Talking Dirty HR with the Chief People Officer of TRU Colors
Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders.
How can you tailor-make your HR service to best serve your employees? In this episode of All About HR season 2, we sit together with Khalilah “KO” Olokunola — Chief People Officer at TRU Colors — to discuss the best approach to talent management and development.
Khalilah is an experienced HR leader, a published author and speaker, and a passionate advocate for second-chance hires, DEI, and creating communities of belonging at work.
In this episode, we’ll talk about:
- How to sustain the business through being mission-minded
- Individualized and need-based professional development
- Dirty HR: How to tailor-make your HR to serve your customers
Watch the full episode to find out everything you need to know about Dirty HR and what it means for your organization!
Khalilah Olokunola: Simon Sinek says: people don’t buy products, they buy your why? What is your why? What is the impact that you want to create? What are the processes that you’re defining? What are the systems that you structure? And how do they affect change when you work inside the workplace? And so I encourage all HR professionals to be dirty, right? And that sounds so crazy. I encourage them to be dirty. I encourage them to be divergent. Don’t just be one thing. Be intentional, be resilient, but use your recognition of the award system to drive those outcomes, right? So look at your talent and your optimization and be strategic. Don’t just hire people because of what they can do, but hire them because of who they are. And always keep your way upfront because if you know your why, you’ll always figure out your how.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie and on today’s episode, I speak with Khalilah “KO” Olokunola. She is the Chief People Officer at a company called TRU Colors. TRU Colors was founded in 2018 by rival gang members from three different gangs. Together, Khalilah and I talked about the fascinating story behind TRU colors. We also talked about their onboarding program called “Disrupt you” and we talked about dirty HR, a concept Khalilah came up with. I think this one is a must-watch. So without further ado, go check out our conversation. Before you do so, subscribe to our channel, hit the notification bell, and like this video. Thank you and bye.
Neelie Verlinden: Welcome to another episode about HR.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi there, Khalilah. How are you?
Khalilah Olokunola: I’m well thank you. Thank you so much for having me here today.
Neelie Verlinden: Well, thank you for joining me. And before we really dive into a conversation, perhaps you can tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself.
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, so okay. Khalilah “KO” Olokunola. Chief People Officer at TRU Colors. I entered the HR industry by accident. It wasn’t my first choice. I knew that I wanted to impact people. I just didn’t think that it would be in this way. I’ve been at TRU Colors since its inception in 2017. And in addition to being here at TRU Colors, I am an advocate for second chance hires, DEI, and creating communities of belonging inside the workplace. I’m an author, also a speaker, and I am married to Allan, and we have four kids and a pup named Bailey.
Neelie Verlinden: Oh, nice. I love it. All right. So Khalilah, I think we can best probably start at the beginning, which is a story of TRU colors. So perhaps you can talk us through the journey?
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah. So in 2015, a 60-year-old by the name of Shane Simpson was gunned down on Castle Street, which wasn’t too far from Untapped, which is a company that our CEO and founder had at the time. He was appalled. He didn’t know that we had gangs in Wilmington because he lives behind the gate in the country club. So he reached out to his friend Ben David, who was the district attorney, and he said: You know, I want to meet whoever is the top gangsta in town. Which is crazy, right? And so Ben David connected him to the gang task force, who connected him to three young men who they thought were influential in gangs and that sparked the conversation. That was way back in December 2015. It was a horrific crime that rocked our city. The violence wasn’t just the 16-year-old that was killed, but he was gunned down by young men that were also the same age. And so that began to start that conversation and the journey of George Taylor, our CEO, having conversations with gangs, and what he learned was powerful. He realized that the gangs weren’t invested in the drug trade. They were looking for economic opportunities and inclusive opportunities also. And that began to swap the idea of TRU Colors, what it could potentially be.
Neelie Verlinden: That is a very powerful story, indeed. And so basically, what I think is interesting here as well, is that the fact that the reason why they were, let’s say, operating in gangs really came from this lack of other opportunities. Am I right?
