Meet Sandbox, Our Creative Mentorship Program

Initiatives by Courtney Biebuyck, People Ops Director

Creating opportunities
through mentorship

Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. This inequality is one of the driving reasons that community outreach and professional development are so important to our organization, and it propels the vision for Sandbox, our external mentorship program.

It has been long discussed within the industry that advertising is lacking in representation; we know there is a problem, but how do we begin to affect change? Discussion and awareness are great, but real change requires action, commitment, and time. There is no quick fix to a deeply-ingrained, industry-wide problem, but we recognize that we have immense power at our fingertips with our creative, technological, and communication prowess. This power affords us the ability to solve societal problems on a more personal level.

To that end, Hook developed a two-pronged approach to mentorship that exposes young people from underrepresented communities to creative professions through mentorship and hands-on experience. Sandbox was designed to highlight potential paths to a career in a creative field, whether that journey includes formal schooling or not.

What’s in the Sandbox

The first approach is our college mentorship program, Sandbox U, which aims to build partnerships between Hook professionals and students at HBCUs and community colleges. Through the partnership, we provide guidance, mentorship, and a network for students—aiming to break down barriers as they begin their search for work. Over the course of 10 weeks, students are matched with a mentor who fits their specific interests and career goals, whether that be craft-related, portfolio preparation, or general job interview help. If you're interested in applying for the program, you can find the application here.

While our college mentorship program focuses on those already targeting creative avenues, our second approach reaches students BEFORE they decide on potential future paths. Through our high school mentorship program, we have teamed up with Alexander Hamilton High School in Culver City to help expose career options that don't require an expensive four-year college degree. Because many of our own team members have taken non-traditional paths in their careers, we have a very real understanding of that journey and want to share what we’ve learned along the way. With workshops and creative exercises, we help these young students build their skills, gain experience in a professional environment, and foster relationships with other creative minds.

Sandbox guiding principles

To guide all our efforts, we've developed a set of values to keep us anchored in purpose:

Support local communities and underrepresented groups
We are in a position to help address societal challenges that exist in our own backyard. We work alongside compassionate people who care deeply about improving the communities in which we work. The immediate fruits of our labor may not be visible, but we are driven by the potential of improving access to opportunities for those who come after us.

Increase the racial and gender diversity of our industry
Our industry, which is largely populated by those from a single portion of society, lacks the voices and perspectives of the various identities that make up the rest. If we are seriously committed to making real change, we must reach students early in their journeys. This way, we can make considerable progress toward creating workplaces that better reflect the location in which we live. This requires a concerted effort to maintain long-term relationships, assist in portfolio development and expand talent pipelines.

Develop emerging leaders at Hook
Through this experience, we're learning just as much from those we seek to educate. This mentorship program provides the opportunity for our people to gain invaluable experience presenting, teaching, and leading; in turn making us better educators for the next group of mentees.

Measuring success

In our second year with a formal program, we have connected with more than 120 high school and college students, and many of the mentor/mentee relationships have outlasted the length of these programs. The feedback from mentors and mentees alike has been overwhelmingly positive, with many looking to stay involved and others eager to join the next round. One of our mentees, Max, summed it up best when he reached out to Brad Ackerman, mentor and principal designer, simply to say, “I GOT THE F**KIN JOB!”