By Siphokazi Mathe, Media Management student
Entrepreneur, global motivational speaker, philanthropist and travel guru, Ms Johanna Mukoki recently inspired budding entrepreneurs to be agents of change when achieving their goals, as part of Rhodes University’s Student Entrepreneurship Week.
A Rhodes University Alumnus, Mukoki is a multiple award-winning entrepreneur. Soon after graduating with a BComm degree from the University, she and two partners started travel management company, Travel With Flair (TWF) in 1997.
Now employing 800 employees with offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, the growth of her business is self-evident. Amongst the aforementioned accolades, Mukoki is a prominent international motivational speaker, having spoken in the United States of America, Germany and South Africa. She is the distinguished mind and voice behind SABC 2’s Women on the Move, assuming the position of Executive Producer of the show, which highlights successful South African businesswomen. Mukoki has recently been declared a winner of the Rhodes University Distinguished Alumni awards.
The evening’s entrepreneurial session promised to give insight into branding and communications in business – highlighting the importance of integrity and the power of rhetoric. Central to the discussion on entrepreneurship and development was the role of women – particularly highlighted by Senior Lecturer at the Rhodes Business School, Ms Leticia Greyling, who emphasised gender disparities between the successes and failures of men and women-owned SMMEs in South Africa. “Up to 20% of women-owned businesses fail annually,” said Greyling. The success of Mukoki’s business proves to be an extraordinary exception.
Mukoki began her presentation by reflecting on her experience at Rhodes University, referring to herself “a dedicated and bookish student”.
“Even my classmates would be surprised if ever they saw me outside of the classroom or church,” she said. But she noted that taking herself seriously as a student and as an agent of change enabled her to envision herself as a pioneer within male-dominated business industries. Throughout her journey at Rhodes University, Mukoki felt that in order to feel the part she needed to dress the part, thus instilling a work ethic and pride in both her school work and appearance – establishing her brand at a young age.
Mukoki expressed that building a brand is about finding a balance between what people see and individual humility.
Mukoki expressed, “Unfortunately it is about what people see when they look at you. However, this does not mean that one should falsely represent themselves, but rather show humility and people will gravitate towards you because of how genuine you are.”
Mukoki encouraged the self-growth in order to establish authenticity and individuality in entrepreneurship.
She spoke about how the 4th Industrial Revolution and the advent of social media and digitisation can simultaneously aid and destroy a brand and its reputation. “People need to know and understand the energy that they bring into a room if they want to establish their value,” she said. Mukoki emphasised the power of the human spirit and how integrity should serve as the foundation for individual values and social responsibility.
In a breakfast session facilitated by Dr Tshidi Mohapeloa, Senior Lecturer at the Rhodes Business School, Mukoki addressed women working in the academia leadership and students interested in the growth prospects of entrepreneurship at Rhodes University.
Central to this is the concept of entrepreneurial unity, where a pool of knowledge and resources accessible to all students can be created, which will practically aid and uplift the University and Makhanda in general.
This conversation birthed the proposition of an entrepreneurial summit, as proposed by Dr Mohapeloa, in which students and academics are able to engage each other on the advancement of business and entrepreneurship at the institution and even the country at large.
Mukoki stressed the significance of unity amongst women in the entrepreneurial sphere, suggesting that it is through harmony and collaboration that women entrepreneurs will succeed.
The events, organised by By Africa, a business initiative of students of the Rhodes University Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management class, proved to be successful in generating a fruitful, powerful and positive dialogue about entrepreneurship, the power of branding and women in business.