Onosadavbeji (Ono) Oghre-Ikanone's Mosaic Story

Onosadavbeji Oghre-Ikanone

Onosadavbeji Oghre-Ikanone (Ono) enjoys helping youth reach their full potential as he channels the wise words from his favorite mantra “Be who you needed when you were younger.” That mantra has served as a North Star for Ono as he has navigated his journey from Lagos, Nigeria in 2004 to St. Louis where he has a successful career at Boeing as a Process Quality Engineer. In addition to that he runs a thriving entrepreneurial endeavor.

Ono’s parents had a plan for their five children: to get everybody to the United States where they knew that a college education and opportunities would be far better.  They had both come to the region to attend Southern Illinois University on track scholarships and knew that someday they would want this for their children.

So, one by one, Ono, the youngest of the five, watched his siblings head off to the U.S. There they would earn degrees, all the while working to send money back home. His parents always told him about how his oldest brother worked at both McDonalds and Burger King when he first came here. Every pay period he would send 1/2 of his paycheck back to Nigeria so we could have some extra money. “As my brother advanced to that next level, he would literally be pulling all of us along with him. In progression, each sibling would reach back and help the next person. When it came to me, I didn’t have any younger siblings to reach back to, so I reach out to help people around me.”

When his brother, closest in age, was ready to go to college, Ono’s mother sent him to the States as well so he wouldn’t be in Nigeria without his siblings. He attended Hazelwood East High School. With all his children now settled in the U.S., Ono’s father headed back to Nigeria. “He figured his job was done and that my siblings would watch out for me.” Yes, they watched over their baby brother, but they were still in college or graduate school and still finding their own way.

So at age 17, a freshman at University of Missouri St. Louis, and alone in a foreign county, Ono had to learn all the basics of living independently from scratch, navigating everything from handling minor traffic tickets to completing complex student financial aid forms. He will tell you that there were some scrapes and bruises from his mistakes along the way. He also came away with great empathy.  “When I see a young person moving from high school to college, struggling with things they have never done before, I try to be there as a mentor—that person who is there when you need him.”

At age 30, Ono could not be more accomplished or busy. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and an advanced degree in petroleum engineering. Understanding a need for connection, Ono became a spring initiate of the Alpha Phi Alpha, the first historic black fraternity, where he helped organize events and parties, community service projects and social justice actions. It allowed him to meet fraternity members at different schools around the city growing his network of colleagues and friends. He was so successful at organizing events that as soon as he graduated, he started his own company Ono Celebrations Marketing & Consulting LLC. It quickly grew into a hub for young professionals to enjoy social and professional networking events. With his family as an example of giving back, Ono began volunteering at charitable events such as ‘Kicks for the City,” an event geared to provide gently used shoes for underprivileged individuals in the city.  He also saw how immigrants and people of color are sometimes treated as less than because of their differences, which led him to partner with Action Saint Louis on their political awareness events such as “The Woke Voters Brunch.”  Not only did it capture his natural entrepreneurial talents, it also helped underwrite his second degree.  “I did my business and I went to classes, and that is all I did.”

When the pandemic hit and social gatherings come to a sudden halt, Ono saw it as a way to harness his interest in logistics and started a new venture, Ikanite Logistics LLC. He secured a contract with Amazon to deliver packages around the city. When he got that opportunity, he didn’t know how big it would be. Ono started with five vans and is now at 20 vans/routes with opportunity to grow a little more. Right now, there are 46 employees. “It’s a lot of moving parts figuratively and literally.”

Again, his North Star of reaching back and helping others weighed heavily on his decisions.  “I wanted to hire the people around me because I knew a lot them were losing their jobs because of the pandemic.”  The first five employees were Ono’s friends who had fallen on their luck. They intended to use the work to fill the gaps but have stuck by Ono as he builds this new enterprise.

This is all on top of a full-time position with Boeing where he serves as a quality engineer. He is focused on rapid/long term problem solving. He works directly with assembly mechanics to mitigate product nonconformance issues during assembly.

Decades ago two Nigerians students fell in love with St. Louis when they came here on athletic scholarships. They passed that love on to their youngest son. Now Ono, appreciative of the sacrifices they made, has made St. Louis his home.


Written by Harriet Blickenstaff