence the marketplace, and different aspects of production.

Marketing jobs require keen analytical and communication skills coupled with creative thinking. Students are provided with firsthand knowledge and exposure to the industry through site visits at our partner organizations.

We focus on bringing the industry into the classroom and the classroom out to the industry ― a mutually beneficial program model.

School Partners
Bloomington Kennedy High School
Como Park High School
Edison High School
Highview Alternative Learning Center
Johnson Senior High School
Patrick Henry High School
Park Center High School
Richfield High School
Robbinsdale Armstrong High School
Roosevelt High School
South High School
St. Paul College

students served
124 volunteers went into classrooms and hosted field trips, dedicating 6,000+ hours of their time, talent and commitment to students, exposing them to the world of marketing

classrooms served
100% of teachers say that TheBrandLab is a positive program and plan to partner again next year



























Twin Cities On-Time High School Graduation Rates


What The BrandLab did for me will always have a special place in my heart, and it will impact my success in the future.

The BrandLab Intern 2016,

(hired by Minneapolis Institute of Art, funded by Best Buy, hosted by Clockwork)

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This is a relationship-based industry. We help rising stars build their professional networks.

host sites


Internship Program
The BrandLab experienced an incredible year of growth in our internship program. Our cohort grew to 67 interns and 49 host sites, up from 48 and 37 respectively in the previous year. We engaged more coaches to support our interns, more volunteers to lead industry specific training sessions, and more social and emotional learning opportunities to build skills for long-term success.

percent of students reported that their ideas were heard and valued

coach to student ratio


Christy Walker
3e The Lifetime Agency

Archie Gjerdrum

Elijah Lo

Julia Rademaker

Kwae Hoo

Pader Thao

Pajfuabcha Vang

Tom Thornton

Tatyanna Lewis

Pedro Fuentes
Barrie D'Rozario DiLorenzo

Jonathon Soto
Best Buy

Amanda McCormick
Buffalo Wild Wings

Medori Wiklund
C.H. Robinson

Emily Sullivan
Carmichael Lynch

Ursula Jimenez Muro
Carmichael Lynch

Lamah Bility
Children's Museum of Minnesota

Andrea Xiong

David Vick-Rosario

Steffanee Jagdeo
Dairy Queen

Andrea Keunster

Chanda Dennis

Alicia Jimerson

MaiShoua Thao
Fusion Hill

Ciashia Shiongyaj
Hanley Wood Marketing

Veeva Lee

Kimberly Yang
Independent Filmmaker Project

Fatuma Aden
InHouse (Hired by Minneapolis Institute of Art, funded by Best Buy, hosted by Clockwork)

Gerald Hinton
InHouse (Hired by Minneapolis Institute of Art, funded by Best Buy, hosted by Clockwork)

Mai Ker Lee
InHouse (Hired by Minneapolis Institute of Art, funded by Best Buy, hosted by Clockwork)

Shadeed Cole
InHouse (Hired by Minneapolis Institute of Art, funded by Best Buy, hosted by Clockwork)

Tou Meng Yang
InHouse (Hired by Minneapolis Institute of Art, funded by Best Buy, hosted by Clockwork)

Eboni Washington
KNOCK, inc.

Nick Tuel
Kruskopf & Company

Lydia Xiong
Land O'Lakes, Inc.

Akshara Kulkarni

Sam Abrams
Magnet 360

Paola Popoca
Mall of America

Bilal Abdulkadir
Martin Williams

Yusuf Mohamed

Innocent Murwanashyaka

Will Xiong
Minnesota Historical Society

Erianna Jiles
Minnesota Public Radio

Kang Her
Minnesota Public Radio

Lao Sue Hang

Alyssa Abilo

Charday Vincal
Nina Hale, Inc.

Messiah Roberson-Moody

Mohamed Malim

AJ Hanson

Gaozong Lee

Onyi Ugwuadu

Mario Bustamante

Isabella Torres
Preston Kelly

Titi Yusuf

Alexis Jenson

Mario Bolero-Romero

Duresa Worika

YuFeng Xiong
Twin Cities Public Television

Zaquerie Lee
Way To Grow

Lary Lopez-Servin
Weber Shandwick

Gabe Sinner
Wingnut Advertising

Erik Patton
Words at Work

Michael Contreras

Fred Williams Jr.

Ismael Garrido

Keren Garcia
Zeus Jones
























Removing barriers and creating pathways for success
I’ve learned so many things from the classroom program, summer institute, and of course my incredible experience at my internship. The BrandLab staff truly cares about every single one of their interns, and they strive to make our experiences great ones.

Steffanee Jagdeo

The BrandLab Intern 2016,
Dairy Queen

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Scholarship Program
The BrandLab remains one of the leading nonprofits in Minnesota providing college scholarships to students of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. In our recently completed fiscal year, we restructured our scholarship program to provide ongoing support for our most promising students. Previously we invited all of our Classroom students to compete for a one time scholarship of $1,000. Today we invite only the students who have successfully completed an internship through The BrandLab, to apply for a $4,000 scholarship distributed over four years. We want to help our rising stars stay in college and graduate. Additionally, we have strengthened our relationships with colleges and universities. Partner colleges around the Twin Cities are providing support in the admissions process and tuition reduction to alumni of our Internship Program.


