Photo by Kent Kriegshauser

During his sophomore year at Knox, Ladipo Lawani ’08 started a non- governmental organization (NGO) in Nigeria to train youth to become entrepreneurs. He was named one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30 for being one of Africa’s “most promising young changemakers.”

Lawani is the founder of L&L Foods, a food processing and packaging company focused on the Nigerian market that sources its products from local farmers. In 2016, L&L Foods won the Columbia Business School Shark Tank competition and in 2017, it won the Nigerian Economic Summit startup competition.

Lawani is also a board member of the Bethesda Child Support Agency, which provides free education to orphans and vulnerable children.

Why did you attend Knox?

My mom helped me narrow down my list of liberal arts colleges and we did a lot of research. We applied to a few, but Knox stuck out due to the level of correspondence. It felt like Knox wanted me more than the others, and I was drawn to that.

How did Knox prepare you for your career?

Knox was instrumental in the way I work professionally. Before Knox, I would take each thought as a fact. At Knox, I learned to question and understand the thoughts of others around me. But I also immersed myself in other areas, like jazz drumming. That curiosity helped me become who I am today. Knox wasn’t just focused on giving you technical skills. It helped me see the world through different perspectives. It gave me a different social framework to carry with me.

What advice would you give to current Knox students?

Being in college is an informative time. There are a lot of insecurities and vulnerabilities. If you’re not careful, you can shut yourself off inside your comfort zone. It’s important to grow your network and reach out. You have the opportunity to explore and the luxury of like-minded people all around you.

It’s also a time for balance. You need to discover yourself but also recognize that there is life after your undergrad. Your GPA matters, but you need to take advantage of what you’re being taught. Make sure you make the most of the time you have.

Watch a video interview with Ladipo.