Mrs South Africa is more than just a pageant; it is a business and is run as such. This is evident in the professionalism that is associated with the brand. CEO Joani Johnson has been doing an excellent job in ensuring that the brand gives its sponsors the value that they’re looking for in their association with Mrs SA.

To ensure that Mrs SA comes across as a business that it is, Joani changed her title from that of pageant director to CEO. “I felt the need a few years ago to change my title to CEO just to change the perception of people; to understand that a pageant is a business like any other. I think that is our secret to success, we run Mrs South Africa as a business. We run it as a company and not just as an event; we don’t even like the word pageant. It’s a company first and foremost and it’s a women empowerment programme. From a business point of view, it’s a registered business”.

The business runs on a full-time basis with 6 employees with full-time jobs and adds service providers, consultants and producers to its list of professionals. “We have a CFO, a sponsorship director, media officer, administrator and project manager. We approach Mrs SA as a business and I believe that’s what sets us apart. We run the business throughout the year and not just focus on the event”.

Because of their business approach, the Mrs SA team has not been struggling at all to get sponsors. Joani believes that their presentation of the brand is what attracts sponsorship. Having a degree in Public Relations and Media Studies made Joani a valuable asset to the brand. “My PR and marketing experience helped a lot to be able to structure the brand in the right way”.

One of the key areas of focus for Mrs SA is women empowerment. “Mrs SA is more than just pretty women and the glitz and glam but at the end of the day it’s about why you do it; why are you part of Mrs SA? People are now getting the message that Mrs SA is more than just a pageant; it’s about a making a difference”.

The brand enjoys a high media profile and as a result has been able to retain sponsors. Joani won Mrs South Africa 2009 and her journey with the brand began then. Having been in the modelling and pageant industry for a while; Joani entered a number of pageants but never really got the opportunity to enter Miss South Africa because she was focusing on business. “I’m very ambitious, I’m an entrepreneur and I never really got to enter Miss SA because I was focusing on my studies, I went overseas and got married and went on to open a modelling academy, Ace Models. That reignited my pageantry passion and that’s when I decided to enter Mrs South Africa and went on to winning it”.

The platform gave Joani exposure and experience that she is using to manage the Mrs SA brand. When the owner of the Mrs SA company migrated she gave Joani the opportunity to buy the business and she grabbed it. She was already involved in the running of the business as she offered a lot of advice as far as pageant and modelling is concerned. She took over the company in 2011.

What Joani wanted to bring to the business as the new owner was to put it on the map; something she has managed to do very well. The brand has enjoyed national and international following and has been able to set a distinguishing factor between it and Miss South Africa. “What sets us apart from other pageants is the fact that we are mothers, we are wives, business women who are already established and successful, we’re not young girls and we have so much more to give”.

Mrs SA is also about empowering the women that take part in the pageant. Married women have so much to give and sometimes can tend to put themselves right at the back. Mrs SA gives contestants the opportunity to connect and give back to themselves. “I realised that a lot of the women that come to Mrs South Africa lost themselves through life, through marriage and children; they give so much of themselves to their husbands, to their kids, to their jobs, that sometimes they lose themselves and don’t know who they are anymore. Some of them need to follow their dreams and start looking after themselves; so in going through the process of Mrs South Africa they re-discover themselves”.

Last year the brand put the whole country on the map when Mrs South Africa 2016, Candice Abrahams won the Mrs World title in China; a move that definitely positioned the business well and meant a lot to Joani. “It was definitely one of the highlights of my career since I’ve been with Mrs South Africa. I was in China with her when she was announced a winner and it was amazing. It definitely elevated our media presence; it was everywhere. It gave us the recognition that we needed”.

The top 100 finalists for 2017 have been announced and the selection process will be getting underway soon where the top 25 will be selected. Mrs SA is open to all married women and there are no restrictions as the brand wants to represent all women irrespective of their physical appearance. “We encourage the real women aspect of it; we’re not looking for perfect women. We know that the women that enter Mrs South Africa have lived their lives; they come with their life experience”.

The business of Mrs South Africa is one of hard work and professionalism but definitely about giving back to the contestants through the empowerment programme as well as to the community at large. The women that win Mrs SA select community projects to be involved in and also take on projects that the brand works with.

“There are community projects that we’ve put in place. We do a lot of work with CANSA and we’re a working on a new foundation called Women 4 Women. We’re all about women empowerment”.

Joani has successfully positioned Mrs South Africa as a business and a brand that not only pursues business benefits but also gives back to the community and ensures that the women that take part in the pageant are empowered.

By Amanda Matshaka

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