My Positive Life | Lily Lapenna

Lily Lapenna’s passion for youth empowerment has led her to work on youth-focused social projects. She is the Founder and Chief Executive of MyBnk, a UK-based social enterprise that gives young people the skills, knowledge and confidence to effectively manage their money and to make enterprising choices in their lives. MyBnk has created a set of financial and enterprise educational programmes that have engaged over 60,000 young people. Through a social franchise model and a consulting arm, MyBnk has expanded internationally, from Italy to China. In 2012, the Centre for Social Justice awarded MyBnk the ‘Prevention of Debt’ Award, recognizing it as an organisation helping people out of poverty and dependence, and into a life of independence. MyBnk was also named by The Observer and NESTA as the NO.1 new radical project in Britain. Lily is an Ashoka Fellow and in 2010 she was appointed a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum.


Lily Lapenna

One word that describes you?


In your own words, what do you do?

I am founder and CEO of MyBnk. We work to create a financially literate and enterprise driven generation.

Our motto is: every young person must be wowed!  I love my job.

Who is your greatest influence in your career/life?

Michael Norton the godfather of social enterprise, the one man ideas factory. I love his ideas because they are all about changing the world for the better. He even wrote a book called “365 Ways to Change the World”.

Which is your favourite part of your job?

Being part of a young persons journey towards achieving one of their goals. I am in awe every time I visit our youth led banks and see young people cueing to deposit their money during their lunch break. I get energised when I spend time with our young entrepreneurs as they generate their business ideas or sell their products for the first time. I am moved when I can be part of someone’s journey from terrifying unmanageable debt to being debt free. I even feel happy when I help someone do his or her first budget.

Which is the part that you enjoy the least?

I am infuriated by the way the media talk about this generation. “Oh there are no jobs for you, you’ll never own a home, you can’t afford university etc”. This narrative is unproductive, demotivating and above all it shatters peoples confidence. The majority of the young people I work with are full of ideas, of fervour, of a desire to do, to accomplish to contribute. They need our buoyancy.

What is your greatest achievement?

I started MyBnk six years ago with nothing but an idea, a laptop and the determination not to take no for an answer. I banged on very school door in East London selling the need for financial and enterprise education. Now we work with over 60,000 young people enabling them to manage their money, run their own school banks and set up their first entrepreneurial projects. We’ve expanded to reach young people in China, Italy, even the jungles of Columbia. We have lobbied for the introduction of financial education into the curriculum and as of 2014 it will be compulsory. The feedback we get from young people everyday blows me away, in their words MyBnk creates “awesomely epic” programmes that “will help me for life.”

Lily Lapenna

What was your Plan B?

I never had one but there will be a next chapter….

What is your most prized possession?

The olive oil we eat everyday that comes from my uncle’s olive grove in Abruzzo.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

“Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive.” Elbert Hubbard

Please complete the sentence…

I could not live without having a big giggle with Emmalisa my 7-month-old baby.

Favourite restaurant? In which city?

Fifteen (predictable I know).

Sustainability and consumption are two words you will hardly find in the same sentence – which brands do you think are good quality and are doing their bit for people and the planet?

Pants to poverty, I am one of their shareholders and instead of a financial return, I get colourful pants every month. Wearing pants that are made by a happy supply chain from cotton to bottom gives me a positive start to the day.

My Elvis and Kresse tote bag goes everywhere with me.

Do you support a charity or cause?

I am a trustee of CIVA a charity that supports social entrepreneurs. I enjoy mentoring exciting start up social entrepreneurs like Kelvin Cheung from Foodcycle and Bejay Mulenga a teen entrepreneur who has started his own enterprise education programme, Supatuck. I also support my friend Debs in the amazing work she does in Tanzania with the Olive Branch for Children.

What’s on your Xmas wish-list?  

I don’t have one yet.

What is your personal luxury?

Going on set to watch my husband Menhaj Huda direct his films, I am amazed by how patient he is.

What steps do you take to make your life more positive?

Listen more, learn more, eat less, worry less, waste less.

Katherine Sparshatt