This year we celebrated Global Entrepreneurship week from 12th-18th November 2018 by showcasing the impact of diaspora entrepreneurs on all our social media channels. We hosted a series of Facebook Live roundtable discussions with notable African diaspora entrepreneurs who shared tips on how to maintain a successful diaspora business, you can watch our Facebook Live discussions by clicking here.
We also interviewed a variety of diaspora entrepreneurs including AFFORD Business Club member Ronke Lawal, founder and director of PR agency Ariatu PR. Find out more about Ronke’s journey to establishing Ariatu PR by reading below!
Tell us about your business and the motivations behind starting your business?
Ariatu PR works with a variety of entrepreneurs from the African and Caribbean Diaspora on their public relations, reputation management, crisis management and media relations to gain media coverage for their businesses which tend to be across the luxury FMCG sectors. I became self-employed in 2004, I whilst I was 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. 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 start my own business.
What do you find most rewarding about being an entrepreneur and working in Africa?
There is a sense of freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, you can create something from nothing and that allows you to be creative in many respects however that is not to lose sight of the fact that all of your clients are in essence your “bosses”. But it can be very rewarding to work with so many dynamic clients particularly across the African diaspora who add a cultural nuance to projects which is unique and refreshing.
What advice would you give to young members of the African diaspora who are interested in starting a business in Africa?
Research, Prepare and have a support network. Many of my clients are members of the diaspora but when I have worked with clients on the continent preparation is key. You cannot go back with the view to change things immediately – that diasporan arrogance must be left at the arrivals gate, be willing to learn and engage with people on the ground and be patient. Great things take time.
What do you think are some of the key barriers in preventing people to starting their own businesses?
Finance is a major barrier and poor financial education, not enough people know where to go for advice on investment and scaling up. A lack of understanding of the importance of investing in PR, marketing, customer research – without even a basic understanding businesses fail before they start. Overall the biggest barrier is fear, too often fear holds people back from taking that first step.