In this interview, we met Rukayyat Kolawole, mother, fintech entrepreneur, advocate for women’s financial empowerment and ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA alumna. She captured her experience at ESSEC and her entrepreneurial journey in three words: #AMAZING #REPUTABLE #NETWORKING

Tell us about yourself: who is Rukkayat Kolawole?

Rukayyat Kolawole: I am a mother to a beautiful three-year old daughter, a fintech entrepreneur and an advocate for women’s financial empowerment. I grew up in Nigeria, studied and lived in the United Kingdom for more than 15 years and now live with my young family in Germany. I love travelling, mentoring, and playing golf. I am the founder of PaceUP Invest GmbH in Germany and PaceUP Invest SAS in France whose mission is to empower women financially.

What was your source of motivation to start an executive programme after 12 years of experience?

R.K.: I always wanted to do an Executive MBA programme in order to jump-start my entrepreneurship journey. Moving to Germany, I wanted to enrol in the best business school. Since I live in Mannheim, it was a no brainer for me to join the business school.

Why did you choose the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA programme specifically?

R.K.: I chose the ESSEC & Mannheim EMBA programme because of the reputation of both business schools. ESSEC was particularly appealing due to the strong entrepreneurial background of its alumni. A lot of entrepreneurs who attended ESSEC Business School have successful ventures. This was important to me in choosing the right double diploma programme and to have the best of Germany and France. 

Why did you choose ESSEC?

R.K.: ESSEC has a global reach, great reputation and a huge alumni network. The global ranking of the business school was also very important to me. ESSEC ranks fifth in the world for executive education and seventh among European business schools overall.

How did the programme assist you in achieving your short- and long-term goals?

R.K.: The core modules and the Advanced Immersion Modules helped significantly well. The professors were exceptionally helpful.

What were your best moment(s) in the programme?

R.K.: There are so many best memories I had in the programme. Too many to list... Overall, I had a great challenge and an amazing experience.

What is the biggest challenge you have overcome?

R.K.: Founding a financial services company in Germany as an expat. It was very tough and difficult but I stuck with it and now I have a start-up company here. I look forward to its success with other partners. 

Tell us about your work experience prior to the programme? 

R.K.: I had worked in the financial industry for 12 years - Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and BMCE Bank International - all in London but I travelled widely to different continents with these companies. 

How did the programme enable you to meet your challenges for the future? 

R.K.: It provided me with the tools I needed and still need to venture into the entrepreneurial world and be successful.

Did you have it in mind to start an entrepreneurial project before beginning the programme, or did it come during/after the programme? 

R.K.: I come from a long line of female entrepreneurs - my grandmother and my mother. My grandmother was a gold trader in Nigeria, and was a pillar in the community. She and other women would give money to a handful of women who needed it most for their specific goals. These women would then pay it back at some point with some interest. Here I understood the basics about empowering women via money and the power of communities. I worked in investment banking in London and as a woman I felt left behind when it came to investing - the financial sector is still very much conspicuously male-dominated in its structures and systems. This prompted my mission to empower women financially. This was before the programme and I was very intentional in selecting the best programme to help realise my mission and vision.

What would be your advice to future applicants?

R.K.: Be intentional in your ‘why’. Choose the best programme that fits your vision, mission and values and I hope that will be ESSEC! Work Hard, Play Hard!

Any book/author you would recommend? 

R.K.: I have quite a few books that have inspired me:

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • From Third World to First: The Singapore story, 1965-2000 : Singapore and the Asian economic boom by Lee Kuan Yew
  • Who Moved my Cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life by Spencer Johnson
  • Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch
  • The Intelligent Investor: the definitive book on value investing by Benjamin Graham
  • Never Split the Difference: negotiating as if your life depended on it by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama