Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Michael Odupitan of Omni Circle Group Is Helping To Change Our World
As you grow, some may not journey with you — even friends. It’s essential to understand what benefits you and what doesn’t, then pivot as needed. Furthermore, give grace and forgiveness even to those who don’t reciprocate. I’m learning this as I continue to expand my business, which hasn’t been easy.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Odupitan.
Michael Odupitan has made it his mission to amplify minority businesses and entrepreneurs in Topeka, Kansas — a community he’s called home for 15+ years. Odupitan spent his early 20s working primarily in juvenile detention centers and correctional facilities and fostering children. He was inspired to launch Omni Circle after researching Black Wall Street, a flourishing Black community in nearby Tulsa, Oklahoma, destroyed by white mobs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I graduated from Washburn University with a criminal justice degree and a social service minor. I worked in the social service field for 15 years. In 2015, I watched a number of Black men and women lose their lives to police brutality. I watched people riot because they wanted change, but there wasn’t any in the community I was living in. I had also lost my mother to cancer, and after her passing, I rediscovered myself after going through a deep depression. After working on myself, I focused on my purpose and what would give my life meaning. I did some soul-searching and found what I now consider my purpose: to live a life of service to underserved and underrepresented people due to the lack of awareness, resources and opportunities; to recreate new pathways that will give individuals the determination to become their best selves.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Watching the individuals in the Topeka community step up into leadership and advance in their careers based on the work that Omni has done — the entire journey has been an amazing experience for me. I think the most interesting story would be Jarvis Doleman’s path. He came to the organization to help his son feel more connected to his culture following George Floyd’s murder. He is now managing Omni’s youth mentoring program. Jarvis was unsure of himself, and now seeing his growth as a leader makes me feel good about our work. I can’t wait to see what’s next for him as he continues on a journey to become a better version of himself.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This has definitely been a bumpy journey, and many lessons have been learned. First off, be prompt when opportunities are presented. I was in a position to bring someone on the team who had a skill that Omni needed. Because of my delay in making a decision, the opportunity fell through. I lost a potential employee who would have made a perfect addition to the team. Furthermore, don’t hold a grudge. I did once, and it cost me a business deal. My potential partner at the time felt the negative energy and passed up the opportunity. Often, it’s better to let go of negative feelings.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Omni Circle provides professional development, education and workspace to minority entrepreneurs in Topeka, Kansas. We are helping the community see itself differently — in a collaborative way that empowers members to achieve their personal and professional goals. Since its start in August 2019, Omni Circle has more than 50 members, with educational programming ranging from community, business, personal and youth development.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I met Jermel Walker during a community leadership training. We were talking, and he opened up about his struggle with being heard in certain circles. Following our conversation, we began working on one of Omni’s community projects to improve the Topeka environment. Over time, Jermel took the lead on this project, hosting a community cleanup initiative. The first event was a hit — over 40 people attended. The event’s success snowballed, and we’ve now built a program to include volunteer landscaping services for those in need. I connected Jermel with several community organizations and partners, but now he has started to make his own connections and aims to become a motivational speaker.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Get involved! Together — with combined skills, a set mission and collaboration — we can help our community members succeed. There should be a better relationship between those who need help and those who can help, whether they be policymakers or members of the community. Secondly, spread the word in a positive way. I constantly ask myself: How can we improve our messaging and outreach so that it reaches underserved and underrepresented communities? Finally, we have influence in some capacity, and how we use that influence can make all the difference.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A leader has self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation, social skills and empathy for others. Leadership, to me, isn’t defined by the technical skills that we have. It’s the combination of knowledge and experience. Big-picture thinking and long-term vision are essential to lead a company or organization.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- As you grow, some may not journey with you — even friends. It’s essential to understand what benefits you and what doesn’t, then pivot as needed. Furthermore, give grace and forgiveness even to those who don’t reciprocate. I’m learning this as I continue to expand my business, which hasn’t been easy.
- Some people you meet will be honest and honorable. Others may tell you what they think you want to hear. Transparency up front is critical for trust and growth.
- Owning a building comes with many responsibilities, and the process is a huge learning curve. Because it was so new to me, there were some mishaps through the renovation and construction phases, but we pushed through — the Omni Circle office space officially opened last month!
- Heavy is the head that wears the crown. When in a leadership position, there are many responsibilities, which comes with criticism, especially when creating something different. Change is hard for people; the unknown can be scary. It is key to be accepting of that.
- The emotional aspect of leadership is huge — it’s the biggest thing I’m learning and adjusting to. As you build your business, you have to be emotionally intelligent and compartmentalize what is personal and what is business.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Omni Circle is the movement. The essence of this organization is community, collaboration and collective work. Once that mindset catches its momentum, it will change the lives of many. An old African proverb says “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.” Together with time and a collective vision to improve our community, we will change the lives of many.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Why, having been endowed with the courageous heart of a lion, do we live as mice? Let us choose a higher road, maintaining our values and standing for peace even in the midst of what feels like war. Over time, we will always find that patience shall overcome aggression and Love shall overcome hate.” — Brendon Burchard
For many years, before I discovered what I had inside me, I lived a small life. I was always told I had greatness in me, but I did not know what that looked like. After losing my mother in 2015, I was in a deep depression and looking for ways to heal. I was in therapy and reading motivational books, which is when I came across this quote in Burchard’s book “The Motivation Manifesto.” It was life-changing. It helped me discover who I was and, more importantly, who I needed to be. Now, I live my life with a different purpose. I still have untapped potential, but it keeps me motivated to achieve more than I could have imagined before starting this journey.
Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The people I truly idolize are those who are no longer here — those who created legacies and pathways throughout their lives. So, with that in mind, I would love to sit down with Marcus Garvey. His movement gave people hope and self-determination to live the life they wanted despite circumstances. I firmly believe that with self-determined, opportunities are created. It would have been easier to play a victim during the time Garvey lived, but he chose to create another path.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Anyone interested in following our work can check out our website at omnicirclegroup.org or follow us on our social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. You can also contact us at email@example.com or by phone: (785) 422–7459
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
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