TREVOR MUMBA: A MODEL OF POSSIBILITIES
It’s a bright and sunny Monday morning. The birds chirp as I sit on the patio of the Musuku Restaurant at the Southern Sun Hotel in Lusaka, slurping away at my cup of coffee as I people watch. The restaurant overflows with guests eager to have their breakfast before 10 am, the time breakfast stops being served. The mood is charged, as the patrons of the restaurant converse and exchange pleasantries in anticipation for the inauguration of the 7th Republican President of Zambia, scheduled for the next day. No wonder red was the color choice of the day.
In front of me, sits Trevor Mumba, The Self-Styled King. He too indulges in a cup of coffee that sits on the table as he types away on his phone. He turns the screen of his phone to face me, bringing to view some of his Facebook memories, many of which were predictions of his future. “Rovert Is Born”! One of them reads. And true to his word, 5years after that specific Facebook post, his marketing agency ‘Rovert Marketing’, was born in Sandton City, in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Trevor is incredibly expressive about his losses and his successes. He’s not shy to talk about the things that are a huge part of his life or important to him, things like money for example, which for some odd reason is such a taboo topic; considering how much of our lives it encompasses. My first introduction to Trevor Mumba was at TEDXLusaka, hosted at the Mulungushi Conference Center in 2016. ‘Who’s this asshole’? I thought. After Trevor got up on stage, reciting T-Pain lyrics from Kanye West’s ‘Good Life’ and saying something about his wristwatch costing more than his Lexus, a statement I found pretentious at the time. Two years later, I got to meet this cocky dude in person, and he turned out to not be such an asshole, as I originally thought. Yet for some reason, I dubbed him as one simply cause he wasn’t too shy to boast about his successes and everything that’s come with it.
Another two years go by since our first in-person meeting, and I’m sitting with Trevor in hotel lounges and restaurants, exchanging meals, coffees, ideas, and anecdotes about our lives; in-between talking about the future of our country, Zambia, and the state of the creative industry in Africa. Now he calls me ‘Youngster’, and I call him ‘Big Bro’, and we indulge in some dark humor of how we’re both orphaned.
“When you’re good at something and you talk about it, it’s not arrogance. It’s the fucking truth! I’m good at making money and I don’t give a fuck about what people say”, Trevor tells me, as he reaches for his coffee, his phone still raised to my face. “People see me starting businesses on social media and they say all sorts of negative things. But I talk about them and they make me money. All money is in creation, if you don’t create, then there’s no money. So how the fuck will you shit on a guy that creates”? he further expounds.
One thing about Trevor, he’s not your typical mogul. Which makes it easy to rule him out or not take him seriously. A lot of his behavior is atypical of what a business person or CEO should look like. Sure, you’ll see him wearing his fancy and expensive suits from time to time. But he’s also the type to show up to business meetings that host “well dressed” execs, in a T-shirt, ripped jeans, and sneakers; leaving the ink on his arms fully exposed. His language, usually unfiltered. But never malicious or lacking in truth or wisdom. When you barrel beneath it all and try to land on what makes him tick, Trevor is no different from any man: he’s just a guy chasing his dreams and trying to enjoy life in the process. A sentiment he’s always trying to teach people; especially the young people looking up to him.
As an orphan coming from Matero, one of the most poverty-stricken townships of Lusaka, Zambia. Trevor understands more than anybody what hunger feels like. What a lack of opportunity looks like. It’s this deep understanding that allows him to empathize with many youngsters from Jozi or Lusaka, looking for a shot. A lot of his teams across the spectrum of his businesses in Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa are made up of young talented individuals looking for a shot. While most people look at qualifications, Trevor looks for drive and discipline in the people he brings on board his Rovert Group of Companies. If you’re long-sighted and hungry to deliver results? chances are you’ll make the cut.
We sit and enjoy a few more coffees over the walla and the tranquil sound of the birds chirping, as we muse about the perceptions of rich and successful folk. How they got to where they are, how they use their influence, how they can give back…, we find ourselves deeply engrossed in our catch up, while getting interrupted every 5mins by people who spot Trevor; making their way to our table to greet him. Old friends from his hustling days on the streets of Lusaka and Livingstone, like a gentleman named Phil, who unsolicited shared a few anecdotes of his time on the streets of Livingstone hustling with Trevor. As well as esteemed colleagues and Politicians. One thing I observed, was that Trevor didn’t walk up to a single person, they all find their way to him, and he respectfully got up from his seat to greet each one, delightfully.
It’s always clear from hanging out with Trevor, that he puts a lot into investing in not just his businesses, but his relationships. A value he encourages a lot of people to adopt. “It’s important to invest in businesses, but it’s even more important to invest in people,” he tells me. “Doesn’t matter how busy I am, I always try to make time for people. This money and these businesses weren’t always there. But people were. I starved with people and I came up with people”.
Scrolling through any one of his socials, you’ll see it for yourself, Trevor sharing old posts of when he spoke his dreams into existence. Putting out affirmations into the universe for the future he wanted. Something he says he did a lot when he was at his lowest as a way to keep him going. “ A lot of people used to think I was mad for posting those things. Now a lot of people think I’m mad cause of the way I run my businesses and share knowledge”, he shares, a grin forming at the corner of his mouth as he speaks. “When you see someone create a good life for themselves, never sulk, be happy instead, because that person’s letting you know that it’s possible. Especially when that person is someone like me who came from nothing”.
“That’s why I’m continually surprised when people say I share too much. What do I lose from sharing my ideas? It’s not like someone will implement them the same way. Don’t try to shit on someone with progress, work with that guy. He knows something you don’t. A lot of big shots talk about their money but are not willing to help anyone with that money. I believe in adding value to people’s lives. Whether people talk or not, it doesn’t matter, I’m already made! I live a rapper’s lifestyle, except I don’t have an album”, he chuckles. “You see rappers paint their lives through songs…I paint my life through my businesses”.