Not in his wildest dreams had John Mashiri (23) expected to walk away with the Pencil Award, sponsored by the Pendoring Advertising Awards, at the graduation ceremony of the Vega School of Brand Leadership (Vega) earlier this month.
Being crowned the top achieving student in brand management for 2016 completely bowled him over. “To be honest, I’m still in shock that I received this award and to be featured with Pendoring,” Mashiri enthuses.
Hailing from Zimbabwe, Mashiri has always been interested in hearing and telling stories – and, likewise, does not hesitate to share a few snippets of his life- story:
“Growing up in a close-knit family, I was one of those weird kids who was always either telling stories or trying to find out the story behind everything in my life; even the cartoons (ha-ha). My love for story-telling runs in the family and from way back when, I would research the story behind the story and then tell that story.
“In high school my favourite subjects were business and maths. However, after I matriculated with very average marks, I was somewhat confused as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Then one of my sister’s friends suggested that I go and see what Vega is all about because she thought I would be a good fit.
“All excited, I went to one of their interviews and instantly knew that Vega was the place where I wanted to study. What clinched it for me, was the opportunity to tell the story on a topic I really enjoyed talking about. It just felt right. I believe this is the reason why I chose strategy or why strategy chose me: I want to tell the world stories, one brand at a time, which, in turn, will tell my story.”
It’s been a rewarding journey for Mashiri since he enrolled at Vega in 2012 for a degree in integrated brand communications.
“When I moved on to a higher certificate in brand building practice, I managed to end up top of my class. I then continued with a degree course in brand building management where I again achieved top marks, so this has been an exciting adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed.
“I feel truly blessed, which not many people are able to say. I would like to believe that my creative heart and spirit will never die and that one day I will have my own place where I can tell the stories of the world, one brand at a time.
Mashiri’s major sources of inspiration have always been his parents.
“My father wakes up early every day and comes home at around 11 p.m. every night just so that we can have the things that he never had growing up. He does this without asking for anything in return or even expecting a thank you. My dad is also the most knowledgeable man on the planet: he can tell you everything about anything. I have been encouraging him to enter the Guinness World Book of Records for the most knowledgeable man on earth, but he seems to think it’s a bad idea,” John quips.
“My mom is also a very big inspiration in my life because she works day in and day out on numerous businesses to make sure that she can leave something behind for her kids, even though we are all grown up. She is truly the kindest, sweetest person and in my book, the biggest hustler! There is no business opportunity she has not tried to pursue and there are rarely business ideas that she fails at.”
He also has high regard for his older sister, a born academic, qualified psychometrist and “lover of all things fictional”; his older brother, a marketing communications specialist and “the life and soul of a party” and his little sister, a style icon “who never takes anything at face value, always questions the status quo and will never submit to societal pressures”.
Mashiri has many other interests like animation, watching TV series and learning one new thing a week. “But I believe my main ‘side’ interest would have to be acting and telling jokes. I’m certainly no professional, but I really have a passion for comedy and the entertainment industry as a whole.”
Up and away
As much as Mashiri loves living in South Africa, he hopes to spread his wings sooner rather than later and explore the world.
“I want to see the world and experience other cultures first hand, not just as a tourist. My ultimate personal dream is to make enough money so that my family won’t have to worry about anything anymore. In terms of my professional life, I already own my own company; however, I want to see it become one of the world’s greatest. It must shift the mind-set of those who come in contact with it. I would also love to do some acting in at least one TV series or movie, even just as an extra,” he concludes.