Yvonne Mtengwa is a publicist, communications strategist, international speaker, and author of three books, one of which is an Amazon best-selling title.
Tell me about yourself i.e., line of work, education, and career?
I like to consider myself as one who wears many hats. My profession lies in PR and Communications with a keen focus on promoting destinations. I am a Publicist, Communications Strategist, International Speaker, and an author of three books, one of which is an Amazon best-selling title.
I am a holder of an MSc in Marketing Degree from Roehampton University in the UK, and currently live and work in Dubai. Three years ago, I established Narratives PR, a boutique communications consultancy that offers PR strategy to small business owners; after I felt it was time to contribute my expertise to the pan-African landscape. Throughout my career in the Middle East, I have been fortunate to be a part of several unique high-profile events, projects, and marketing campaigns; leveraging my experience obtained from working in the United States and Southern Africa.
What inspired you to pursue your line of work/business and how much effort did it take for you to get where you are now?
My educational and training background was in marketing, and I kicked off my career in the US retail industry in 2002. Two years later, and driven by my passion for real estate, I decided to pursue a certification which enabled me to transition into the world of property marketing and sales. I always thought it would be cool to sell houses so that shift was largely driven by my interest in the field and a need to make more money than I was making working in retail.
After several years I moved back to Zimbabwe however I quickly realised that the real estate market there was quite different from my previous experience. It simply was not as fast-paced as I was used to, so I decided to pursue a career in the travel industry as it enabled me to still move around and not be stuck behind a desk all day. I landed a job in Victoria Falls with one of the major hospitality chains in Zimbabwe and this began my journey in destination marketing.
During my tenure in Southern Africa, I worked with various brands which helped to expand my knowledge of the. Relocating to the UAE further catapulted me to another level completely as I found myself working with some industry giants such as the Department of Tourism & Culture – Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s national Railway project Etihad Rail, on the UAE’s national air carrier Etihad Airways’ consumer PR remit, Reem Mall, real estate developments on Saadiyat Island, Doha based hospitality group Katara Hospitality to name but a few. Another notable career milestone was when I led the PR and Communications function at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and served as the PR Head for the iconic, red-roofed World’s Leading Theme Park for two years.
All in all, my journey has been nothing short of fulfilling and I have learnt a great deal about what it takes to build global brands and keep them in the front of the minds of consumers; given how competitive the regional and global landscape has become.
Every journey has its share of challenges; what were yours? Did you ever feel like giving up? If so, what kept you going?
I experienced most of my challenges navigating life outside my comfort zone. I left Zimbabwe at the age of eighteen to pursue my university education in Atlanta. Nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock of life in America, but that is also the place that birthed a greater resilience in me to survive and go hard after what I desire to see made manifest.
Moving back home in my mid-20s awakened me to the harsh reality of just how much I had evolved during my season in America. I struggled to find my place after my return in 2007, as the country was so far removed from how I had left it. Everything was different and adapting to this new normal was a tough pill to swallow. The environment just didn’t give me the warm and fuzzy welcome I imagined, but my family did a stellar job of supporting me through this very hectic transition.
I’ve lived outside Zimbabwe for half of my life now, and I’d say the greatest challenge lies with proving yourself in an environment where you are the minority. I had never viewed the notion of nationality or race as part of the judging criteria until I navigated life in the diaspora. With all the lessons that stemmed from the challenges and the wins along the way, I credit my faith in GOD and love from family and friends for keeping me going. I love GOD and believe He wants the best for me. I also believe He would never put me in a situation where He hasn’t already created a triumph on the other side of any trials. So, prayer, my faith, and the incredible relationships I am blessed with, keep me going. Those are what I lean on to be able to juggle the many responsibilities I carry.
Any notable milestones/achievement you would like to share?
I was named one of the 2020 Global Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) Under 40 in a ceremony that took place in New York City in October 2020. The ceremony was part of MIPAD’s annual Recognition Week, following the opening of the 75th United Nations General Assembly.
It was humbling to be recognized for my contributions in the media and culture space alongside greats such as Nigerian artist Burna Boy, American travel entrepreneur Cherae Robinson, the musician behind the global phenomenon Jerusalema Master KG and Miss Universe South Africa Zozi Tunzi. The recognition was unexpected and so it was one of those moments I realised that people were watching my body of work without my even realising that they were.
What is the big picture i.e., where to from here?
Growing Travel Essence Magazine! Produced by my consultancy Narratives PR, Travel Essence Magazine was a personal call to action to support African brands and business owners in the continent’s travel, tourism, lifestyle, and entertainment space; especially considering the impact of COVID-19. I wanted to create a dedicated platform that curates content on the beauty of Africa and her people. To have successfully launched the magazine during the peak of the global pandemic and border closures, and see it so well received by expat travellers and adventurers across Africa and the Middle East is exciting! The magazine is a stunning, highly visual publication which the team and I spend a lot of time and effort putting together. We genuinely love the creative process, and every new Issue is something my team and I are thrilled to see come to life. We look forward to seeing where the publication and the brand goes from here.
Beyond the magazine project my goal is to be a voice for amplifying the African narrative, which is why I titled my business, Narratives PR. If it’s a positive story about Africa and her people, I want to be counted as one of the media representatives that are doing their part in telling our stories our way. I believe it is time Africans and people of African descent played an active role in showcasing the vast wealth that our continent offers through its amazing talent, diverse cultures, landscapes, destinations, and opportunities.
What word of advice would you like give to others reading your story?
Have faith, stay prayed up and believe in GOD’s plan for you. Be authentic in your pursuits. Listen to your heart, build, and nurture healthy relationships because this life is indeed short. Work hard. Winning requires sacrifice, nothing good comes without a bit of fight and lots of heart. Also understand the principle of sowing and reaping. We get what we give out; so always be on the right side of giving and exercise resilience as you wait for the rewards.
Interesting Facts: I went to university to study pre-med, but soon realised I was more interested in the business world than sciences, notwithstanding how well I had performed in them in high school. I’m an ambivert. I quite happy being alone especially when I have a lot of stuff to get through workwise or needing to declutter my mind – which is most times. I enjoy people but adjust my approach to them depending on the situation. I am that person who is socially gregarious but am quite happy sitting in the back of a crowded room where I can observe people and behaviours.
Connect with Yvonne (click the links):
LinkedIn: Yvonne C Mtengwa
Whatsapp: +971 56 100 6506