Taking control of your destiny and chasing after your dreams is a key lesson one can learn from Bonnie Kamona. Born in Botswana, Bonnie is a social entrepreneur who holds the esteemed title of Miss Botswana 1st Princess 2016. Continue reading as Bonnie talks candidly about her decision to enter the world of pageantry, and why it is important to her to use her title for the greater good of her community.
Interviewer: Zimasa Mabuse
Bonnie, the year 2016 saw you become Miss Botswana 1st Princess – congratulations! Pageants have become more than just about aesthetics, and to win such a title one is expected to be a well-rounded woman of substance. Take us through the decision to enter the Miss Botswana pageant?
Thank you! Well, I had never taken interest in pageantry to be honest. I had a dream business that I wanted to start and no capital; after applying for every grant and knocking on every door in the city I decided to think outside of the box. I knew Miss Botswana would give me an amazing platform to grow my business, grow my brand and explore new income streams, so on the very last day of auditions, I put my vision ahead of my shyness and boy, did it pay off! Sometimes our dreams don’t come packaged in the ways we expect them to be.
Clinching the title of Miss Botswana 1st Princess, could not have been an easy feat. What key characteristics and attributes do you believe got you as far as you did in the competition?
It was extremely challenging, more so because I was writing my MBA thesis throughout the entire competition which meant little to no sleep. I believe what made me stand out is that I decided to just be myself. It sounds super cliché, but I was not going to suddenly become as experienced in pageantry, as light in complexion or as passionate about modelling as the other girls. I had to capitalise on what was unique about me and I’d like to think that my mind was my biggest weapon – it houses my ability to strategize, my ability to speak well and the execution of my business plan, which I submitted as the project I would take on when crowned. I also learned etiquette and public relations purely from attending the high school that I did and that was definitely an added advantage!
I am certain that title must have come with a number much prestige and has now placed you in a position of great influence. How have you used your influence to make a difference to your country and community? Could you detail what initiatives you are presently part of?
Haha! It isn’t as prestigious as one would think but there is definitely an amount of influence one can leverage on if they strategize. I positioned myself as a champion of youth-related matters and worked from there. I have worked with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to deliver talks and host seminars for young girls, I travelled the country [Botswana] with the UNFPA and Ministry of Health researching youth-friendly medical services to ensure we are offered services tailored to our needs and I delivered motivational speeches on behalf of the Ministry of Basic Education. In my personal capacity I started Project Seriti, a social entrepreneurial venture that manufactures and distributes reusable sanitary pads to ensure all girls do not lose out on the opportunity to attend school and reach their potential. I also deliver motivational talks and discussions on personal brand development to inspire others just like me.
You have also spoken to and mentored teenagers on the importance of leveraging branding for pageantry and/or entrepreneurship. What do you believe women need in order to become key players in corporate and in their communities?
There are many tips and tricks in the journey to becoming key players in our respective fields, starting with exploring our options: doing so in unconventional ways has proven to be the most rewarding for me so I preach it to all who’d wish to listen. I also often speak about the importance of self-belief, as it plays a major role in tackling the challenges we face. It is very difficult to encourage others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Women (and men!) need to research their inspirations as much as they do their competitors in an effort to build and make small efforts every day to reach the goals they set for themselves. It’s important that you don’t overwhelm yourself ; learn to rest, celebrate the seemingly small victories and take your bites out of life in manageable chunks.
Have your encountered any major obstacles in your reign as Miss Botswana 1st Princess? Could you detail what these have been and how you have overcome them?
I had to come to terms with the fact that people you know may hold the keys to doors that are you knocking on, yet still choose not to open them. People are quick to offer a hand but very seldom follow through. Once I learned this I started to rely more heavily on myself, but I have not let this affect my interest in assisting those I can when I can. We can all win.
Take us through what a typical day looks like for you?
Well, I have a full time job as a Strategy Executive at FCB, one of the leading advertising agencies in Botswana. So I spend my day at work, my lunch hours meeting clients for Project Seriti and negotiating my speaking gigs. Evenings are spent working on my business tasks or writing and giving speeches. All equally fulfilling but I won’t lie, it is exhausting!
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Education is all around you in many forms – exploit it! Online lectures, local seminars, formal courses and insights from those “living the dream” – immerse yourself.
The biggest sacrifice I’ve ever made is…Giving up the peace of anonymity in pursuit of the platform that could launch my dreams.
The greatest self-marketing/branding tool is… social media. What has worked for me is my mantra “live a life of excellence” – it guides the way I dress, the way I prepare, the way I post on social media and overall the perception I create for those watching. I stay ready so I don’t have to get ready.
Best investment… Myself. Introspect and invest time and money into what can build you and your future empire.
Worst money mistake… Waiting until you have “enough money”. You never have enough, start now.
Advice in 3 words…Just get started.