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, it came from a lack of economic opportunity and inclusivity. So in the city, there’s a lack of resources. Most inner cities are food deserts, so they don’t have access to fruits and vegetables like most people. The price of milk, I mean, in the supermarket where I live, it’s $2. And in those neighborhoods, it is six to seven dollars. And there’s a lack of job opportunities because most of the people that live in those areas don’t see themselves outside of where they grew up, because of where they’ve been confined and the experiences that they had. And so the idea was to change the product that they were using and make it legal and to provide them education, see if they could adapt to that form of education, see if they would be willing to stop the violence as we saw it in the community and make a change. And it was remarkable what we began to see happen, even early on when TRU Colors started. You know, George Borden, with three young men, those same three men he had the conversation with, he put them in Untapped, which, again was filled with white educated millennials. And so we thought there would be this extreme cultural divide. But after 24 hours, they were the most popular people inside the building. They were able to adapt to that environment. And so we thought that we just got lucky. So we put out a call for anyone with leadership status to come in. And once they came in, that began the start of seeing what happened with those three young men could happen again. And it did. And when we realized that by providing education and opportunity, not only would we be able to decrease violence, but we can change a community by changing an individual’s life and what they believed about themselves. TRU Colors began to move forward.
Neelie Verlinden: Wow, where did the idea come from, Khalilah, specifically for a brewery? What can you tell us about that?
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, great question. So Untapped is the largest beer app in the country. You know, it was originally started as Next Glass by George Sun, and Untapped was acquired and merged. And so because he already had built some relationships in that space, and he was looking for an operation that we could open, that we would be able to hire at least 100 people, the idea of a brewery came to mind. But then we also realized that everything is sparked by a conversation that challenges what you believe about yourself, your situation, your circumstance. And so beer not only became the catalyst to help sustain the social mission, but also the catalyst to help start a compensation.
Neelie Verlinden: That was actually pretty literally a double-edged sword there, wasn’t it?
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Khalilah Olokunola: Yes, it was. Yeah. And so you know, thinking about starting this brewery, and a lot of people ask that question, we realize we can hire people in different departments because we have marketing, finance, HR, health and wellness, sales, and also we have the brewhouse. And so we’re able to hire, the goal is 125 people from gangs here in the city. And we’re hoping that what they learned, they can push down that positive peer pressure to their peers, and it will continue to provoke that change and other organizations would see what we’ve done, and try to shape a model on their own, like what we have here.
Neelie Verlinden: So basically, it’s really spreading the formula that worked, spread it across the country.
Khalilah Olokunola: I mean, a lot of organizations want to do social good, they want to make an impact, but they don’t know where to start, or they’re not specifically tied to a mission. For us, it was something that was sparked by George when he saw this new story and heard this 911 call. Often the purpose is predicated on pain and passion. And so that’s what happens to him. And so when that happened, he went forward. And so there are other organizations that we can think of like Ben and Jerry’s, or Patagonia who have missions or Interface, who realized the carpet that they were creating, the glue was affecting the environment. So they made a change internally, and they became more mission-minded, and now one of the top sustainable businesses that we have in the country. And so we hope that the model shows people that they can be people-focused, purpose-driven, and also profit-aligned. So very powerful.
Neelie Verlinden: So very powerful again, I think Khalilah. Now, something I’m wondering about here. So I’m guessing here that these three men that he was talking to, that they probably came from three different gangs, then am I right in assuming that?
