My name is Mawano Kambeu and I am what you call a serial entrepreneur, I love building businesses, and I am always looking for that next big opportunity, especially in Zambia, which is one of the reasons I became involved with Zambian Entrepreneur. I hope I can use my business contacts and my experience to find and mentor driven and talented individuals capable of building great businesses (and hopefully make me and other investors a lot of money in the process). But it has taken me over 10 long years to build my own businesses to where they are today. I literally had to start from the very bottom, with nothing and had to endure numerous setbacks and failures along the way. So today I share with you one of my moments of disappointment, which is a rite of passage, that all entrepreneurs have to go through.
This is my story!!
“The young are liberal and think they can change the world but as one gets older they realize the reality of life and become conservative”
I love this quote and for good reason, When I was 18, I thought I would change the world, ok maybe not the world, but definitely change Zambia. As you can see by reading this newspaper interview from 2001, I was young, talented, knew how to make money and I was very ambitious. When people would say the youth are the future of Zambia, I felt like I was one of those youths that they were talking about. (click on the link below to read the article).
Mawano Kambeu Zambia Daily Mail Interview Jan 2001
I always considered myself a blessed individual, As a child, I spent my early childhood in the UK and through various fortunate events, I was able to go to Lechwe School, a private school in Kitwe, on scholarship and receive a better than average education. But like many young people at the time in Zambia I ran into trouble after secondary school. The University of Zambia was always closing down meaning they were behind in their enrollment by several years. Everybody was pursuing accounting at the time, which was a career I did not want. I even tried looking for work to no avail. Let me just say this was my first real moment of bitterness at the system in Zambia. I had so much potential and so much talent, yet I had no opportunity to make anything of myself because I had no relatives in positions of power. However unlike most people, I had another option moving to the U.S. But this meant leaving my home and my family to seek greener pastures on foreign soil. So this particular youth, who was supposed to be the future of Zambia, had to leave and one can only question how many more have done the same?
I moved to the U.S in 2002 with one back pack and a horribly preconceived notion, probably generated by the RnB and Hip Hop music videos of the 90s, about the ease of which I would attain the American Dream or the cream as the Notorious BIG would call it. Like many people in Zambia, I thought money grew on trees and everybody lived like Diddy and so would I. However the U.S is not as glamorous or as easy as it looks on TV and there is nothing cool or fun about living in the hood.
So in reality, I moved to the U.S with very little money, no education, no skills and no home, in fact I spent my first two years living out of a suitcase and sleeping on various couches. But I persevered and worked my ass off, working 18 hour days at one point which included trying to build my business and get an education. And I had to be disciplined and make a lot of personal sacrifices like never drinking or going partying on the weekends. Let’s just say drinking has a way of making you forget about the hardships that you are going through. But the hardships are still there on Monday, and I did not want to forget about my troubles , learn to live with them or accept my life at the time as the status quo, I wanted to deal with my situation head on and create a better life for myself by putting my destiny in my own hands, which was the reason I formally started my business in 2003, plus I love the challenge of pushing myself and building something out of nothing.
Four years later in 2007, there came a period when I was very very very close to taking my business to the next level. The opportunity epitomized years of hard work and “suffering in silence” that every small business owner has to endure. My dream was crushed in the worst possible way. My first business focused on entertainment, because of my love of music and the arts. Around 2007, I was managing musicians and taking on various other projects and slowly picking up a good reputation for my work ethic and creativity. I had three opportunities to land major business deals that would have changed my life and taken me and my business to the next level.
The first was the collapse of a record deal between Zambian music superstar, JK, who I was managing at the time, and EMI music, a major label. Every Zambian has an opinion about JK, but regardless of what you may think of the man and his music, he is one of the most ambitious and hardworking people that I know, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Working with him opened up a lot of door ways for me in the music business and it was clear that JK was very talented. During my tenure as his manager, the likes of Akon, Bad Boys, Def Jam, Atlantic Records at one point discussed JK with me and listened to his demos. And I am so proud of what he has achieved today, especially after the disappointment of this major deal falling through. (Infact, this is the demo that we created in 2006 which I presented to numerous companies).
The next deal to fall through was a deal that I was facilitating for a group of South African entertainment companies and their sponsors who wanted to bring Kanye West to South Africa, for the first time, for a series of concerts. This was a multi-million dollar deal , however the management team for Kanye West accepted an offer from another entertainment company, meaning I lost thousands of dollars in potential commissions and an opportunity to really make a name for myself.
After the first two deal collapsed, I was very disappointed, but soldiered on, knowing better days were to come. The third and final opportunity for me occurred when the biggest wireless communication company in Zambia, Celtel, sponsored a television show called “Star Search” (A format very similar to American Idol). The company had promised the nation that they would create an international superstar and spare no expense. They needed an entertainment manager, preferably one with Zambian roots, with international connections to manage the post show process and they put up a $1 million dollar budget. Apparently, there were not too many people in the world who met the criteria. Everyone they spoke with about the project, recommended me and my company as I was already managing the international career of JK at the time and I had the business contacts both in the U.S and Africa. So I flew out to Zambia to meet with the marketing executives of Celtel.
I was 24, at the time, and this was the moment and deal that was about to change my life. I had not slept properly in weeks and my blood boiled every time I thought about the opportunity and pictured what was to be. In my heart, I truly thought it was my time. I humbled myself during the presentation and prayed several times prior to the meeting. I gave what I thought was the business pitch of my life. However I did not get the contract. My contacts, who worked on other aspects of the project, said that the marketing executives were not comfortable putting a million dollar budget in the hands of a “Mwaiche” (child). Infact their exact comment was” umwaice uyu finishi engachita” meaning what could this child possibly do?) . The French individuals (???? yes I was shocked as well) that were given the contract did an abysmal job, produced very little in terms of return and what started as a promising concept became a disaster for the company, who had oversold the project. A few months later one of the marketing executives flew to New York and met with me, in that meeting he provided an apology, as well as acknowledgement of the error. However to add insult to injury, he asked if I was willing to come on board to salvage the project and make the winner of the show an international music star, but I would have to work out of pocket, using my own money, because the million dollar budget has been used up and the company’s general management wanted nothing more to do with the project, and saw no value in putting up any more money.
This by far, represented the most disappointing business period of my life and was a lesson on how cruel life can be. How your hopes and dreams can go up in smoke, even if you do all the right things, work hard and work with passion. Not getting that Celtel deal in particular was a bitter blow for me, as I really felt I was the right person for the job and would have worked tirelessly to make the project a success
After this incident, and the disappointment of the prior two deals, I finally accepted that it was time to quit the music business and focus on the other aspects of my business that were showing more promise. The hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur is walking away from an idea. I had work tirelessly for 4 years and to be honest I had nothing to show for my efforts. In my heart break, I told myself that it was for the best, and that bigger and better things would come my way…….I was right…
To be continued..
I am currently an Investment Manager for one of the largest financial companies in the world and prior to that I worked as a Sales Director, wholesaling investments to Wall Street stockbrokers. I have a degree in Marketing from Southern Connecticut State University and an MBA in Finance from Fairfield University. If you need to get a hold of me or have any questions for me, feel free, I am on facebook or you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
As an entrepreneur I have three businesses:
The biggest and oldest company is Dot Com Zambia (www.dczambia.com), where we allow people in Zambia to shop and make online purchases through our company . Milestone Properties – a company that owns and manages rental properties in the U.S .
And then recently I created a new company called Zed Football Millionaire (www.zedfootballmillionaire.com), a sports entertainment company that specializes in online EPL and Zambia Super League competitions, where our fans can interact and win great prizes from our sponsors and/or cash! Infact, the company was created at the end of February and we already have 13,000 fans on Facebook (www.facebook.com/zedfootballmillionaire). I am proud of the fact, that I am in the process of hiring 4 people for Zed Football Millionaire, which includes sales and marketing staff, and a host for our weekly show on our YouTube channel.
As an entrepreneur you have to be a jack of all trades and so I have to host the show until I can hire the right person (so if you know someone who can host this show, let me know).