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Meet Sharon Nyangweso, founder and CEO of QuakeLab

And our 'What Next' Program Inclusion Expert

 

Sharon Nyangweso is the founder and CEO of QuakeLab, a full-stack inclusion and communications agency. Sharon specializes in a radical new approach to diversity and inclusion that is measurable, strategic, and based on a strong foundation of design thinking. A leader in empathetic community engagement and moving inclusivity from aspiration to action, Sharon is a regular contributor and panelist on CBC radio and television, Rabble.ca, Live 88.5, and CTV. An immigrant from Kenya who has lived and worked in Canada for nine years, Sharon has worked across sectors with organizations in 11 countries. 

My first job ever was…Selling onions from my parents farm on market days (Tuesday) in a small village in Western Kenya

I founded QuakeLab because…I wanted to inject the industry with a different way of doing this work, ruffle some feathers, and make some good trouble!

I advocate for inclusion as an integrated business function because … Iniquity does not have respect for our organizational departments and barriers. It shows up everywhere, and your people, your team, deserve it to be addressed with the rigour you would give any other organizational challenge. It’s critical that we move into a way of working and building that centers the experiences and needs of the folks who have been marginalized and left out of important conversations.

My proudest accomplishment is…Getting a huge organization to completely rethink their strategy that was based on anti bias training. I’ve been in contact with a number of organizations who are set on leading the way forward with the kind of training that is ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Recently, I stepped into an RFP process and helped a huge national organization rethink this as a strategy. 

My boldest move to date was… Assuming a young, Black, woman and immigrant could have the audacity to thrive! When folks who most of our institutions weren’t built for – take up space, are ambitious, and move in a way that assumes they are meant to succeed, that is so incredibly bold! 

I surprise people when I tell them… I came to Canada alone at 18! 

My best advice to people starting out in business is… Assume you will succeed, figure out what you want that success would look like, what you don’t want it to look like, then stick to it! Also, there’s nothing wrong with quitting (temporarily or permanently), we have this idea that entrepreneurship is for everyone, and anyone who does not succeed or quits is illustrating a failure of grit. That is extremely unfair – not all of us are meant to be entrepreneurs. This is such a tough, and sometimes lonely road and it’s absolutely ok if you look around one day and think “this isn’t for me!”

If I had an extra hour in the day, I would…  SLEEP! Hands down the most important things I could tell every entrepreneur is to step away from the 24/7 hustle mentality. I know it’s a struggle when there are things to get done, emails to answer, clients to deal with and admin work that piles up. But, none of that will happen if you’re a shell of yourself, so rest!

The one thing I wish I knew when starting my business is… Have a functional and precise way of calculating what I charge, and what my time and expertise is worth. Especially for entrepreneurs whose product is their mind and time, it becomes so easy to underprice yourself, I did! Doing the research to understand what others were charging, the value of my products and time, then breaking down what it takes for me to complete a project and keep my agency moving forward gave me a good baseline for what my expertise cost. And I can stand by those numbers because I know how I came to them.

I stay inspired by… The fact that I know the work I do isn’t just for me. I’m cognizant of the fact that like many immigrants, I have a community of folks standing behind me and beside me who I want to support and who support me. I also understand that while working with my clients to help dismantle traditional, oppressive ways of working, then redesigning something equitable and good – I also have a responsibility not to replicate these oppressive ways in my agency. It’s so deeply inspiring to work with clients and consultants who teach me new ways of thinking and working that are disrupting all of the normalized but oppressive and toxic structures we’re accustomed to!

My next step is… Building an ecosystem under the QuakeLab umbrella for agencies, organizations and consultants who are focused on doing DEI differently, and a community of practice that centers the experiences and needs of the folks we work in service of. I want to set a precedent where organizations like QuakeLab understand that we are not accountable to our clients, but to the BIPOC, disabled, LGBTQ2S+, women, men and youth who we work in service of! Those folks, they’re my bosses!

Want to hear more of Sharon's advice? She's the Inclusion Expert in our What Next program, created in partnership with Cisco and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Designed to give you the targeted, actionable advice that you need, it connects you with experts and fellow entrepreneurs. We know the 'new normal' still doesn't feel very normal, but you've made it through the panic and the pivot — now it's time to plan.