Firoz H. Lalji
More than 30 years after arriving in the United States, Firoz H. Lalji has lived the ultimate American success story. Born of Indian ancestry in the East African country of Uganda, Lalji became the principal provider for his household at 24 when Idi Amin ousted his family from their home and their sugar-cane processing and coffee plantation business. Lalji immigrated with his family to Canada in 1971, completely impoverished. He banked on his finance skills honed while earning his degree at the London School of Economics to navigate the sea of obstacles in his entrepreneurial ambition.
In Vancouver, BC, he swiftly built a life for his family, founding the successful Kits Cameras photographic retailer chain in 1973 that eventually numbered 225 locations in both Canada and the Unites States. Lalji moved to Washington state in 1981 and, following the sale of Kits in 1997, he co-founded Zones, Inc. in 1988–a nationwide provider of progressive technology solutions to business and public sectors. In 1989, he found the real estate investment company Fana Capital Corporation.
Lalji had reinvented and revolutionized Zones, shaping the company into the fifth largest private company headquartered in Washington for 2013. In hopes of fueling success for other emerging minority entrepreneurs, Zones, under Lalji’s leadership, was a founding corporate partner of the University of Washington’s annual one-week immersive Minority Business Executive Program. Lalji additionally established the Program for African Leadership, a public charity which supports the development of the next generation of African leaders by providing funding for 15 participants at the London School of Economics annually, as well as other programs to benefit his home continent of Africa.