Khalilah Olokunola: The idea is that you know, we connect and bring together rival gangs to work together. And so they had to come in, they had to spark a conversation with each other, and be willing to work together. And after it happened with that original three, we became the original 11. And that 11 was a makeup of Bloods, Crips, and GDX switches, the three main gangs that we have here in Wilmington, North Carolina. And in the beginning, I mean, everybody wanted to talk the loudest, because that’s what they believed would convey their message. But what they learned is that even sitting at the table with people that they couldn’t actually be on the same block with at any period of time was that they had more in common with the young men across from them than they had what divided them. And we begin to shape systems and processes that were intentional about unifying them and bringing them together. The idea of our Disruptive program, which is our eight-week onboarding of life skills, social skills, business skills, and of course, fear, was not only to teach skills, but also teach you to discover who you are, what could possibly be in your life, and also to unify you with the person across from you that you may have considered the rival for so long. And so we have conversations that were sparked by people who injured or killed somebody else’s best friend. And that is really a tough conversation to hear or a tough statement to hear. But imagine someone who took something so personal and so important from you, and you come into this building, and you swap that conversation and now you call each other’s brothers. And that’s some of the changes that have happened here at TRU Colors. And you know, internally when you work with people, you can define and design based on what their needs are. And so intentionality for us here at TRU Colors is important. And having rivals from all walks of life, you know, come together is vital for the social mission, because that’s the only way that we decrease violence.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I’d like to zoom in on that a little bit more, actually, here, Khalilah, because I was hoping to talk to you about Disrupt You. You just mentioned it. So yes, this is your onboarding progress and it’s meant to provide the foundation and education and also opportunities. It’s really around bringing these people together for this purpose that you mentioned. But maybe we can make it a little bit more practical for our listeners because I think some of the questions that they might have, I also have it, I know, is that okay, so how do you get these people behind that same mission and work together? Not just as colleagues, but as you said, as brothers. How do you get there? How does that work? What does that look like?
Khalilah Olokunola: Well, the first reality, which you know, I’m sure everyone knows is that we have to offer an economic opportunity. It’s the pay, right? We’re offering them a livable wage to take care of their bills. You know, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is real. And so when we offer them a livable wage, they’re willing to come in and to have that conversation. And so once they get in, though, we have to make sure that we keep the conversation going. And that starts by teaching them how to discover themselves. And that first part of this, I like to call it the honeymoon phase, where you’re getting to know a little bit about yourself, like, what skills do you have and how do they translate from the block inside of this board room environment? How can you apply them in real life? And it’s in that first week that I call belief week that it often shocks people. Imagine putting a group of individuals in a room not only with people they don’t get along with, but just with themselves, and they have to get to know who they are. And they can see a skill set that they owe that they’ve always had translated in a powerful and positive way. And so when we’re able to do that, and this is an example, I had a young man who laughed at me and told me that all he had was being a smooth talker, which is funny why he was a smooth talker. And so for me, that means that he thought that he could communicate effectively. And so I use that talent that he believed he had, and I begin to cultivate it. From there, I partner each member up with an individual and make them accountability partners. And so you work together on projects and assignments while you’re inside the Disrupt you early on. And so if you are a company and you’re looking to bring in a base of people, and you’re wondering how to make a change, in the beginning, don’t only teach them what they need to do to apply in the workplace but put them in a position where you can teach them how to discover what they already possess and how it applies to the company and the company’s success. I had to make sure that each individual team member not only had a livable wage, and not only discovered something about themselves, but they knew that there was meaning by them being here that could effect change, not only for the company’s mission but the company’s bottom line.
Neelie Verlinden: I really like that example that you gave about the guy that said he was a smooth talker.
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah he was a smooth talker. And I have other guys that you know, I have a young man who just likes numbers. Today, he’s our finance manager, you know, because he always loved numbers. So translating those street skills into the boardroom, and from different perspectives, it matters. For a CEO, it means that this business is scalable, right? For HR, it means that professional development can be key for us in the workplace. I don’t always have to hire a stock performer, I can provide the right tools, and this individual can become the stock performer. And for the investor, it just shows you that you don’t always have to look for the round peg in a round hole, that you can look for someone with passion, and you can give them the tools they need to help grow them into the place that you need them to go. And so from different perspectives, what we did here, in the beginning, looks different, but the power in it is that they came in for the money. And what happened is that they discovered themselves and when they discovered themselves and the change that they could make, they began to stay because of the mission.
