I love reading about women from all over the world who started their own businesses and are successful on their own. Last year, I got in touch with Ronke Lawal, founder of Ariatu PR based in London. We did a great cooperation together and after that I asked her if she would talk about her business story with us. She agreed and now here I am, ready to start my new series about successful black female entrepreneurs called “Her Bizness” (hashtag #herbizness). My aim is to Inspire You and I hope to leave you with a feeling to start following your dreams!
So let me introduce you to Ronke Lawal of Ariatu PR, who inspired me to start this new series on Frolicious. Ariatu Public Relations works with entrepreneurs and luxury brands to enhance their media presence. Their niche is the African and Caribbean Diaspora. In 2011 Ronke Lawal was honoured to receive a Precious Award for Inspirational Leadership.
Growing up in a poor area did not hold me back; in fact it empowered me because I did not want to remain trapped in the story of the streets.
Interview with Ronke Lawal of Ariatu PR
Frolicious: Please tell us a little bit about your business?
Ronke Lawal: I started my business in 2004 and rebranded to Ariatu PR at the end of 2014 as part of my celebration of being in business for so long. Ariatu PR is a public relations agency that is geared towards representing clients in a variety of industries including the entertainment, fashion, lifestyle & beauty, food and luxury goods sectors. I have a wealth of PR and Marketing experience in the High Growth Start-Up Sector as well as working for corporate clients in a range of industries, overseeing the development of marketing & PR strategies. PR Coverage for clients gained include: The Independent, Arise News, The Voice, BBC Radio, The Nation Newspaper, Vogue Bambini, Bloomberg TV, Vox Africa, OHTV and many more.
Frolicious: What were you doing before you launched your PR company?
Ronke Lawal: I worked as a finance and personal manager for a major health and fitness brand, it was a great opportunity but it did not allow me to exercise my creative muscle.
Frolicious: What motivated and inspired you to get started?
Ronke Lawal: The Chance to be happy inspires me! I just seek joy and fulfilment in everything I do; as well as achieving my goals. It has not always been easy but I figured out quite quickly in life that it’s important to strive to find happiness, it’s important to live a life that’s good for you! I am very passionate about my path in life, knowing that passion, consistency and integrity will enable me to reach me goals. Lots of people inspire me, the obvious being Oprah, Mellody Hobson and Lord Alan Sugar. But the London Borough of Hackney has also inspired me to aim high; growing up in a poor area did not hold me back; in fact it empowered me because I did not want to remain trapped in the story of the streets. I wanted more for my life and am realising that dream each and every day.
Frolicious: How difficult was it to make the transition to entrepreneur?
Ronke Lawal: Not so difficult because it was something I was so intent on doing. I think I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit, but I didn’t always have the know-how. What I will say is that it’s important to start building a support network as quickly as possible once you start a business, Friends, family, mentors etc. You will need them to encourage you even when you want to give up, you will need them when times are hard, to remind you not to give up and even when things are great you will need them to celebrate with you. Thankfully I had a great network and have always grown my network to reflect my journey.
Frolicious: What were the first 3 steps you took to get your business up?
Ronke Lawal: Developed a business plan and made sure I had some money to set up the business. Decided on a name and Registered the business formally. Ensured I secured a domain – to me having a website was part of my marketing strategy.
Frolicious: How have you funded your company? How long has it taken you to see a profit?
Ronke Lawal: I funded my company through savings. I started making a profit relatively quickly but that’s because overheads have always been quite low.
Frolicious: What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of Ariatu Public Relations and getting new customers?
Ronke Lawal: Networking has always been a powerful way of raising awareness for my business and whether it’s online or offline I have always been passionate about connecting with potential clients. Also building a reputation has been a powerful way of raising awareness, word of mouth referrals as well as great media coverage for the brand itself works. But ultimately having clients who are excellent to work with allows the brand to speak for itself.
Frolicious: What has been the biggest challenge so far with running your company?
Ronke Lawal: I have often been my own biggest challenge. I have had to constantly coach myself to believe in myself and in all honesty I think that there have been stages in my business life when I have actually sabotaged my own success. I got in my own way because I felt like a fraud when I started to become successful in business. Isn’t that scary? The very fact that I want something so much that the fear of actually getting what I wants allows me to block my own progress! Wow! Perhaps other women can relate to that feeling of constant self-doubt and uncertainty. It can be the most detrimental of all obstacles, everything else can be overcome through practice but it takes a lot to silence that voice that tries to convince you that you’re a fraud with your own success. It may not always be silent but I recognise it now and know what to say when it starts up again….”I am worthy”.
