The man with many talents

Marketing and PR extraordinaire and social entrepreneur

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Marketing and PR extraordinaire and social entrepreneur, Emmanuel Bonoko, is a leader on a mission to conquer the world and he is unapologetic about some of the talents that God has blessed him with

Bonoko may have obtained his BCom Marketing degree but it is he who is always educating people about the importance—beyond the Bachelor’s, Masters or Doctorate degrees—of working on one’s personality, character and skills.

The journey begins

Bonoko was born in Johannesburg and moved to Limpopo to live with his grandparents, and they taught him so much about the power of having faith in God and working hard for his dreams.

Thereafter, he moved to Pretoria to continue with his studies. After Matric, he moved to Johannesburg to stay with his late parents—Jane Bonoko and King Maphosa.

“They taught me about the power of having the courage to believe in your own greatness and achieve beyond any obstacles and limitations you may face in life,” Bonoko reflects.

Emmanuel Bonoko: the entrepreneur

“Most people my age misunderstood me and how passionate I was about developing myself in order to live to my full potential and chase those dreams without being apologetic about my greatness.

“I lost many friends and I was always alone because of the hunger I had to pursue my dreams and vision. Even my own family did not see the bigger picture—that it’s possible to make a sustainable living without working for any company or becoming a teacher, doctor or lawyer. There is nothing wrong with working for a corporate, because not of all us have the courage to pursue entrepreneurship,” he explains.

Bonoko didn’t have an easy time in business but says he always had the support of his parents, who have since passed away, throughout his entrepreneurial journey. His mother, in particular, had a significant impact on him.

He says he learnt a lot about what it takes to come through on the other side.

“Never be afraid or embarrassed to struggle. There is absolutely no shame in working hard to get to where you want to be. No shame,” says Bonoko.

When he was around 19, 20 years old, he founded the EBonoko Foundation (www.ebonokofoundation.co.za) with the aim of serving others and fostering leadership, youth empowerment and entrepreneurship. One of their main initiatives is a book drive that’s seen over 16 000 books collected over the years and donated to under-resourced schools, charities, libraries, prisons and community centres. This has led to other successful projects being undertaken by the foundation including youth mentorship programmes, bursary campaigns, career expos and seminar workshops focusing on business and leadership.

Through the foundation, Bonoko was able to build great business networks.

He mentions the names of serial entrepreneurs, Phuti Mahanyele and Bonang Mohale, saying he is blessed to have had them as his mentors. Mahanyele is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Shanduka Group and the current Executive Chairperson of the investment group, Sigma Capital Investment. Mohale is the former Shell SA chairperson and the current Chief Executive of Business Leadership SA.

As a way of giving back to the community, Bonoko runs business connect seminars, dubbed ‘back to kasi’, meaning ‘back to the township’ when loosely translated.

Globally celebrated

Forbes Africa Magazine recognised Bonoko as one of the most influential 30UNDER30 Entrepreneurs to look out for in Africa.

Additionally, he’s received the following awards and accolades:

  • The KIA Young Business Achiever of the year 2017 at the BBQ Awards
  • The Entrepreneur of the Year at The SA Men Of The Year Awards 2016
  • Named African Hero of the Month by www.reelafrican.com. The US-based magazine named him one of the 100 most influential leaders in the world under 30 http://real-leaders.com/digital/yrl100/#3

EBonoko Holdings

EBonoko Holdings PTY LTD is a marketing and consulting company with multiple services, which include media relations, PR management, design and brand development, brand strategy, promotions and marketing and events hosting and management.

Bonoko says that over the years, they partnered with and serviced some of the biggest corporates in South Africa, including the Eskom Development Foundation, the Shanduka Group, Shell South Africa, the Mogale City Local Municipality, Standard Bank, the PBT Group and many more.

Entrepreneurial advice

Bonoko has some tips for success:

  • Small things count a lot—keep putting in more effort and learning from others.
  • Never be ashamed to struggle; there is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard to get to where you want to be in life.
  • You must create a personal identity with which you will be identified. Being humble, ethical and caring should be part of it.
  • Adapt to the trends and brands in the market.
  • Arm yourself with education in order to become credible.

“Not all young people are lazy and feel entitled,” says Bonoko. This is the real story of entrepreneurship that is not being told, he says.

“We have young people who are working hard and are hungry to grow. We have young people who are changing the game of entrepreneurship. Young people are powerful and they are doing their part to transform South Africa,” he says.

However, young people do have to play their part, he adds. This includes being patient enough to start small and not solely focusing on raising funds.

“Funding is not the solution to every problem in business, but rather the spirit of patience and building, with a vision of creating impact,” he says.

Bonoko also encourages young people to come up with more solution-driven businesses as well as being willing to pool resources and experiences.

“It takes preparation and patience to win in the business world. I measure my success by being able to create employment for other young people and through the influence I have on other young people,” he explains.

In terms of how to successfully grow your business, Bonoko says the power of networking and having a global vision for your business is what promotes growth. Additionally, the power of discipline, character and branding are crucial for growth. Above all, you need to have faith in God, he says. My mentor, Mahanyele, taught me that business is 80% spirituality and 20% hard work.

The role of mentoring young people

Bonoko knows that entrepreneurship can be very intimidating.

“As you launch an idea and develop it into an operating business, it is inevitable that you’ll face some tough decisions and you may not have the answers or the experience to at least make an informed choice.

“Oprah Winfrey gives the following advice: ‘Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.’

Ask yourself why you would take on the task of starting your business without the wisdom and resources of someone who has been there before. That is why mentorship is key and important amongst emerging entrepreneurs,” he says.

In closing, Bonoko says, “Use every opportunity you have as an entrepreneur to grow your brand and business. Learn to invest in yourself as an entrepreneur, build relationships and increase your business acumen. Collaborations are key amongst entrepreneurs and humanity is key to the path of your success.” 

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