South African entrepreneur, marketing strategist, and speaker Blessing Mkono is a diamond in the rough after launching a successful business with minimal work experience. Blessing is truly that—a blessing—as he uses his experience as an entrepreneur to empower others to challenge themselves, reach higher, and pursue their dreams. This is exactly why we reached out to Blessing for this Sheen exclusive where he shares insights from his career and his native South Africa.
Who is Blessing Mkono?
I remember learning how to answer this question—to be careful not to brag too much but say enough to catch one fish. I then realized that the entire premise of being me isn’t built around a stellar description of self. It’s built around how anyone else describes me.
So, they say, “Blessing Mkono is a 26-year-old African, the Managing Director of Mkono Holdings, a marketing strategist, and an established speaker. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Management Marketing and several certificates in management and people understanding. He is a recipient of the Google Mobile Web Specialist Scholarship.”
Tell us more about your home country.
You should know this isn’t a sales pitch for my country because, above all else, I want to be the only businessperson here. I don’t like competition. South Africa is paved in gold and every household is furnished with gold and silver. I know the image looks heavenly, but what other heaven would I see in this lifetime?
Everyone in South Africa complains about corruption, but who in the world doesn’t? Despite this, South Africa is an excellent place for small businesses. Many people get away without paying business taxes and personal taxes are not a language for the common folk. The banks charge everyone to make a deposit or a withdrawal. But don’t use this as your manual; just know that $2,000 is enough to start a business here.
What is a marketing strategist?
Before influencer marketing became a thing, marketing strategy could be defined. There was a marketing expert who was considered a company’s ‘voodoo’ guy. Today, it’s hard to define marketing strategy, but I’ll still wet your tastebuds with an answer.
The only thing that can be predicted is change. It’s fair to satisfy our human need for comfort and certainty, a basic assumption that we can predict, plan, and prepare for the future. In the contest of who will sell what, where, how, and for how much, the only variable that doesn’t change is time because no one really has it. So, marketing strategy is the pillow that any brand lays their head on at night hoping to dream about who will buy their product. Marketing strategy doesn’t entail how the product sells, it entails what will happen if the product has no channel.
Marketing strategy is the only plan available when there’s no other plan. It’s the document of conviction, the first leaves that sprout from the seeds of inspiration. When entrepreneurs think of an idea, the immediate next step is marketing strategy. The marketing strategy is what the owner of the business truly wants—it’s the original language they use as they build their space in the market. Marketing strategy is not in documentation but in execution and every time a product sells, the process is different, but the product remains the same.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to mirror your success?
The only qualification needed to convince yourself that you’re enough is to do it, fail, and do it again. I learned how to code from my cellphone, how to swim in a bathtub, and about other planets from counting stars. To become who I aim to be is a work of faith, confidence, and personal growth. Earn a college degree and, if you can’t, don’t venture to YouTube. Instead, find people working in the trenches, ask them what it’s like, and start reading everything you can. Once you’re confident in your knowledge, knock on the door and tell someone you’re ready to offer your expertise pro-bono. Document the process. Your execution of the job will be your ‘purple cow.’
Why is it important to have multiple streams of income?
No one knows what enough looks like. To have something close to what ‘enough’ may be, we must have multiple streams of income. If you can have separate rooms for different activities in your house, why not have separate incomes for your expenditures and luxuries? I won’t indulge in the financial freedom gibberish that’s enslaved many folks, but I will tell you that it’s less of a burden to use your American money to fly 17 hours away from home only to land in Africa where you have diamonds and steak waiting for you.
What does it take to do what you do?
A spoonful of gut-confidence, ¾ teaspoon of ambition, ½ teaspoon of arrogance, 1 tablespoon of patience, and 1 bowl of people skills added to a 1,000-degree hot pot.
The world is not empathetic; it’s a playground. I would love to say that no one can do what I do, but everyone can do what they set their minds to do. Give yourself at least an hour each day to learn something. I’ve taken over seven university courses this year. Because I’m in the business of speaking and talking to people, I need to know and understand what they do before an engagement. Because I’m a businessperson, every investor is different, and I need to understand them accordingly. The key is to learn more about reading people every day.
Can you tell us about your international speaking engagements?
I’m still waiting on my all-expense paid invitations to speak in the US and UK because it takes too many Rands to make $1. It’s my hope that the Coronavirus will be over before Christmas 2020 so I can start speaking again. If not, I’ll speak in front of my family. As a 26-year-old, all I can say is, “The industry is tough, experience is an important currency, and nothing is better than relational capital.” Most, if not all, of my engagements have been in Africa with a few online engagements. I like speaking to students and organizations because, even though the money isn’t good, I can make a significant impact.
What sense of purpose do you draw from your community?
The only reason I’m still alive is because my clock has more batteries. What if there was a way to share the power source that runs our clocks? My purpose is to add time to the clocks that are running low and to add smiles to those in need. It’s more difficult to fake a smile than it is to fake a frown. To that end, there’s a space for us to share a smile with others or at least teach others how to fake it better.
Why should we embrace different cultures and why is it important to network globally?
When you come to Africa, remember to leave a dollar behind because that dollar is a seed and, in ten years, it will be a diamond. In short, make a lot of friends and stop trusting the bank. Gather your confidence and remember your first audience is always yourself.
To be human is to be a culture. There’s something we share regardless of our preconceived judgments of one another. If we find that small thing, we find our answer to happiness. There’s a language of the universe and the sooner we learn it, the better we become at understanding the world. Global networking is the only way to gather global wealth. Thanks to my global network, I have a business of my own despite not having any work experience.
Leave us with some encouraging words.
There are so many people waiting for a brilliant mind like yours. What have you done to help humanity? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and hoping democracy will send you a dollar tomorrow. Every time you jump out of bed, know it might be the last time. Somewhere around the world, a lion waits to be seen. There’s a crystal-clear blue lake waiting for someone to swim. There are opportunities waiting to be taken. You may not be enough, but no one is enough. Save a dollar, send it somewhere, go somewhere. There’s a world to see, souls to save, and profits to make. Stop sulking and smile because you’re beautiful.
There’s no question that Blessing Mkono is a gift to his native South Africa as he extends his reach beyond his local community to a worldwide audience in need of hearing his inspirational message. He encourages his audience to look deeper into themselves and find ways to share their voice and make a positive impact on humanity. This is what sets him apart from his peers—his vibrant positivity and his motivation.
He’s also available via WhatsApp @27768337744, on Instagram and Twitter @brandmkono, and on Facebook @mkono brand.
All images by Costa Wesel