Neelie Verlinden: I think what I really love about this, Khalilah, is that it sounds like you start where their talents already lie, where their passion already lies. And I think if you start there, where someone’s passion lies and where our natural interest lies, then that is already probably halfway through the road to success, right, in the role that they’re going to have in the company. And I think if we look at this from a broader perspective, this is what so many other organizations should do so much more of when they are actually hiring people for certain positions.
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, I completely agree with you. You know, we recruit a little bit differently here. And so when we bring people in, we give them an open house in a group environment, so everyone, again, can connect. And then we do a departmental call where you go into each conference room and you meet the team members in that department and the managers there. And after that experience, we asked you: what department do you think you’d be interested in? And what skills do you believe you have? And so when someone is brought into Disrupt you, we don’t just teach them basic life skills, like eye contact and communication, or teaching them how to do things like handle their finances, or providing tools to make sure that they have reliable transportation and stable housing. We’re also teaching them the basics of those skills in those areas they said they were interested in so they can get a taste of what that feels like. And I think that if more companies, as you said, start there, they would realize that they have automatic buy-in to build up a team member because there’s something that they already have, and something that they already want. And so I think that you know, in the coming time, even in 2022, that professional development is going to be key. But it’s not going to be just what you need in the organization. It has to be what people need for themselves. Because in this Great Resignation, or I like to call the Great Revelation, we’ve had these “Ah-ha!” moments where members are putting more value on their values. They don’t just care about the money, they care about the mission. If we align our goals with our people, I think we’ll not only find more impact but will reduce turnover. It’ll help our bottom line because we have team members that stay in the roles, not that we put them in but that we prepared them for.
Neelie Verlinden: Absolutely. I totally agree with that. I think one more thing before we move on to something else that I absolutely can’t wait to talk to you about, Khalilah, is when we talk about there’s this approach that you have at TRU Colors, which I think is fantastic. If again, we take a bit of a larger view. So there is in the US, I think, there are 27 million so-called Hidden workers, people that don’t necessarily always tick all the right boxes on their resumes. So if we look at TRU Colors again, what would you say then that companies can learn from TRU Colors in this regard in a few words?
Khalilah Olokunola: I think that we can learn that, if we look again, we would find that if we invest in Second Chance hires, like moms returning back into the workplace, populations that may not always be considered the first choice because we’re always looking for someone that has the right briefcase, the resume, the track record, but if we look at people that have the right heart case and headcase, that means that they have the cognitive ability to do the job. And they have the passion for the job, that will find team members that are loyal and dedicated. So I would tell organizations to look again, to look beyond the population they’ve always recruited for. And look at the Second Chance Hires market, look at moms returning back into the workplace or look at students transitioning from college into the workplace who have this extreme passion to make the difference, and begin to cultivate from there.
Neelie Verlinden: Okay, so the next topic here, Khalilah, that I’m super excited about is dirty HR. Now, this is a concept that you came up with. Right?
Khalilah Olokunola: Right, I did.
Neelie Verlinden: So we’re going to talk about it. And I think the first question here for our listeners or audience would be perhaps you can start by telling us what dirty HR stands for.
