Emmanuel Bonoko

Age: 28 • Entrepreneur • Ebonoko Holdings PTY LTD, South Africa

“I learnt a lot about what it takes to come through on the other side, over the years I have also learnt to not be afraid or embarrassed to struggle”

Emmanuel Bonoko started his business at age 19. He was named Forbes30under30 most promising entrepreneur in Africa and KIA young business achiever of the year. He is passionate about helping young people in disadvantaged communities seize opportunities for themselves. Through his foundation, they have collected and donated over 16 000 books to charities, under resourced schools and prisons in South Africa. Read the rest his story below.

1. Many who know you would point out that you are a young dynamic entrepreneur taking well thought decisions to helping young people most especially in disadvantaged communities to seize opportunities for themselves. Please can you tell us more about your current projects regarding the above and why is this so important to you?

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/Marketing, Events hosting and Management.

Over the years we have partnered and serviced some of the biggest corporates in South Africa e.g. Eskom Foundation, Shanduka Investment group, Shell South Africa, Mogale city Municipality, Standard Bank, PBT Group, IDC and many more.

When I was 19 years old, I founded Ebonoko Foundation with the aim of serving others and forstering leadership, youth empowerment and entrepreneurship. One of the initiatives we have done is a book drive that has collected and donated over 16 000 books to under resourced schools, charities, libraries, prisons and community centres. This has led to other successful projects undertaken by the foundation, including youth mentorship programmes, bursary campaigns, career expos and seminar workshops focusing on business and leadership.

2. Your journey in entrepreneurship began in 2012 and 2013 when you founded EBonoko Foundation and EBonoko Holdings, respectively. Please take us through your journey from the early days to where your company is at now?

I was born in Johannesburg and moved to Limpopo to stay with my grandparents, they taught me the power of having faith in God and working hard for my dreams. When I was older, I moved to Pretoria where my parents were residing to continue with my studies – my parents taught me the power of having courage to believe in my own greatness and achieve beyond any obstacles and limitation I may face.

Venturing into entrepreneurship meant that most people misunderstood me for being passionate about my business and chasing my dreams unapologetically. It was not easy going into business, but I had the support of my parents (who are now both late). My mother especially had a huge impact on my journey.

I learnt a lot about what it takes to come through on the other side, over the years I have also learnt to not be afraid or embarrassed to struggle.

3. What is the danger in hiring and scaling a startup company rapidly before fully understanding customers’ needs? What in your opinion should startup companies do to ensure they stay in business longer to a point where a startup becomes a company?

  • Acquire knowledge about your particular industry
  • Find possible mentors who are well experienced and have built exceptional track record in the business market
  • Learn to invest in yourself as an entrepreneur. Build relations and increase your business acumen
  • Entrepreneurship can be very intimidating. As you launch an idea and develop it into an operating business, it is inevitable that you will face tough decisions in which you may not have the answers or the experience to at least make informed decisions. Oprah Winfrey gives the following advice “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher” Ask yourself, why take on the task of starting a business without the wisdom and resources of someone who has been there before. That is why mentorship is key and important amongst emerging entrepreneurs.

4. You’ve met incredible business people along the way as mentors who have spoken words of wisdom into your life. How did you make that happen? How can one go about getting mentors? Of course, hanging out where they drink coffee could help too, but what strategies have worked for you

  • I was clear and my intentions were straight to the point
  • Mentorship does not guarantee success, you still need to do your part and put 100% of the work
  • Not every famous/influential leader can be your personal mentor. Study people that you want to mentor you, study their character, values and what they stand for
  • Mentorship is about sharing value and not simply receiving from mentors – be a person of value for your mentors

5. What do you want to see change in your community this year and why is this of concern to you?

I am passionate about championing the needs of black entrepreneurs and ensuring that they actively participate in the mainstream economy. We do so by coordinating all necessary stakeholders comprising of small business support institutions, government institutions and accomplished entrepreneurs bringing them all together in one space to have valuable engagements with emerging entrepreneurs. Our initiatives have provided practical solutions and business opportunities to emerging entrepreneurs.

6. What is your advice to emerging entrepreneurs?

  • 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 where you want to be in life
  • Create a personal identity with which you will be identified. Being humble, ethical and caring should be a part of it