Lawal Karimah is the founder of Skillsard, an edtech platform committed to bridging the skills gap and providing our students with the tools they need to succeed. She speaks with Edugist on her mission to enhance lives through high-quality education. Excerpts
Please share with Edugist a little about yourself and your background
Meet Lawal Karimah Olaitan, a passionate, thoughtful leader and impactful enthusiast. I hail from the West (Yoruba) and was born into Islam. I am a skilled creative writer and edtech entrepreneur. My journey is marked by tenacity, making an impact and conquering challenges. I founded Skillsard to bridge the gap between traditional craftsmanship and modern education.
My uniqueness is packed in the spirit of resilience, empowering, motivating, and influencing young people on the need for personal development and growth. I have a bachelor’s degree in industrial chemistry. With so much love for hard skills, it inspired me to learn copywriting, content writing, and digital marketing.
What was your experience through university like?
My experience, I would say, combines both happy and challenging aspects. During my time at university, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a truly transformative experience. On one hand, I was overjoyed to meet incredible people from diverse backgrounds who shared my passion for learning. Together, we formed lasting friendships and collaborated on exciting projects, which made my university years some of the happiest of my life.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. I faced the challenge of managing a rigorous academic workload while also juggling part-time work to support myself financially. This taught me invaluable time management and resilience skills as I learned to balance my commitments. Despite the challenges, I wouldn’t change a thing about my university experience. It shaped me into a more adaptable, determined, and well-rounded individual. These experiences, both the joyful and the tough, have equipped me with the skills and mindset to excel in various situations and make the most out of any opportunity that comes my way.
How has your academic background prepared you for starting an edtech platform?
My academic qualification has nothing to do with me starting Skillsard, but my love for education prepares me to think of improving education. After years of hard work and dedication, I graduated with a four-point GPA from Ekiti State University in Nigeria, but reality quickly set in. Despite my academic success, I struggled to find a job that matched my qualifications and was constantly asked what other skills I possessed.
It was very hard, and frustrating and was a very tough challenge for me. This harsh reality wasn’t unique to me, as many Nigerian students were facing similar struggles. Some fell into depression, while others like me decided to explore alternative career paths, leading me to discover the world of technology. With my passion for education and a desire to help others, I founded Skillsard. After I found Skillsard I took some certification in entrepreneurship and educational studies to further enhance my growth and running of the initiative.
What inspired you to create Skillsard, and what is your vision for the platform?
My own struggles inspired me to create a platform that addresses the lack of workplace competencies required in the corporate world. Also, to bridge the gap between traditional craftsmanship and modern education, empowering individuals to embrace their cultural roots while acquiring professional skills. Skillsard provides opportunities for self-development and employment for students of all backgrounds, regardless of their academic qualifications.
My vision is simple. Through Skillsard, I hope to establish a limitless community of entrepreneurs, corporate executives and leaders who can use their skills digital or handicraft to better their own lives, the lives of others in their community, and the world at large. Skillsard is not just a platform for learning but a movement that is changing the lives of African youth and paving the way for a brighter future.
How does Skillsard differentiate itself from other edtech platforms in the market?
Our platform combines cutting-edge AI technology with a deep appreciation for African culture and indigenous skills, making us a unique and influential player in the market. At Skillsard, we offer a wide range of high-quality courses and training programmes that cater to both professional skills development and the preservation of traditional craftsmanship. By embracing the rich cultural heritage of Africa, we empower individuals to acquire practical skills while celebrating their roots and contributing to the preservation of indigenous knowledge.
What sets us apart is our commitment to personalised learning and advanced AI technology. Our platform utilises AI algorithms to provide seamless integration of courses on our platform, tailored course recommendations, adaptive learning paths, and interactive learning materials. This ensures that learners have a customised and engaging educational experience that maximises their potential.
Can you describe the key features and offerings that Skillsard provides to its users?
We offer a comprehensive range of products and services aimed at revolutionising education and skills development in Nigeria and Africa. We understand the demand for high-quality, accessible, and culturally relevant learning experiences, and our offerings cater to the needs of diverse learners. The offerings include online courses and skill development programmes, indigenous skills and cultural preservation, AI-driven learning platform, affiliate programme,
In what ways do you believe Skillsard is making a positive impact on education and skill development?
Since the launch of Skillsard, we have centred around empowering learners, promoting indigenous skills, and fostering economic growth. We strive to provide equal access to education by offering course gifting options for those who cannot afford professional skills training. We bridge the gap between education and the needs of the workforce, by enhancing employability and empowering the next generation of leaders in Africa through our platform.
What challenges did you face while building Skillsard, and how did you overcome them?
Funding and publicity were the challenges we faced as a team when we were about to start Skillsard. But we overcame them by bootstrapping the startup and then using all the available tools we had to keep pushing it out to the world. One of them is my LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Special thanks to my team members and family who contributed to the initiative.
How do you envision the future of online learning and edtech evolving, and how does Skillsard fit into that landscape?
The edtech industry is dynamic and rapidly evolving. Skillsard’s commitment to continuous innovation, staying abreast of technological advancements, and adapting to market trends will enable us to remain competitive and relevant in an ever-changing landscape.
Could you share some success stories or testimonials from users who have benefited from Skillsard?
How does Skillsard address the accessibility and affordability of education for individuals from diverse backgrounds?
This is done through course gifting to underprivileged learners. Skillsard’s course gifting feature addresses the financial barriers that hinder access to professional skills training. By enabling the gifting of courses to those who cannot afford them, we ensure that individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds have equal opportunities to learn and grow.
What are your plans for the continued growth and expansion of Skillsard in the coming years?
Skillsard’s success lies in our ability to combine technology, cultural appreciation and user centricity. By continuously innovating, adapting to market demands, and building strategic partnerships, we are confident in our ability to attract and retain a diverse customer base. We are driven by the vision of creating a brighter future for Africa, where education, cultural heritage and economic prosperity go hand in hand.