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, you know, when I say dirty HR people cringe because HR is, you know, so compliant. Right? HR is about compliance. And so for us, you know, I think that we had to create a re-engineered approach. And dirty is not about breaking rules, but it’s more about being hands-on, and shaping and creating the processes and systems for your team. I think when we spoke early, I talked about something called the KIND code and KIND is another acronym for Knowledge Inspires New Direction. If you define a design system based on the people that you’re serving, it’ll be more impactful because you’re designing specifically for that target. So dirty is also an acronym that D is Divergent, like, you can’t just fit in in one place. HR can no longer just be one thing. Last year, we saw that we had to become medical professionals, we had to become conflict resolution specialists, we still had to recruit, we had to figure out how to make the hybrid workspace or the work from home workspace work, we had to become culture champions, we had to become all these things and so that D is for divergent and it also can be DEI you know, belonging. How can we be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in our environment?The I is Intentionality? How can we be intentional in what we do and what we create and shape, because intentionality helps build the most impact? The R is resilient, like HR has to have an extreme bounce back. You know, for us when I look at my recognition and reward system, and this may sound funny, I use that to always bring the team back from their difficult challenges. So that R for me, it is Resilience, but I use the recognition and reward system in order to do that and drive those outcomes that we actually need. And T is Talent optimization strategy and assessments. And so I just don’t look at what you can do, I look at who you are. For example, my assessment tells me I’m a maverick, I’m a risk-taker, I’ll break the rules, I’m on the edge. And so if you have a team and everyone there is passive, you may need a maverick on your team to help facilitate that specific project. So you need to begin to be more strategic when you hire for your talent optimization and that strategy. And that Y is Your impact and processes. Simon Sinek says: people don’t buy products, they buy your why? What is your why? What is the impact that you want to create? What are the processes that you’re defining? What are the systems that you structure? And how do they affect change when you work inside the workplace? And so I encourage all HR professionals to be dirty, right? And that sounds so crazy. I encourage them to be dirty. I encourage them to be divergent. Don’t just be one thing. Be intentional, be resilient, but use your recognition of the award system to drive those outcomes, right? So look at your talent and your optimization and be strategic. Don’t just hire people because of what they can do, but hire them because of who they are. And always keep your way upfront because if you know your why, you’ll always figure out your how.
Neelie Verlinden: Wow, Khalilah, I’m pretty, pretty impressed by this. Now how did you come up with this? Were you just looking at the HR space, and you saw how things were being done? Or you were thinking okay, so yeah, this is way too compliant? This is not working for us? What’s the story behind Dirty HR?
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, so I think I told you that I got into the HR industry by accident, and so I wouldn’t have chosen on my own. And when I did get into the HR industry, there was a big learning curve, I had to get over a lot of compliance, I had to learn a lot of rules and regulations. And I realized that they didn’t work for the people I was serving, they just didn’t work for gangs. They didn’t work. The standard recruitment strategy didn’t work for me to recruit gangs, I couldn’t just put an ad out. They weren’t looking where we put ads. And so I had to go to the trap house, the courthouse, and the jailhouse to begin to recruit people. And then for non-gang members, because we have a mixed workplace, I had to bring people in that were empathetic, and that were willing to work in a different kind of inclusive environment because they were working with active gang members. And for some people, they may think that that is not the safest place to work, you know, even though it is probably the safest place to work. And so when I realized the best practices that were in place in the human resource industry didn’t work for us, I began to re-engineer and designed this service blueprint. A service bloke blue blueprint shows you the overall processes and it shows you the customer journey. And so I looked at the customer journey like an employee journey, and how the policies and processes will intertwine with their journey from hire to retirement. And I began to design from that place and use everything I did to continuously drive those outcomes. You have to think about this: we have this five-month onboarding and includes that eight-week Disrupt You, that 90 Day internship for projects and stretch assignments, and then you go on your career track. But we can’t just stop there. We have to continuously have these processes in place and make sure that it sustains the growth that our team encountered. Because when they leave here, they go back to their communities, they go back to their neighborhoods, and they go back to the gangs because we require them to stay active. And so being dirty is my way of not just putting something in this timestamp, but putting something in and then adding a sustainability process so that we can continue to hit the goals that we’ve hit and to continue to make the change that we’ve seen before, and that we know that we’ll continue to see if we put these things in place and keep them in place.
Neelie Verlinden: I’m not sure if I can call it a textbook example. But I can call it a real-life example of how you really tailored or engineered, as you call it., HR at TRU colors to the needs of your customers, the people working at true colors. And I think once again, this is something that a lot of companies can learn a lot from.