Alicia Jimerson
Minneapolis Community and Technical College: Marketing, Photography

Andrea Xiong
University of Wisconsin- Madison: Marketing, Spanish

Chanda Dennis
Morehouse College: Economics

Erianna Jiles
St. Paul College: Communications

Kang Her
University of Minnesota- Twin Cities College of Liberal Arts: Business, Marketing

Mario Balero Romero
University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire: Marketing, Business

Mohamed Mailm
St. Thomas University: Marketing Management, Design

Sam Abrams
Morehouse College: Economics, Marketing/Finance

Steffanee Jagedo
University of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management: Marketing, Spanish

YuFeng Xiong
To be determined: Entrepreneurship, Business Administration

Building a bridge to creative careers for all

Connect Program
Over the last year, we have grown our alumni programming into an essential pillar of The BrandLab. Our Connect Program moves beyond exposure and access to build a bridge from the internship to landing a full-time position in the industry. We have created a youth-led alumni association, launched a mentorship program for participants to receive one-on-one support from industry professionals, integrated college readiness trainings into summer curriculum, and structured professional development workshops to engage alumni year-round.

Hired a Youth Fellow to lead and improve alumni communications and programs.

Formed ConnectU ― a network for The BrandLab alumni, led by their peers.

Launched a mentorship program to provide long-term support for students from industry professionals.

50 initial matches of alumni with industry professionals in our new mentorship program.

Tested a Connect Internship model which will become a new program opportunity for students in the future.

Linda Pham, 3M
Carina Perez, General Mills
Michael Herr, General Mills
Maryan Garane, Target

















When I think of The Brandlab, I think of a newly paved road. It's something that can get me off the path that's already been walked so many times by people before me and help me go down a new road to an industry that's always changing.


Fred Williams

The BrandLab Intern 2016,

Meet more students.


Our work is bigger than diversifying staff: it’s about breaking unintentional barriers and creating positive change in workplace culture. We must ensure that the talent we discover is not only able to secure their first professional job in the industry but that they will be able to thrive!

Our Fearless work is growing and we are proud to highlight these ambitious and innovative programs.

Fearless Conversations

The BrandLab's annual Fearless Conversation event brings together industry leaders to discuss race in the marketing and advertising industry. The goal is to have honest conversations around diversity to eliminate unintentional bias and help foster healthy work environments that know how to support, and retain a diverse talent pool. 2016 was our largest gathering to date with 225 guests. Our 2016 panelists: Pamela Brown, Brand Licensing & Partnership Management, General Mills; Dorion Taylor, Director of New Business, Partner, Carmichael Lynch; and Caroline Wanga, Vice President Diversity & Inclusion, Target. Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Weber once again facilitated the conversation. The topic: Are You In or Out? A Fearless Conversation on Race and Retention. Listen to the full conversation here.
Fearless Conversation 2015
Fearless Conversation 2014

Three Fearless Questions

At The BrandLab we want to actively drive the dialogue around access and inclusion. We want to move beyond lip service and inspire industry professionals to take action and create change. The 3 Fearless Questions podcast is one of the ways we are doing that. Created and produced by students, this series asks creative leaders, entertainers, athletes, politicians, CEO’s and authors for their answers and insights to our 3 Fearless Questions. Special thanks to Carmichael Lynch and sixdegrees for their support on this project. Listen at our website or at SoundCloud.

Fearless Workshop & Consultancy

Over the years you have asked us to bring Fearless to you, we have listened. Today The BrandLab offers ongoing consulting and training to ensure the diverse organizations of tomorrow will allow all people to thrive.

Our workshops are developed for industry professionals by industry professionals. We work with you to ensure that every level of your organization will have tools to put equity into action. And, we approach the work through a framework of marketing and advertising. We use real world case studies to help our clients understand how they can build strong and inclusive brands to authentically engage in the marketplace.

As a nonprofit organization we make sure every action we take and every dollar earned or donated supports our mission. In 2015-2016 we not only built the Fearless Consultancy & Workshops program, we have secured five clients. Our vision is that this work will sustain itself and eventually help to fuel our other programs.

Our goal to double the diversity rate in the metro from 6% to 12% is doable. Lean on The BrandLab to ensure your organization gets there.

State of the Industry Research

For The BrandLab to effectively engage industry leaders in fearless conversations about race and to track their progress over time, we needed to develop a baseline of diversity rates locally. In 2015 Common Grounds, an interdisciplinary group of graduate students at the University of Minnesota, was asked, in partnership with 3M, to administer a survey and analyze the results measuring diversity rates locally. We invite you to review our results both at a glance or in depth. The local rate of diversity within the marketing & advertising industry remains low. We plan to continue measuring this work with our courageous partners in the coming years.

2014-15 – Results At A Glance
2014-15 – Full Paper
attendees at the 2016 Fearless Conversation
plays of 3 Fearless Questions
Current Twin Cities industry diversity rate
of attendees of Fearless Conversation intend to change a work related action based on the learning from the event
Thank You

Thanks to you, we are beating the odds and already seeing young creative talent choose majors that will help propel them toward careers in creative communications. Your continued support will help us revolutionize the industry. We welcome your continued financial support.