BONI MCHUNU, managing director at East Coast Radio (ECR) - KZN's No.1 Hit Music Station, is passionate about KwaZulu-Natal and its people.
Boni was born and educated in Pietermaritzburg. She is the youngest of five sisters and after her mother died when she was 10 years old, Boni was brought up by a single dad, who she calls her 'Rockstar'.
Boni credits her success to her father who encouraged her and her four sisters to take their education seriously. "Growing up poor in Pietermaritzburg, my father taught me that I could only improve my life through education. A statement he made had a profound impact on her as a young girl and has stuck with her ever since - 'The decisions you make about education today, must be the decisions you are happy to live with tomorrow'. This statement, she said, encouraged her to do well in school.
The best marketing experience
After matriculating in 1997, Boni enrolled at the University of South Africa to study marketing. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing, a diploma in business management and diploma in project management. Recently, Boni attended the international executive leadership development programme at Wits and London business schools.
Her first job was with ABSA and her responsibilities related to marketing the financial services of ABSA. This was followed by working for another corporate giant, Unilever. Of her time there, she says, "I believe it was some of the best marketing experience anyone can get, as I worked in different categories from home, personal care to foods."
Before joining ECR, Boni was part of the executive team at Tourism KZN. The opportunity to work for the provincial tourism authority, representing KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa, she says was one of the highlights of her professional career.
Notably, she got to travel to more than 72 countries around the world and in her own words, "The experience cemented the fact that South Africa is the best country in the world and solidified my pride in being proudly South African."
Influencing people's lives
Now as, Boni says that she absolutely loves that East Coast Radio has so much influence in the lives of the people living in the province. "I consider this opportunity as a privilege that I will cherish for as long as I live."
"ECR gives us the platform to make a difference in people's lives by influencing and connecting KZN to the world, and we bring the world to South Africa, particularly to KZN. We are proudly KZN as we are a brand that considers ourselves as a fabric of KZN that binds people together. KZN's social matters, matter to us, whether funny, sad, social, or lifestyle, are all important to us."
"Growing the station's brand awareness is my career highlight. The ECR brand awareness is above 90% across all demographics in KZN. I am glad that the work I've put into making it more diverse, in terms of listenership, has paid off. This is evident in the growth of our audience, largely due to our brand's association with all things related to KZN. I look forward to continue growing the brand even further."
Business is business
Apart from being a successful businesswoman, Boni is also a superwoman to three kids of her own, and a wife to her loving husband. Boni says that that despite the usual everyday challenges at home, at work and in the community, the greatest challenge that she has faced has been seeing people judging her based on her gender and race. She does not let this get to her and her biggest career highlight is that she has been able to move from different industries with ease.
"The experience gained from all these industries has been enormous for me, but most importantly, the experience has taught me that business is business, regardless of the different industries." As a woman in business. Boni says, 'I learnt early on that prospective employers care about whether you've got the ability, willingness and right mindset to do the job at hand."
"As women, we all need to believe unconditionally that our passion can create the life we really want. We have the in-built ability to do whatever we put our minds to and need not wait for things to fall into our laps. Opportunities exist and we need to seize those opportunities and make things happen for ourselves, rather than waiting for society's approval."
Remain true to yourself
However, Boni says that discipline is a bridge between her goals and achieving them, "In everything I do, I believe focus, attitude and discipline has brought me this far." She adds, "I believe in simplicity, authenticity, straight talk and sustainability in everything that I do. Sustainability for me refers to putting systems in place that will build myself and companies that will compete for the future, with or without me. You must remain true to yourself, find mentors for every area of your life and don't waste time on negativity."
In reflecting on her future goals Boni says, "One thing I would like to do in this lifetime, is to create a Boni Mchunu Foundation that will assist the underprivileged kids, especially from the township I grew up in, Imbali Township."
Boni's motto in life and in business is that failure is merely incomplete success, to be persistent and be grateful for what you have, so good things can manifest. "I believe in positive reinforcement, not letting your past or present situation in life define your future."