Khalilah Olokunola: I think that for us the dynamic is how do we bring gangs in from the block to the boardroom and how do we bring people that just know the boardroom to have that conversation and get to know each other? Our recognition and reward system is based on work performance, but we do a little bit more. In this lecture, we teach about money, housing, transportation, and healthy relationships, and we continue that. So a big part of our recognition and award system is something called TRU community. I have the team split into tribes and each tribe elects a head coach, and they compete on a monthly basis based on work performance, based on giving back to the community, and based on some of the personal goals they hit for themselves. So that continues to drive those outcomes of unifying libels because they have to work together. It continues to drive those outcomes of growth, not just professionally but also personally, and it creates a team atmosphere, and you are rewarded, and because our team members are who they are, you won’t get points, you get community cash. And if you have the most community cash in the quarter, you are the ball of the quarter, because that’s the language of the people in our land. And so you get this big rope chain that says that you’re the baller of the quarter. And that may sound awkward, but for companies listening, you are shaping specifically for the people that you’re serving. And so what does your company do? If you are a coffee maker, then you know, your ball of the quarter may get a gold cup. Whatever it is, you’re using these recognition and reward systems to drive the outcomes you want to see in the workplace. We don’t always have to crack a whip or create a rule, we can create a system and invite people to be a part of that space and watch them soar.
Neelie Verlinden: Wow. I love it. I love it. I had another one here, Khalilah, and it’s like, so if, you just said it as well, but if there are HR practitioners in our audience and thinking: Okay, it’s time for us to get dirty, how can they best get started?
Khalilah Olokunola: That’s a great question. I get a lot of people that ask me how they can get started. I think I’ll go back to that data, to surveying the land, to auditing and assessing, looking at what you do really well, and looking at what you want to do better. And when you do that, you create an end goal. What do you want to see? I want to see unity. And so because I want to see unity, and I want to see personal success in each individual team member, I take that goal, and I begin to work backward from there. And so if you are an HR practitioner and you’re listening, I would audit in the SAS, I would create what your end goal is, what do you want to see in your team? Do you want to see an increase in diverse candidates? Do you want to see more community in the workplace? Do you want to see an increase in productivity? Do you want to see an increase in sales? Whatever that is, you get that why and you put it up front and then you design everything backward. How can you create a program where you’re teaching people how to get better at making the sale that comes with communication, conversation, and connectivity? And so you’re creating from the space of your why. And when you create from the space of your why, you will begin to define in detail what you know you need. So audit, assess, address, and then activate, right? And so what do you want to do and work backward to create it? And I’m willing to give a blueprint that I use to create that Dirty HR plan for myself to listeners, all they have to do is reach out.
Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic that I think that would be awesome. So yeah, if people are interested in that, then they can reach out to you and ask you what at the end of the episode, how they can best reach out. Now, would you perhaps have a piece of advice for HR practitioners or employers who would also, you know, do their part in putting an end to social exclusion?
Khalilah Olokunola: You know, times have changed so much for us. And I think that we have to just take accountability, individually, and as organizations and companies. I think that we all realize that we can do better and define what our better is, at least that’s what I did. And so if you want to create more inclusivity, more equity in your workplace, more diversity in your workplace, it starts with realizing what you have to do to make that change. For us, it starts with having those conversations, because conversations always challenge what you believe. Internally, we created something called An Inclusive Ship, where we intentionally bring people together to have lunch to swap conversations and we measure it through perspective points. Did you learn something new? Did you find something you had in common? Would you do it again? And what we’ve seen is that it’s created relationships with people. It’s changed what people thought about other individuals and changed what we believed was possible internally as a workplace. So if you want to be better, you can’t just say you want to be better, you have to actually put things in place to do better and not just start with a cool giveaway. Hiring one minority to be your diversity manager, or your VP manager is going to start with your policies, your procedures, and everything that you do centered around that one end goal. And looking at yourself in the mirror and not just creating metrics for your team, but creating metrics for yourself and making sure that you’re meeting them.
