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News > Alumni News > 'Dame Allan's instilled a sense of spirit, optimism and positivity in me'

'Dame Allan's instilled a sense of spirit, optimism and positivity in me'

Pasta Evangelists co-founder Finn Lagun reflects on life as an Allanian.
15 Aug 2022
Alumni News

ALLANIAN entrepreneur Finn Lagun has been named in the ‘Forbes 30 under 30 Europe’ list for helping reshape the future of retail and e-commerce with his artisan pasta business. Here he talks to Dame Allan’s about his defining school days and the importance of strengthening the Allanian network.

 

LIKE many of us, Finn Lagun hadn’t truly appreciated the value of his school days until reflecting on them some years later.

A somewhat maverick pupil who excelled in Politics, Finn admits he didn’t always ‘fit the mould’ in his younger years. Now 28 and the Chief Marketing Officer of a multi-million pound company, he credits Dame Allan’s for nurturing his entrepreneurial skills and instilling a self-confidence that has been the driving force behind his success.

The choice his parents made to send him to Dame Allan’s Junior School in 2002, at eight years old, was a defining moment in Finn’s life.

“They knew the alternatives weren’t the right fit; I needed a school that would allow me to be ‘Finn’ - a place that would give me the space to explore the person I wanted to become,” he explains. “DAS was a really positive place; it instilled a sense of spirit, optimism and positivity in me that I carry through life and apply in my work.”

Now a decade on from leaving Dame Allan’s Sixth Form with A Levels in Politics, History and Philosophy, and with a subsequent first class honours in Politics from the University of Warwick, that perpetual optimism and drive has helped Finn make his name in the e-commerce sector.

He began his career as a Marketing Assistant for Apartment Group while still studying for his degree, then worked briefly as an analyst for retailer TJX Europe before successfully heading up UK marketing for on-demand laundry start-up Zipjet. Finn later landed a role as in-house online marketing consultant at multinational tech giant Amazon, but left soon after, upon realising the company wasn’t the right fit.

“While in many ways it was a great place to work, Amazon was just too big an enterprise for me to make my mark. Like school, I needed to find a place that felt right; a job where I could make a difference and grow,” he says.

By chance, in 2016 Finn was introduced through the tech start-ups community in London to fellow entrepreneurs Alessandro Savelli and Chris Rennoldson, who were in the process of setting up a web-business selling authentic pasta and sauces. A self-professed foodie and son of well-known North East restauranteur Mark Lagun, Finn jumped at the opportunity to work with them, and together they founded luxury pasta subscription box service, Pasta Evangelists.

In the early years of operating from a basement room with no windows or Wi-Fi, Finn’s sense of positivity buoyed them all. They worked tirelessly to build the brand, while producing and packaging orders, and arranging multiple funding rounds to help the venture take off. In 2018 Finn appeared on TV show Dragon’s Den, offering a 1.5 percent stake in Pasta Evangelists in return for £75,000 investment.

“We were quickly dismissed as ‘delusional’ and left the den empty-handed… but we remained undeterred,” smiles Finn. “Forever the optimist!” 

His positivity served them well. The trio went on to grow the business to £26m and open a London restaurant. In January 2021, Barilla Group, the world’s largest pasta business, acquired a majority stake in the firm and Pasta Evangelists plans to expand overseas.

Finn remains grateful to those at Dame Allan’s who helped shape his attitude in business.

As a schoolboy, he had a passion for language, particularly English writing, and recalls the invaluable advice teacher Hilary Leahy gave him one day in class.

He says: “I was confident in my writing, but I remember the day Mrs Leahy pulled me to one side to tell me I had a tendency to over-labour the English. She suggested that instead of peppering every sentence with big words, I should use them more sparingly to have a greater impact.

“It’s advice I’ve taken on board and shared to this day, both in my own writing and in my job. When we work on large campaigns, for example, I tell the team to strip it right back so those key messages pack a bigger punch.”

There are others who have helped shape Finn’s life after school. “Robert Oliver really inspired me,” he admits. “His enthusiasm for American Politics was the very reason I took part in an Erasmus exchange programme in my third year at university and studied politics abroad.

“A number of teachers made a lasting impression on me and their words have guided me over the years. Ask any of my work colleagues what I bring to the table, and they’d say I have an infectiously-positive attitude. It is that sense of spirit that came from Dame Allan’s.”

Finn was undoubtedly a spirited pupil, and his confidence grew as the Schools encouraged his individuality. As a teenager, he felt able to come out as gay to his peers at Senior School.

He recalls, with fond-amusement, the times he wrote anonymous letters to now-retired Principal Dr Hind to share his views on various matters, from the Schools’ emphasis on sport to the importance of religious education on the curriculum.

“I liked to share my opinions and, of course, the only person who actually thought these letters I wrote were anonymous was me!” laughs Finn. “Looking back, what’s fantastic is that I always received a reply - I was never ignored. Often, I’d receive a tongue-in-cheek response - the Schools certainly had a personality and sense of humour – and as someone who now works in marketing, I realise just how important that communication was back then, in helping to shape the person I am today.

“I needed that kind of environment to be ‘me’; I needed to be allowed a voice, and Dame Allan’s not only accepted that but actively encouraged it.”

Brought up in Newcastle, Finn now resides in London. Invested heavily in his work, he admits to having little spare time to meet with former school friends but acknowledges the importance of retaining links.

“Like most, I’m busy living life and working hard, but I do love reading about former pupils and friends through the Schools’ network and on LinkedIn,” he says.

“Being an Allanian means something different to each of us, yet we share something very important, and it’s nice to link up and engage with others. We all have something to bring to the table and it’d be nice to grow that network, particularly among younger Allanians.”

 

The Allanian Society would love to hear from former pupils of Dame Allan’s Schools. To get in touch please contact development@dameallans.co.uk.

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