INTERVIEW SERIES: RONKE LAWAL OF ARIATU PR

Name: Ronke Lawal | Country: United Kingdom | Company Name: Ariatu PR

Ronke Lawal started her entrepreneurial journey at the young age of 23. Many at this stage would be scared to take the big leap, but she followed her heart and she jumped in and decided to create the life of her dreams. Let's all be inspired by her story.

How did it all starts? What motivated and inspired you to start your business venture?

I became self-employed in 2004 when I started my own business in my early 20s. I was still working in a standard 9 to 5 management role, a role in which many people my age would have been happy to have stayed in for many years. It was an interesting position with lots of responsibility, however, I became a robot, unhappy with what my job was turning me into, I was stressed and would often take that stress home with me. I became short-tempered and couldn't see beyond the short-term. My life lacked dynamism and to some extent purpose. I felt strongly that I was not following my true life's purpose and so I made a choice to quit my job and start my own business. This is not necessarily something I would encourage everyone to do if they're not entirely ready for. Many people thought I was crazy, I was after all only 23 years old and my only starting capital was my savings, I was taking a big risk although thankfully back then I still lived at home, so that helped. I wanted to create a life that I loved, and by starting my own business, I felt that I was able to do that. I had to be my own inspiration at the time.

Bootstrap and/or raise money? How did you get started?

I bootstrapped and used my own money and savings but looking back I wish I was even braver and raised capital. I was younger and had no real tangible assets to liquidize so it would have been great to have had an investor. I think my business would have gone even further if I had.

What steps did you take at the very beginning to keep yourself moving forward?

I had to encourage myself and stay focused on my goals, what my dreams were for myself and my business were truly the best way to move forward. I surrounded myself with positive energy but also allowed myself to have those "down days." I don't think it's healthy to force yourself to smile if inside you're feeling down, it's important to do the work to ensure the smile stays longer but also to learn from any business failures along the way. By allowing myself to be fully authentic, I was able to keep moving forward in my business.

What makes your business special?

I suppose it is the attention to detail and the fact that my authenticity shines through. I am very honest and open with clients and prospective clients which gives me an edge, particularly in the PR sector when so many people have been burnt by bad experiences.

How did you raise awareness about your company/brand when you were fairly new?

I learned social media before it was even really a thing. Every online business forum dedicated to entrepreneurs in London probably had my profile; I used to network virtually and move conversations offline to events. I would go out and meet people and build relationships which raised awareness of my brand.

What challenges have you faced so far?

When I look back at my own professional and business career, I would have to say that I have often been my own biggest career obstacle or more accurately my lack of self-belief has been a burden. I had to constantly coach myself to believe in myself and in all honesty I think that there have been stages in my business life that 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. 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 and that you don’t deserve great things. It may not always be silent, but I recognize it now and know what to say when it starts up again...."I am worthy".

What marketing strategies did you choose when you first started?

Which ones were the most effective for your business?: Networking was the most powerful marketing strategy. I tried various strategies including paid advertising and sponsorship of events, but networking was the most effective and now doing "my own PR." Managing my brand and myself as I would manage the PR campaign for a client has really made a huge difference too which I wish I had learned sooner when I first started.

The most difficult part of a business is developing a distinct brand. How did you develop yours at the beginning?

I paid attention to my brand positioning, built strong relationships, had a good online presence and engaged with potential clients. This made my business brand stand out from the flock.

How important is storytelling to you?

Storytelling is such a powerful tool in PR. It can make the difference between how customers relate to an entrepreneur and business brand as a whole. There is something so special and important about being able to tell an authentic story in business which allows people to open up and stand in their truth. This is why TED TALKS do so well and why people still buy into the notion of "celebrity entrepreneurs" if you can tell a compelling story about yourself or your brand it makes such a big difference. It is very important to me.

What marketing/business tools you will not be able to live without today?

Does my laptop count! I love technology even if I'm not an expert. My I-pad is my friend and would be my best friend if I actually took it out with me more!
I love my social media apps, they really do make a big difference to how I manage my social media platforms.
The smartphone could easily become my pocket laptop. I remember reading about someone who worked just from their smartphone for about a month, they managed to do that with the right apps, and it allowed them to work from ANYWHERE. That would be the ultimate dream.

Do you have any daily habits to help you push your business forward?

Wake up with gratitude and read my daily prayer, take a moment to give thanks tends to keep my mindset focused on my core strengths and capabilities.
Checking my email inbox is essential - even if there's nothing urgent I need to be sure I've responded to any media requests etc. So I have to check the inbox daily.

What advice would you give another fellow entrepreneur?

Keep on going but stop when you're tired. You're not a machine, when you need to rest give yourself the time and space you need. Sleep! I know there's the idea that we should be working 23 hours in the day but it's ridiculous. All the people who do well have help, anyone who works for extended periods of time without adequate rest ends up burning out. The human body is not designed to be a work horse, it only thrives if you take care of it. Be ready to take chances and even if you fail, it's nothing to be ashamed of. The fact that you try is the point; the success is the purpose.

Finish this sentence:

If I could go back in time to when I started my business I would....: have changed the business model and pitched for investment and looked for a business partner!

My favorite book/business tool/podcast is:

Currently reading "7 habits of highly effective people, " and that book is changing my mindset. It is a great book.

I love LinkedIn as a business tool, and I wish more people used it!

The best advice I ever had was_____:

that I have to take responsibility for my own success and for making my dreams come true.

My favorite quote is:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” –Henry David Thoreau

You can find her on Instagram, facebook, twitter and her website

Photo Credit: Rob Creig