Neelie Verlinden: Khalilah, we are getting to an even more fun part of every episode. And so this is the part where first of all, I am going to ask you what you believe is the biggest cliche that’s out there about HR.
Khalilah Olokunola: That HR is boring, and always about compliance. I mean because that’s not me and that’s not why they want to come into the industry, because HR is not boring. I’m loud. I like to have fun. But I also understand people. And I think that when people look at HR, they always look at us as the team that cracks the whip. But we’re actually the team that cares. We are the team that is intentional about what we do. And we want to see individuals in the workplace thrive. And then there’s this idea that HR, we’re superheroes. I think we can be classified as that, but HR also needs a break. You know, sometimes, we can’t do it all ourselves. And so showing grace to your HR professional or showing grace to yourself, as an HR professional, I think it’s important. So it’s that idea that HR is compliant, they’re boring. They’re all about just the rules. And they’re all about cracking whips. I think HR today, the white HR today, are people that are really focused and that want to do good in the workplace and provoke change, or about seeing employees thrive and succeed in areas that they’d been hired for. You don’t come into a workplace just to fill a space, but you come into the workplace to make a difference where you are and to be a part of the full process and the end goal of the company that you’re working in.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, that was very beautifully put. I have another one for you, Khalilah. That is, I always ask every guest if they want to share an epic win, and an epic fail with our audience. So you can start with either one.
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, so my epic fail. I said, all these good things about Disrupt You and these programs. But I didn’t have it together. I fail so many times trying to come up with an idea for this workplace and for the people that we serve. I mean, I had to come up with these ideas. And every time I took it to my CEO, he was shaking his head. And I remember sitting in the office telling him that I don’t think that I’m your person, I don’t think that is me, because this is all I have. And he was like: I think you are the person. I think you just have to go back. And you know, and take your time and dig deeper. And it was a couple of weeks later that the Disrupt You that we know today was fully designed by my hands. And I had to look at the framework that made sense for our population. But I didn’t have it in the beginning. And I almost not only gave up, but I almost walked away. And today, I think back and realize that I’m happy that I kept going. So I mean, those were big failures for me, at that time in my life in 2018. And I would say epic win was I mean, goodness, you know, this is gonna sound awkward to you. But I never celebrate my wins. I always think that if my team wins, I win. And so I can’t really highlight something that I’ve done. But I can celebrate what the team has done. And we’ve been here since 2017. We only had a product this year. And our beer recently went to the market. And that’s a win for us, a win for the young men that came in, who are part of the original 11, and who were telling the entire community that they were going to produce a beer and to see the beer produced in the 65,000 square foot facility in the heart of the South Side, where people can look out their window and do this as a beacon of hope. That’s the win.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I could feel that one. I think that is definitely the win, Khalilah. Very, very beautiful. I think this is also where I’m gonna give you a really, really, really big thank you for joining me today.
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, thank you for having me. Thank you for allowing me to share the story of TRU Colors and to share the passion that I have for people in this industry. I’m sure you can hear it. I’m sure the people that are listening can hear it. And you know, I can’t see myself anywhere else, except this place that I ended up accidentally. I actually believe now that this is part of the assignment so thank you.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I’m not sure if it was accidentally, to be honest. I think it had to go this way. And yeah, I could definitely hear it. I could also feel the passion. It’s super inspiring. Maybe one last thing so if people do want to connect with you or if they want to reach out, where can they best do so?
Khalilah Olokunola: Yeah, so I am Khalilah Equips on all social sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and hey, you can email me also at [email protected]
Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic. Thank you so much. Thank you everybody for tuning in today. I hope you enjoyed this conversation just as much as I did. And if you haven’t done so yet, subscribe to the channel, hit the notification bell, and like this video, please. Thank you and see you soon for new episodes.
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