“There is No Shame in Working Hard to get to Where you Want to Be” – Emmanuel Bonoko

This article forms part of SME South Africa’s Youth Month 2018 series ‘A Seat at the Table’ – an exploration of SA Youth’s efforts to step up and effect positive change. Follow all our #YouthMonth2018 coverage here.

Emmanuel Bonoko excels in bringing together South African business heavyweights into the same room to inspire township youth.

Bonoko is the founder of EBonoko Holdings, a media consulting, public relations and events company, which employs five people. He also founded EBonoko Foundation, a social enterprise for book drives and business and career exhibitions.

Well connected, Bonoko says he is putting his network to good use in his #Back2Kasi Seminars which are conducted in townships across the country, including Tembisa, Soweto, Alexandra and Cosmo City, among others.

“I started #Back2Kasi to use my influence and networks to empower as many young people as possible,” says Bonoko.

The goal for their series of events is to inspire and support young black and emerging entrepreneurs. A big part of how they do this is by exposing them to success stories and providing access to information and networks.

For their first event this year they brought together entrepreneurs, DJ Sbu, Sibusiso Ngwenya of SkinnySbuSocks and Tshepo Mohlala of Tshepo the Jean Maker to talk about merchandising to township-based entrepreneurs.

For his efforts, Bonoko has received a number of accolades including the Forbes Africa 30UNDER30 Entrepreneurs to look out for  in 2016,  Lead SA hero by Radio 702 and was selected by Mail & Guardian as one of the 200 Young South Africans in 2014.

Funding is not the solution to every problem in business

Young people are not lazy

“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 SA.”

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 funding.

“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 solutions-driven businesses as well as be 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

From struggle to success

Bonoko didn’t have an easy go 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 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.

It was his own struggle that initially spurred him into entrepreneurship. Before launching his public relations and events company, Bonoko founded the Ebonoko Foundation in 2012. The foundation works to bring about transformation through education, leadership, empowerment and serving others.

“The foundation was my baby, I set it up while in my first year as a Bcom student majoring in marketing. It was a stepping stone to greater opportunities.

“The foundation over the years has done extremely well in empowering the youth across South Africa through education, mentorship, training and developing them to find their own passion.”

In a 2017 IOL report, Bonoko shared that he had partnered with the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation to organise bursaries for deserving students.

To this day, he says he still measures his success in business according to the original purpose of his first venture.

“I measure my  success by being able to create employment for other young people and through the influence I have on other young people.

“We have mentored a number of young people to start their own organisations, we have a couple of students who are studying through our organisations.”

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Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo
Lebohang Thulo is the editor of SME South Africa. She enjoys keeping up with the country’s exciting and fast developing entrepreneurship ecosystem. You can find her at @lelele3