By Tammy Nienaber

When Travon signed up for an elective at John F. Kennedy High School in 2009, he had no way of knowing the class would change the trajectory of his life.

Through a senior-year elective offered by The BrandLab, Travon was given a glimpse into the world of marketing communications. Thanks to that experience, today, he is a professional in that world.

The idea for The BrandLab came from John Olson, founder of Olson agency. This Minneapolis-based non-profit introduces diverse student populations to the marketing communication world through high school electives and internships at local agencies and companies. Paired with professionals from both agency and corporate settings, high school students from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds participate in the evolution of a campaign from concept to completion. The students also hear from speakers who introduce industry terminology and marketing concepts while offering insights to marketing communications as a career.

Travon recalls working on a campaign to promote a bubble gum. The class used students at his school as their target audience. Working on the campaign gave participants real-world experience in a field they might not have previously considered. “The teen years are a crucial period in life, said Travon. “The BrandLab sparked my curiosity and showed me that marketing could be a viable career choice.”

After high school, Travon pursued interdisciplinary studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato in the areas of marketing, mass media and public relations.

During college, Travon had a PR internship at Tunheim and an advertising internship at Olson. Both experiences helped shape his understanding of possible marketing communications career paths, but neither spoke to his passion.

The third time’s the charm, however, as they say. Through relationships Travon had built with The BrandLab, he was paired with an independent designer to learn Photoshop. It was then that Travon knew he had found the right outlet.

Travon graduated in 2014. Today, he is a digital marketing specialist at Hamline University. And, like many millennials, he has a side hustle. Check out his website,, to see his work as a freelance graphic and web designer.

Network for a cause
To learn more about The BrandLab, attend the IABC and PRSA 2018 Summer Mashup at Utepils Brewing in North Minneapolis from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 27.

This event is a fun way to connect with one another and network for a cause! Step away from your desk and devices for a few hours to chat with other marketing communications professionals and support the future of the industry. And, as if networking and supporting a good cause isn’t reason enough to attend, event registration includes one free beer! Bring cash for extra beer and the food trucks.

Registration is a $20 donation. Proceeds from the event will benefit The BrandLab.

Questions? Email