Ayo Kolawole is driven by diverse influences and interests: his father who spent life between New York and Nigeria, his Milwaukee-area community, his quest for an impactful career, and his love of skateboarding.
While he has always been business-minded, it wasn’t until Ayo’s senior year of high school that he discovered a passion for real estate. Taking an AP Economics class, he became fascinated by the impact real estate can have on the economy.
Now in his second year in the real estate program at the Wisconsin School of Business, what excites Ayo even more is the impact real estate can have on a community.
“The opportunity to do well by also doing good is substantial,” he says.
Ayo’s recent internship at Royal Capital in Milwaukee helped him see more concretely how to create lasting change through business. While he had previously been interested in developing large multifamily complexes or office buildings, his goal has shifted. With affordable housing, he sees an opportunity to remain in the community where he was brought up and address some of the disparities and discrepancies from within.
The Kolawole family is close-knit. Throughout Ayo’s childhood, there was “lots of love in the household.” His father is a particular source of inspiration for him.
“Investing in affordable housing that’s intentional, where you lead to a community-centric environment where people feel confident about living there—they feel that they have a voice in the community and they want to take part in keeping that safe—I think is really, really critical,” Ayo says.
On campus, Ayo is a member of the student organization Diverse Leaders for Tomorrow. He credits his involvement in the group with increased confidence and hopes to help it expand to other universities through an online business incubator course.
Through both the student organization and his future career, Ayo resolves to help others access the same opportunities he had—which, he recognizes, are thanks to the hard work of his parents. His father is a particular source of inspiration for Ayo; he moved to the U.S. from Nigeria for law school and worked two jobs to stay afloat while earning his degree. Ayo learned perseverance from him, as well as from his lifelong passion of skateboarding.
“In skateboarding, you get up and try again,” he says. “It’s definitely taught me to have a certain approach to life.”
Ayo’s recent internship at Royal Capital in Milwaukee helped him see more concretely how to create lasting change through business, specifically through affordable housing.
As for Ayo’s ultimate goal, he hopes to one day start his own development or private equity firm.
“Studying business and real estate allows me to get to a place where I can help people on a much greater scale than I could in any other major,” he says. “It’s my social responsibility to look out for those people and try to, in whatever way I can, provide others with the same opportunity so they can have a leg up.”
What are you listening to?
Rap and ’70s and ’80s rock.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
“It's better to be a mile deep and an inch wide than a mile wide and an inch deep.”