BlogConnecting People. Empowering Communities. Celebrating Success.
April 11th, 2024
Building a Collaborative Space for Youth with Ethos Lab: Anthonia Ogundele

Recently, we had the opportunity to connect with Anthonia Ogundele, founder of Ethos Lab. The Ethos Lab Project is centered around building a collaborative space where youth, aged between 12 to 18, can spark their curiosity, connect with others, and explore the world around them in creative ways. The initiative brings together culture and innovation to empower youth to tackle the complexities and uncertainties of today's world. Their mission is to create a safe and welcoming tech-focused environment to serve the unique needs of all young people - through a S.T.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) and culture based experience.

Read her invaluable perspective below:

(Please note all responses have been edited for readability and concision)

Anthonia, how would you describe yourself?

A: I would describe myself as a relentlessly curious individual who likes to solve big problems. Other descriptors of myself would be a Mom, entrepreneur, community builder and daughter. I think another word to describe me is audacious, which is what has allowed me to bring many different ideas to life.

Can you share a bit about your upbringing and early life experiences that have shaped your journey as an entrepreneur? Were there any pivotal moments or influences that led you down this path?

A: I have always been one to ask a lot of questions and try new things. I would say that my parents supporting my curiosities and presenting a diversity of activities was what made a huge difference. When I was young, I used to sell bracelets in my mother’s office and starting there and over the years, I started other small “hustles” which evolved to community initiatives, worked in different industries, and created services for hire—it was only in the last 3 years that I realized that this pattern was aligned with the descriptor of entrepreneur and tapped into it to merge my commitments to culture, community and innovation.

Anthonia Linkedin ^Anthonia Ogundele from Ethos Lab

Can you share the inspiration behind founding Ethos Lab? What motivated you to start this venture?

A: What started Ethos Lab for me was a couple of things. It was motivated by providing not just my daughter, but others access to a space where they can create what they want and also give them the scaffolding to post-secondary and careers. It has been the culmination of all of my experiences that allowed me to act and make it happen. The world is changing faster than ever and it is important that we reimagine new approaches to ensure that all youth have access to the future.

What were some of the initial challenges you faced when launching Ethos Lab, particularly as a Black entrepreneur? What unique obstacles did you face later on and how did you address them?

A: The challenges that Ethos Lab faces includes access to funding, talent retention and acquisition, marketing, recruitment…etc. These are all a part of the entrepreneurs journey that many other organizations face. What sets a Black entrepreneur apart in the marketplace is their undervaluation; where there's an assumption that services provided by Black-led entrepreneurs, organizations, or individuals should be free or priced below market standard. Unfortunately, this continues to be a prevalent notion in the ecosystem. In order to overcome this, we have had to adjust our offering to ensure we can continue to deliver a quality program and also have financial sustainability, with support of many amazing corporate sponsors and grants.

Can you highlight any specific strategies or tactics you employed to build and grow Ethos Lab in the early stages?

A: Ethos Lab started at the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Just prior to the pandemic most activities were in person. The combination of virtual interaction and parental encouragement enabled Ethos Lab to effectively engage youth, facilitating the exploration of concepts, ideas, and the development of its offerings. We were also able to engage more youth from across the country and into the United States. The other thing that allowed us to grow was leveraging relationships and partnerships with people and organizations with a shared vision. No one can do this alone and it has been amazing to have a supportive community that has helped bring our vision to life.

Screenshot 2024-04-10 at 11.38.07 PM

Reflecting on your entrepreneurial journey, can you pinpoint a moment or decision that fundamentally altered the course of Ethos Lab? What led to that pivotal moment, and how did it shape your subsequent actions?

A: The pivotal decision was to go online and deliver programming. Ethos Lab was not initially going to deliver youth programming. The delivery and refinement of the programming happened in response to the needs of the community during the pandemic. As any entrepreneur would attest, there is both continuous learning and pivotal decisions that happen on a daily basis.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for Ethos Lab, and how do you plan to continue making an impact within the startup community and beyond?

A: There are goals that I see for Ethos Lab, one is seeing an increase in the representation of Black youth and gender diversity in areas of S.T.E.A.M, and the second is that our approach scales at a national and global scale with Ethos Lab’s being located in various regions.

What role do you believe diversity and inclusion play in driving innovation and success within the startup ecosystem and what ways do you incorporate this at Ethos Lab?

A: Innovation is about diversity and inclusion. It is inextricably embedded in Ethos Lab. There is no option. Diversity and inclusion are indicators of a thriving startup ecosystem; where a lack of it, can indicate an unhealthy ecosystem.

In what ways has your background or identity influenced your approach to entrepreneurship and business leadership?

A: My background as a resiliency professional has allowed me to spot trends and take a fairly quick risk-based approach to executing on the vision. The endemic lack of representation in S.T.E.A.M is an emergency and I approach it as such.

Blackathon ^The 2024 Ethos Lab Blackathon!

What is the super power (in Anthonia’s words!) of the Black Entrepreneur?

A: As a Black entrepreneur, we are consistently asked what are barriers and challenges that we face in our experiences. I prefer reframing the question on what are the superpowers that I bring to the table in my experiences as a Black Entrepreneur. I would say 3 things: A) an enormous amount of grit and resilience, B) a unique perspective and I would say for many, C) an integrated and legacy-centered approach to inclusion—we not only want our markets and industry to reflect our identities but we also build in a way to inspire future generations to persevere.

A big thank you to Anthonia for sharing her valuable insights! We hope you found something that resonated with you in her story. If you're interested in learning more about fostering creativity and innovation in young people, then be sure to check out Ethos Lab, Anthonia's incredible creation focused on empowering youth through S.T.E.A.M. learning. We're grateful for her contributions to creating a space for young minds to thrive - hopefully you've also learnt something to create your own impact!

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