“Giving up is not an option” | Nigerian-British PR executive, Ronke Lawal advises young entrepreneurs

Ronke Lawal is the Founder of UK based Ariatu PR, a PR company that works with a variety of entrepreneurs from the African and Caribbean Diaspora to gain media coverage for their businesses across the luxury FMCG sectors. Ronke Lawal started her business in 2004, then rebranded it to Ariatu PR at the end of 2014 as part of her celebration of being in business for over a decade. Ariatu PR is a public relations agency geared towards representing clients in a variety of industries including the entertainment, fashion, lifestyle & beauty, food and luxury goods sectors. With 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, Lawal has been able to oversee the development of marketing & PR strategies. In this interview with YNaija’s UK correspondent, Rachel Ogbu, Ronke Lawal speaks about her major highs and inspiration in creating a thriving brand with a unique niche. Some of her clientele include The Independent, Arise News, The Voice, BBC Radio, The Nation Newspaper, Vogue Bambini, Bloomberg TV, Vox Africa, OHTV and many more.

Q: When did you decide this is what you wanted to do?

RL: The opportunity to live a life I love inspires me and in 2004 I realised that it was my destiny to start a business! 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 which is why I sought this path. I am very passionate about my path in life, knowing that passion, consistency and integrity will enable me to reach me goals.

Q: Can you list some exciting milestones in your life with the dates? (eg: awards, honours, personal highs) Top career moments so far? 

RL: I have won awards, been CEO of a chamber of commerce in London and achieved numerous client wins but the biggest milestone is the ability to survive and thrive in a competitive business environment. I have had an amazing business journey and throughout the ups and downs, still standing has been an honour and a privilege.

Q: How do you feel about all the recognition you’ve received?

RL: If anything, I want it to be used to inspire others, my ego doesn’t need stroking. What I want to see is some people following some of my best practice steps and living the life they love, using their skills and talents and using PR to shine a spotlight on them to further enrich this world.

Q: What do people not know about you and what you do?

RL: They don’t know how all-consuming it can be. I spend a lot of time putting other people before me, monitoring client profiles and successes, shining a spotlight on their successes and it can be quite draining without the necessary work/life balance.

Q: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received…

RL: Simply “Do The Work”. It sounds simple but honestly too many people are looking for shortcuts to success and shortcuts only lead to short-lived success. Work hard, make a consistent effort and stay focused.

Q: Have you ever had moments when you wanted to quit?

RL: Many times, whilst I have never been scared, I have been fed up and exhausted, it can be lonely if you don’t have a business partner. There are absolutely no guarantees in life or in business 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.

Q: Which living person do you most admire, and why? 

RL: Lots of people inspire me, the obvious being Oprah and Mellody Hobson are 2 notable women. But the London Borough of Hackney itself 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 I am realising that dream each and every day. As a British-Nigerian I am proud of members of diaspora (either born in the UK or settled here) who are striving forward despite discrimination and winning at life. I also love to hear good news stories about Nigerians and other Africans from across the continent who are doing great things.

Q: What is the worst job you’ve done?

RL: I’ve never really had a terrible job, even the most arduous or “boring” tasks have taught me the value of hard work.

Q: You are known for thinking big and taking risks, both in business and in your personal adventures. What’s the secret to your drive? 

RL: The fact that every day I wake up I have another chance to try again and that 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. I don’t compete with others, I compete with the vision of the best version of myself and so I stay focused, consistent and persistent.

Q: What’s your advice to young people trying to weather the economic hardship?

RL: Keep your eyes on the ultimate prize, tough times don’t last forever and so you have to stay focused and as positive as you possibly can (it’s ok to have a “down day” as long as you get the self-care you need to get back up). 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.

Q: Can you provide tips on how one can remain successful?

RL: Invest in yourself!

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 or profession 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.

Q: What’s the next big project you’re pursuing?

RL: I want more international clients, preferably across Africa and I want the agency to be a recognised brand in the PR and communications space. 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 so I don’t want to restrict myself. I am at a stage in my business career where I am excited about the future. I also want to see where my Business YouTube Channel takes me, I love making business videos and the popularity of the channel has grown since I launched it in 2015 so I just want to see how I can grow it. 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.

Q: What record do you plan to break next? 

RL: Trying to figure out a way of breaking a record with champagne, fried plantain and suya…haven’t figured it out yet but when I do YNaija will be the first to know. In the meantime, I’m just going to get more amazing clients and hopefully wow the world with their greatness through my PR skills!  Ronke Lawal

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