Award-winning Zanele Mbokazi’s name has become synonymous with the terms entrepreneur, innovator and media mogul. One of her greatest creations is the Crown Gospel Awards, which broadcasted its 14th pre-recorded show this past Sunday evening, shot under strict conditions a few months ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But for all Mbokazi’s blooming achievements, it is her 20-year long career as an entrepreneur in the creative events space – that she will mark in December – of which she is most proud.
The entrepreneur was recently awarded a Global Africa Award, recognising her contributions to the music event industry on the continent, as well as her many other contributions in line with social cohesion and moral regeneration.
“The award looked at two things. Firstly, that I have established the biggest Gospel Music Awards in the African continent, and that through the Crowns we have been able to give various people from the continent a platform that connects everyone involved – no matter where you are, all through music. I am currently on a drive helping other countries to start and grow their music events industry.
“Secondly, it recognised the amount of training and empowerment that I have done through the events value chain,” she said.
To celebrate her many achievements over the two decades, Mbokazi is positioning herself to plough something back into society by launching her Events Academy next month. This will be online and will target as many people as possible. "What I had to learn in 20 years, I want to empower others in 6 months or less,” she said.
“When people think of events, they just think of name tags and decor, but don’t realise that MC falls under events. And therefore training of that MC, of that speaker, the choreographer, the person who designs the lights, catering, all fall under events – and that is the value chain that I want to train people on,” Mbokazi said, adding that she will be expanding to the entire continent, with Zambia as her next targeted country.
The start of Mbokazi’s journey was when she took a leap of faith by leaving her formal employment at the SABC, at the height of her career as a well-known and accomplished radio presenter on Ukhozi FM. She says she was moved to pursue her interests in business despite having little to no business knowledge, only a zeal to pursue a dream that was burning within her.
“I was very young and I was crazy to leave SABC and to leave Ukhozi, but I knew I was born for more and I wanted to explore [this]. There's a lot that I didn't know; I was young, I didn't have information, I didn't know what an entrepreneur was – so you can imagine how scary that was,” she said.
“I remember the first assignment that I got was to stage an exhibition. It might sound funny now, but at that time, nobody knew what an exhibition was and when I called SMMEs at that time to come and exhibit, they had no clue what I was talking about. But little did I know that those experiences would help me become a pioneer for many other people, who followed in the events because we made it look easy,” she said.
With the many mistakes and risks she has taken, she says her journey has led her to be a pathfinder who has impacted many other careers that exist today.
“Twenty years down the line, I am so happy. I'm happy that I've been able to shape careers for a lot of people, to some running their own companies today. And that is what I celebrate, the impact that I have had on so many people to date,” she said.
Mbokazi is also gearing up to release her memoir, Dream Again, in January, which is a reflection on her 20 years, the lessons, mistakes, highs and lows.
From a humble home, she was inspired by her background to always leave a mark of education on wherever she touches.
“The experiences of when I was growing up that have, inspired me to always want to empower others. I didn't have much, nobody gave me a chance, I came from an uneducated family in terms of parents and it seemed like nothing is going to come out of that house.
"Where I come from, I didn’t have positive role models around and that is when I made a vow – because I hated the smell of poverty – that I was going to change not just my life, but my family’s story. And everything that I have done was to achieve that.
"[Another] was that people who come after me will not have to go through what I've gone through. So the mistakes I've made, even in eventing hence the Academy, I want to impart all the knowledge. So it is my past that has inspired me to want to make a difference in someone else’s life,” she said.