JOHANNESBURG - Listening to Emmanuel Bonoko talk about his journey would tempt anyone to believe he has been in business for much longer than his young age.
At 27, Bonoko has already made made the prestigious Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list, honoured as KIA Young Business Achiever during the Big Time Strategic Group BBQ Awards, made the list of 100 global leaders under 30, compiled by US business and leadership magazine Real Leaders and honoured as the entrepreneur of the year by the department of social development.
The founding director of EBonoko Foundation and EBonoko Holdings, which he established in 2012 and 2013 respectively, describes 2016 as having been a great year for him. He says the recognition is a motivation for him to work hard but keep grounded.
“It’s EBonoko Foundation that introduced me to business,” he says. “When it was founded we embarked on a book drive project, collecting and donating all sorts of books to underprivileged schools, charities, libraries and prisons across the country. More than 10 000 books have been donated to date.”
Bonoko has partnered with the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation to organise bursaries for deserving students, and is quick to add that it is through his foundation that he has met some incredible people and top chief executives who influenced him to try his hand at the competitive but lucrative world of business.
EBonoko Holdings offers public relations services to the public and private sectors and small and medium-sized enterprises. It also focuses on property investments and acquisitions; brand management, concept development; events hosting,and business and inspirational speakers. Bonoko says they have “done some stuff” for petroleum company Shell South Africa (SA), Proudly SA, Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, and Standard Bank, and adds “the list is endless”.He says his entrepreneurial journey has been interesting and that he has lost friends along the way as they could not see the bigger picture.
“I had to work hard and sacrifice a lot,” says Bonoko, who was raised on a domestic worker salary. He drops the names of serial entrepreneurs Phuti Mahanyele and Bonang Mohale, saying he is blessed to have had them as his mentors. Mahanyele is former chief executive of Shanduka Group and current executive chairperson of investment group Sigma Capital, while Mohale is former Shell SA chairperson and 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”, back to the township when loosely translated.
“We bring influential business leaders and top CEOs to network, groom and guide young entrepreneurs from townships such as Tembisa, Soweto, Alexandra and Cosmo City. The seminars are a platform for young entrepreneurs to be exposed to information, pitch business ideas and get mentorship.”
Bonoko is advocating a collaboration between black entrepreneurs, saying such is the new innovation. “It’s key for black people to work together and be there for each other.”
He expresses unease that the billboards one sees when entering a township pertain to alcohol and condoms. “This troubles me because it says these are the things that are associated with blacks, whereas when you go to the suburbs, you are greeted with billboards about nice estates and cars, some really great ads.”
Unfazed, Bonoko says 2017 is a year of growth for him. “Business is doing well. I employ 15 people. I want to create more employment, influence the community and leave this world a better place,” he proffers.
Bonoko says he works with a “great team around me. My mentees come and join me in my company to get experience and exposure”.
His focus now is tapping into the African continent. “I’m currently writing a book about my journey. It will come out next year and be sold across the continent. I also want to tap into the properties and environment sector. I want to evolve and not limit myself. I just want to be a leader,” the young entrepreneur says.
Bonoko says wearing two hats is a no brainer for him because, “through my foundation I’m a social entrepreneur and through my company I’m a serial entrepreneur.”
- BUSINESS REPORT