Frolicious: Please describe a typical day for you?
Ronke Lawal: I get up and get cracking as soon as possible. Responding to emails and pitching stories to media outlets, researching where clients can be featured and monitoring coverage for clients. With the ever-changing tech space sometimes I’ll find a feature on a e-magazine or blog without necessary receiving a link. It’s also good to keep track on current business trends and activities which might have an impact on clients. I make calls where possible and make sure that my diary is planned so that I don’t end up spending all day working, I can relax and socialise or even watch TV (on the rare occasion that something is worth watching) or netflix!
Frolicious: What do you love most about running your own business?
Ronke Lawal: I love meeting new people and working with some great clients, it’s like an ongoing MBA programme. I get a chance to really push the boundaries and work on projects that I don’t think I would always get the chance to work on if I was in a big agency. There’s freedom too but only as much freedom as my clients (or bank balance) will allow!
Frolicious: Does social media play a role for you?
Ronke Lawal: I love the use of digital platforms to share messages and ideas. When I first started in business I used to a member of pretty much any online business forum that would allow me to join. I made friends, shared ideas and most importantly found clients using digital platforms. They are a powerful means of sharing marketing and PR messages and of undertaking business research. Social media has helped to drive forward social, political and even economic change. Social media has been a great tool in increasing client visibility and overal engagement. It has become a disruptive force in traditional PR and marketing which is why I value social media so much! People can now decide on the stories that they want to tell or show the world, brands have the power to harness customer engagement in real time and track responses to brand coverage so quickly. I also use platforms like twitter and Linked In like a virtual office space, they entertain, inform and educate me all at the same time. I’m also learning that YouTube is SUCH a powerful resource to share messages (through my channel Ronke Lawal Means Business), I’m relatively new to that space but I think I might be falling in love! LOL!
Frolicious: Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
Ronke Lawal: Yes. Many times. Though I have never been scared so to speak I have been fed up and exhausted, it can be lonely if you don’t have a business partner. There are absolutely no guarantees so I have had to create my own path and follow it; I have learnt from mistakes and picked myself up but it’s not always easy. I have had to remind myself that giving up is not an option; even whilst it has seemed that I’m not moving forward I have been able to stay focused and motivated. Again it really helps when you have a strong support network.
Frolicious: What keeps you motivated?
Ronke Lawal: The fact that every day I wake up I have another chance to try again. The fact the even though I’m not where I want to be I am further than I ever was before. The fact that I am living a life of purpose and every day I am learning more about what that purpose is.
Frolicious: Where do you see Ariatu Public Relations in 5 years?
Ronke Lawal: More of the same but at the different scale. I want more international clients, preferably across Africa and I want the agency to be a recognised brand in the PR and marketing space particularly within the African and Caribbean Diaspora. There is potential to do more work in the USA too. What is so exciting about the future is that there are endless opportunities, endless chances to start afresh. I am at a stage in my business career where I am excited about the future. I have some interesting choices ahead of me and may choose to change direction slightly which is fine because I know that whatever path I choose will be one filled with intentional purpose.
Frolicious: What advice would you give other entrepreneurs who would like to start their own business?
Ronke Lawal: I would say follow your passion and stay focused. Make sure you actively network in your business and professional life and engage with the right people, but be sure to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you can get a mentor, or at least surround yourself with a positive and powerful circle of people who will champion you in your business journey. Seek continual business development through training and seminars; education is important but only if used actively. Use education wisely as part of your long term professional strategy. Someone once shared this tagline with me “I go where there is courage” – I think this should be everyone’s tagline. Be brave in your business and don’t ponder on mistakes for too long, learn from them and move on. You can reach anywhere in your business if you so wish – don’t let anyone hold you back, least not yourself.
I love how open Ronke talked about her bizness and her advices are great. If you would like to know more about Ronke please visit her videochannel for great tips. Apart from her business interests, Ronke loves music, literature and most importantly living a life she loves. #herbizness
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