“A brand architect with a vision for the future and an eye for tailored suits.”
Luke Lawal, Jr. is a born leader, a true teacher and a bold innovator that does not subscribe to the status quo. Luke is a DC native, who graduated from Bowie State University in May 2012 with a degree in Biochemistry. He is an ambitious, fast rising entrepreneur who is driven to achieve nothing less than success in anything he puts his mind to accomplish. This mind set was no accident. From a very young age Luke was taught by his mother to be a leader, to do something different and change the world. His mother, who also attended an HBCU, graduated summa cum laude as an undergrad at Howard University. She earned a Master’s degree from Howard’s graduate degree program. The values Mother Lawal instilled in Luke, along with a host of mentors and internships had a major impact on his life as a youth and as an adult. He’s all about paying it forward. Earning a degree and getting a corporate job could never satisfy the hunger of this young mogul. That’s why he set his sights on becoming a business owner long before entering college.
Luke is now the Founder of HBCU Buzz, the Leading Source of HBCU News, Sports & Entertainment. The site is driving traffic in the millions and thousands of followers to match. He is always the founder of Suited Lifestyle, A guild of pioneers, setting the standard for young professionals world-wide. Our mission is to create an extensive network of young professional leaders. Luke was recently featured in Black Enterprise for his innovative moves in entrepreneurship. This week’s #ShineHard Conversation we feature a brand architect with a vision for the future and an eye for tailored suits.
What was growing up like for you?
Luke: I’m Nigerian, my parents are Nigerian. We have these strict and very rigorous expectations for what you’re going to do in life. Education is very important in my household. We didn’t bring home C’s and D’s and it just didn’t make sense in my household.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Luke: I wanted to be everything. The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a cop. I wanted to be a cop because I always looked up to cops. I feel like in society cops are looked down on and frowned upon, but I wanted to just help people. But as I got older, I wanted to be a doctor. Like any Nigerian would tell you, I wanted to find a cure for everything that someone hasn’t found before.
What is your passion and when did you know?
Luke: My number one passion is trying to help people. I don’t work with anybody that I can’t figure out how I can help them or how I can take them from point A to point B. Another one of my passions is community service. I’m a part of three organizations. I’m a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, a Mason and both of those organizations were founded on community service. So, I’ve learned from a young age how to give back and be passionate about helping people.
What is the biggest sacrifice that you’ve made to get to where you are?
Luke: I wanted to do bio-chem and I realized I wanted to be a doctor, then I said okay, I wanted to be a pharmacist. I worked at Kaiser for 2-3 years and anyone knows that when working in healthcare you can’t juggle anything because you’re working with patients and you don’t have a phone. You’re either there or you’re not there. No in between. Jumping out from that industry was a huge sacrifice for me, trying to make my mom or parents happy is a priority for me. It motivates me to make my new path excellent.
How did HBCU Buzz get started?
Luke: I was in undergrad in my dorm room. I was privileged to be on SGA and a campus leader. We traveled to different schools and I realized how much HBCU’s impact our world. So, I was trying to figure out who was publicizing this, why don’t we have a voice in media for topics that appeal to us? So I saw that void and I just acted on it.
How do you define success?
Luke: I define success as impact. How much can you put an impact in your culture, your community, your employees, your followers, your brand and I think most people can say, even when you’re running for election, how can you affect someone else’s life. What are you doing for black people? What are you doing for your culture or what are you doing for your class? I define success as the level of impact I have in someone else’s life.
Whats the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Luke: One of the biggest challenges is consistency. I tell people all the time, if you don’t feel like you can do this every day for the rest of your life then don’t do it. If you get up one-day and don’t want to do it, then you shouldn’t do it. The biggest challenge for an entrepreneur is that you don’t have people to answer to, so your deadline is your deadline and it’s really easy to start to pushing that back. I think one of my biggest things is to sustain. Last year our biggest goal was 5 million views on our website, by the end of the year, we might just hit that.
What is the difference between someone who has made their dream a reality and the people who haven’t?
Luke: A lack of drive. Some people like to go with the wind. Media’s cool now, but now entertainment media is cool or is sports going to be cool next? They’re looking at it for popularity versus growth or impact. So, for instance, if you know me, you know I started HBCU Buzz, but the whole community does not know that. I like it that way because I’m not looking for popularity, I’m looking for impact, and so as long as HBCU Buzz is making impact, I feel fine.
What is your DNA to success?
Luke: I’m personable. When you reach out to me, I give you my cell phone, I give you my email, you know where I live. I’m not the type of person where you have to go through the secretary or this person or that person to get to me. And no matter how big my company gets or my brand gets, I want to make sure that people can reach out to me directly and I think that’s very important because people respect that. When they have an issue, they want to call you directly; they don’t want to deal with your team. They want to feel like you’re invested in them.
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Luke: Just ignorance. I think ignorance is the biggest thing that frustrates our community, like I’ll see somebody bash a senator. Have you looked past the media to see why he did what he did or said?
In ten years, what will you be most proud of accomplishing?
Luke: I’ll be most proud of uplifting our community. I think that‘s one of our biggest goals with HBCU Buzz. Our HBCU’s are at war when it comes to funding. I want HBCU Buzz to bring sustainability and prosperity to the HBCU culture as a whole.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who wants to build a powerful brand?
Luke: The first steps is shadowing. That was the key for me. I had a mentor in every different industry! Anyone who I felt had a level of success that I wanted, I would shadow them. When you’re an entrepreneur you need a diverse skill set to learn all the jobs. Then try to be as creative as possible, figure out what you can create that’s different. Yeah, you can find things that exist and make them better, but being different is what’s going to attract people. Understand the intense level of commitment it takes to get from Point A to Point B. It’s hard to build from the ground up and stay consistent. It takes time!
Interested in learning more or connecting with Luke?