The AWP Network met with Ronke Lawal, Founder of RSL Management Services and business mentor at the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Lawal has served as a business mentor since June 2013.
Her company, RSL Management Services specializes in marketing, brand development, and PR services. The company offers a unique service to businesses committed to increasing the sales and marketing potential of their organisation without the pressure of big agency fees.
Since starting her business over a decade ago, Lawal has remained committed to giving back and inspiring the next generation of African women entrepreneurs. In this interview, she shares business tips, challenges, and how she continues to push herself to be better.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
My business name is derived from my initials. I wanted something that evoked power and certainty so I chose my name.
What inspired you to start your business?
I founded my company at a time in my life when I was hungry for change. At the time, I was not satisfied with my job and was working in a role that was not for me but paid the bills. For so long, I had suppressed my entrepreneurial spirit however, starting RSL Management Services was realizing my dream.
I started the business while I still had my job. I saved all my money, and drew up a concise business plan. When I started my business, my focus was to improve my networking skills (even though I was never taught how to network, I understood the principle.) Over time, I have realized that networking is crucial to my business growth.
Who is your target market?
SMEs with strong growth potential.
How have you financed your business?
My business is completely self-financed. Now, this has its pros and cons but it has meant one thing: I am completely and utterly focused on the continued growth and success of the business.
What is your competitive edge?
I am an authentic and integral business owner. This means that I do not say that I can do something unless I can. I am transparent and I work with my clients to get the very best out of their marketing campaigns without promising them the world. This sets me apart from my competitors and highlights my values in business.
What is the long-term plan for your business?
2014 will mark ten (10) years of being a business owner. I am focused on what’s next. I want to work on grassroots issues.
What challenges do you face?
I am 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 where 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. 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 are a fraud with your own success. It may not always be silent but I recognize that voice now and know what to say when it starts up again….”I am worthy.”
I have come to realize that there are absolutely no guarantees in life and that you have to create your own path and follow through with it. Always learn from your mistakes and pick yourself back up. I have been able to stay focused and motivated, despite the challenges.
What five (5) key things have you learned since starting your business idea?
1. I am fully responsible for my own success and happiness.
2. Even though the customer may not always be right, they deserve the best that you can offer them.
3. Money matters!
4. Though Number 3 is certainly true, nothing means more than finding something you love and deriving true happiness from it (the money will always come.)
5. To never step over others through my journey to success. I believe that supporting others is a sure-fire way to receive so much more in life.
What five (5) things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
1. Find out what you really love and enjoy doing.
2. Find a mentor or mastermind circle to help you along the way.
3. “Keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind.” Do not focus so much on the lack of money that it will stop you. There are so many opportunities and ways to start a business with minimal budgets. There is no excuse, but once you start making the money from your business, stay sharp and focused on long-term growth.
4. Set objectives for your business and be flexible.
5. Be humble enough to ask for help but not so modest that you don’t let your business shine!
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
Be creative! Start the business in steps and stages. Also, look for investors even if it’s from friends or family (however, make sure you get agreements in place before borrowing any money.) Look for grants and funding opportunities in your local area.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
We can support each other by sharing our stories. By working together to create a better image of Africa and by being positive about what the future holds.
How many jobs have you created so far?
Around ten (10) over the course of my business career.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
Innovation comes from an environment willing to embrace change. With the willingness to embrace change we can improve sustainable innovation for future generations. This is an exciting time for our generation and organizations like yours are making a superb difference to how we view enterprise and innovation across Africa.
Contact Ronke here: