The story of Enock is unlike any other story you might have heard. It will inspire you regardless of your status. We unfold an amazing life-journey of how a brilliant, independent man of action by all accounts and academically highly gifted student was forced to work as part-time (casual) laborer by a flawed education system that offers few options to those who don't make the cut at State Universities. Through determination, hard work and a little luck he acquired a personal formula to success. Unlike most who go West, he went East with a one way ticket and little cash in his pocket. Today, Enock Mundia, is an household name throughout the Textile, Garment and Fashion Industry in the Far East. He is even a subject of Business School Term Paper [pdf]. So sit back, read and learn how you too, can succeed, even make millions!
Formative Years - His Childhood: 1965 - 1982
Enock was born at Lilume Village in Senanga district in the Western Province of Zambian - South Central Africa on September 3rd, 1965.
"My parents were both subsistence farmers. They owned a large herd of cattle, and had several maize, cassava (a root crop) and rice fields. My father was a good fisherman and hunter. We were a family of nine at my mother side, and I am the fifth born. My parents loved us all and taught us how to help each other. My father was a very generous man. He helped a lot of people in our area. He was mediator in every conflict, and he was later chosen as chief of the area where we lived", he said.
As a child he was not interested in spending his entire life as a farmer or fisherman. He was not good at farming, but was very good at fishing and hunting game. When he went hunting or fishing with his brothers, "I would always end up catching the best game or fish," he recalled.
"I was the luckiest one in the family. I recall my father telling me once that I would be the next Ngenda Imutowana," remembers Enock. Mr. Imutowana was the CEO and Chairman of Maamba Coal Mines in Southern Zambia and had grown up with Enock's father, who noticed some similarities between Ngenda and Enock. When Enock was a child, Ngenda became his mentor.
"Somehow, I was a curious young boy," said Enock matter-of-factly. "At about 10 years old, I used to wonder why almost everything I used to wear was written: “Made In China”. At one point my daddy bought me a blue shirt, and was not written “Made In China”. I wondered why it was not written “Made In China”. Without asking I got a black marker and wrote at the back: Made In China”. From that particular moment all my friends started calling me, “Made In China”. Not knowing that 10 years later I would actually be made in China," said Enock suddenly feeling a sense of fulfilment.
What lessons did you learn growing up as a child in a big family in rural Zambia?
Growing up in a big family, I learned how to share the little we had.
As a farmer, I learned that not everyone in the family had the same skills or luck. While all my brothers were good at farming, I was not.
As a good hunter and fisherman, I developed courage and honed my instincts. I also discovered that I was blessed with good luck.
My father taught me how to be a leader. My mother once told me, "Son, be nice to as many people as you can. The results will return to you." I have never forgotten her words, and abide by this rule wherever I go."
High School Daze - (1982 - 1986)
In 1982, Enock was enrolled at Sefula High School in Mongu, Zambia.
The school's student body was mixed: rich, poor, notoriously bad guys, intelligent, geeks, etc. "Those from rich families associated with other rich kids only, while the poor kept to themselves," Enock remembered.
"On my first day of school, I was chosen to be a class master also known as class captain. "This was my first taste of leadership. It was a challenging work, as most of my classmates were physically larger than I and very notoriously troublemakers. I was a small boy at that time, so it was hard for me to lead and supervise my classmates," he said. "In the third year I left this position, as it was affecting my studies" he added.
"Academically I was among the best students," he tells us. "I once attained the highest scores in Physics and Chemistry in the school's history," he proudly narrates. "Although I was good at natural sciences, I was not so adept at social sciences. I did not excel at my history, language, economics, and religious courses," he said without any sense of shame. "This turned out to be a major weakness for me," he added.
"Being from a poor family, it was hard for me to live with students whose parents were rich. Some of my classmates were brought to school in expensive cars while I was using public transportation - buses," he said. It was interesting that most of these students from rich families were not doing so well academically. Most of Enock's rich classmates were admitted to Sefula High School based solely on their parents abilities to pay tuition and other fees.
Since my academic performance was good, my teachers asked me to help other students as a tutor. This was a good opportunity for me, as it allowed me to interact with students from richer families. Some of these students became my friends, and I was accepted in their families.
Whenever an opportunity opens up to socialize with some of his rich classmates, his main interest was to find out how their parents accumulated their wealth. "I planned to apply their secrets to make my family rich as well," he revealed.
Did you learn any useful skills by being a student leader?
As class captain, I learned leadership and negotiation skills.
Living in boarding school, I learned how to socialize with a wide range of types of people.
As a good student, I learned various methods to solve problems.
Life After High School (1986-1988)
"I completed high school at age 21, in 1986. A little too old," he laughed, "but at that time, we started school a little late." "And due to lack of sufficient student placement space, I was forced to repeat twice in my days at Litoya Primary School," he added.
Although Enock excelled in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Geography, his English results were not good enough to enter the University of Zambia, the country's only major institution of higher learning at the time. Therefore, his dream of studying at the University of Zambia ended at that point. "All my dreams to follow the footsteps of my elder brothers (Fred – Italian trained, and Mubuyaeta – UNZA graduate) vanished," he recalls. "I felt it to be extremely unfair that the students I tutored in Mathematics and Science managed to get into University, simply because they passed the English requirement," he added.
He went back to the farm and started helping his father. However, he was not content with farming, so he moved to Kabwe, in Central Zambia, with the hope that he would find a job in any of industries. With no money to support himself, he had no choice but to stay with his cousin, Keddrick Ngenda, who was a soldier in the Zambian Army, at Kohima Barracks. "As an adult, it was not easy to live in someone's home," he said. "I changed several places to stay, but could not adapt to other people’s homes," he added. With no more available options, he moved back to Ngenda’s house.
"I looked for work everywhere, but to no avail," he told us. "No employer was willing to employ a young high school graduate with no experience", he spoke with emphasis on the last two words.
On 10th September 1987, his luck changed. On that bright sunny mid morning day, he casually strolled by Mulungushi Textiles Ltd (a well established textile mill in Kabwe) feeling dejected. To his amazement he found that they were recruiting part time (casual workers) bricklayers. "I talked to the Human Resources Manager, Mr Lee Mwaekwa. He hired me as a bricklayer on the spot although I knew absolutely nothing about bricklaying," he recalls with excitement. Then added, "but already I had something else in mind for myself." "This was the day I first saw a textile mill. I will not forget that day, and will not forget Lee. He helped me to get where I am today," he said with thanksgiving.
Working as a bricklayer, for a person of his small stature, was not easy. Furthermore, he was working with people who had little or no formal education. "My fellow colleagues mocked me daily, telling me that my schooling had turned out to be useless." "Adding insult to injury, these men finished their work far earlier than I did, as they were physically larger and stronger," he said.
Enock worked as a bricklayer for one month. Because of impressive grades from high school, management decided to employ him as a spinning machine operator trainee. Within six months he was moved from spinning to weaving, then to dyeing and printing.
After working for another eight months, management decided to send him to China to study for a diploma in Textile Technology. This decision was highly controversial at the company, and resulted in the Union members going on strike. The reason? "I was too junior to be given a scholarship opportunity," he explained. However, after negotiations between the HR department and the Union, both parties agreed to send him to China for further education.
Upon graduation in 1994, he went back to Mulungushi textiles and worked there as a dyeing manager for a year. "Interestingly, I was now supervising the same men to whom I reported as a machine operator seven years earlier," he said.
What lessons did you learn from starting at the bottom of the ladder in your career path?
As a bricklayer, I developed patience and tolerance.
When the Union demonstrated against my scholarship to China, I learned some of the basics of company politics.
If you have the knowledge, you can find ways to succeed.
Your closest friend can become your enemy when opportunity / advancement is at stake.
As I moved from being a spinning operator to being the dyeing section manager, I learned to treat my subordinates with the same respect I expected to receive myself.
Life As a Foreign Student in China: 1988-1994
Enock first arrived at Tianjin Textiles College in China, in June 1988. After completing his studies in Textile Technology and getting his diploma, he received a government scholarship to study for his Undergraduate Degree. He was transferred to East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai to continue his undergraduate studies. After that, he was awarded another scholarship to pursue a Masters Degree in Textile Chemistry at China Textiles University in Shanghai and graduated in 1994.
Life abroad as a scholarship student was certainly fun, no worries or cares, only studies, exams, and weekend socializing for the youthful Enock. Living in a foreign student dormitory, he met all kinds of people: Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, serious students and party lovers.
"Coming from a Christian community back home, I found it difficult at first to understand people of other faiths," he said. "However, once I took the time to listen and learn from these people, I discovered that we shared a number of similar values and beliefs," he added. "This experience has made me a more tolerant person," he concluded.
"Another formative group of experiences for me was learning how to adjust to and accept the unfortunate racist attitudes with which I was confronted on a daily basis, both from Chinese and other foreigners," he sadly said. "In Zambia, I had never been faced with this narrow-minded phenomenon, called racism," he said.
When did you first ever encounter racist slur towards you? "My first confrontation with racism was in Tianjin, China, where Chinese women students were restricted from interacting with Africans," he recalls.
"This was the first of many incidents. An example of 'institutionalized' racism within the student dormitory hierarchy was the way in which African students were 'segregated' from the rest of the foreign students. All African students were relegated to one or two floors, while all other nationalities were intermixed (i.e., Japanese students rooming with American students, etc.)," he said with disgust.
Other examples include, "being asked to leave restaurants because the proprietor felt my presence would be bad for their business; taxi drivers not accepting my fare, but accepting a non-African's business; my Chinese girlfriend being harassed by the school administration and her family for her association with me," he pointed out.
Over time, my exposure to racist attitudes produced a profound change in him. "After a time, I discovered that the only way to combat stereotypes is through my actions," he said. "By acting with integrity and sincerity, by working hard and by treating all people with respect, I am able to gradually break down the walls of racism around me," he explained. "Now, some of my closest friends are Chinese!" he exclaimed.
What did you learn from all these as a foreign student in the People's Republic of China? The lessons learned from all these are:
Understanding and respecting other people's cultures is important.
In a foreign country, you will always be a foreigner; treat locals with respect and they will accept you into their community.
How to balance studying and socializing
How to overcome racism
Working In A Foreign Country - (1996 - 2005)
He returned to Mulungushi textiles in 1994, but decided to leave the company in 1995 and moved to Hong Kong with the hope of starting his own business. This was the time when most people looked West for opportunities, but Enock went East.
In Hong Kong, he ended up working for Eddie Bauer International, a fashion company based in Seattle, USA.
"At Eddie Bauer International, I was in charge of fabric quality. This was a challenging job at first, as it was not easy to deal with Chinese fabric mills since I did not have experience of managing foreign workers. I also did not have enough experience to solve fabric problems."
After working for Eddie Bauer International for 2 years, he briefly joined Primera International, in June 1997, a subsidiary company of Escada (a German fashion company) to run their laboratory testing for six months.
In November 1997 he was hired by Liz Claiborne International, also a fashion company based in New York, USA, to lead their textile department at the Shanghai Representative Office in The People's Republic of China.
"At Liz Claiborne, I met good colleagues with whom I got along well. We all worked as a team to transform Liz Claiborne Shanghai office from a garment based office to being also a fabric exporting office. The production of our office tripled within 2 years," he proudly said.
"After obtaining my MBA, I was promoted from Textile Manager - Shanghai, China, to a Regional Textile Manager - Asia" he said. As at Mulungushi Textile, "this promotion brought lots of controversy in the company. People were wondering how can an African run the Asian region. But it was proven that I was the most capable in the company to run the textile department in the region," he confidently said.
Please, tell us what you learned as you continued moving up the ladder from Hong Kong to Mainland China, especially at a time when Hong Kong was being handed over to China and the British were leaving.
At Liz Claiborne, I learned the importance of teamwork ("1+1=3", or sum is greater than its parts).
Trusting colleagues is one of the keys to success.
Leadership and communication are important.
Learn through the mistakes of others.
Do not make the same mistake more than once.
Continuous learning is the key success
Starting My Own Business / Becoming GM: 2005 - PRESENT
In August 2005, Enock took one of the most important steps in his professional career, he left Liz Claiborne to work for himself.
"I started my own business, Lilume Textiles Ltd, and formed a partnership with one of Liz Claiborne’s key China-based garment suppliers," he said. The decision brought a few critical questions such as:
Will I be putting my family’s financial security at risk, by leaving a big, well-known international company for a relatively unknown destination?
Will I be losing the safety and security of working for a stable multinational corporation?
"With the full support of my wife, I decided to take the challenge," he said. "It was the best decision in my professional life. I am now the General Manager and shareholder for a sizable garment factory boasting 5,000 employees and over US$60,000,000.00 in annual revenue," he tells us.
As General Manager, he enjoys a broad range of responsibilities, and consider himself to be the “right hand man” of his Chinese partner (the major shareholder of the factory). He now has to think about such complex issues as:
Managing “buyer” expectation, from price points, to delivery times, to social/ethical/environmental practices.
Devising strategic initiatives to maintain the business’s competitiveness, especially in light of a rising Chinese currency and general input cost increases.
Developing new overseas markets, such as in Europe and Japan, to diversify their revenue streams.
Constantly developing new fabric ideas, to meet their buyers’ ever-changing demands / needs.
All in all, he am now able to bring together all the skills and knowledge he has picked up over the past 13 years of working in Asian textile / garment business. "I absolutely love this challenge, and as a true partner in this business, I am able to enjoy the financial fruits of my labor," he joyfully said.
"Within three years of starting my business, I have been able to purchase several properties worth millions of US dollars in China and in my country, Zambia. I also own chunk of shares in several oil companies in China," he said.
What can you tell someone contemplating of moving from their comfort zone of a stable corporate job to starting their own business? From my own personal experience I'd say that:
Taking calculated, well-planned risks can lead to significant rewards.
To make US$10,000,000 is much more easier than making US$1,000,000.
Invest in properties and oil stocks.
Never underestimate your abilities, when you are put to the test as a General Manager.
Love the local people’s food and language, everybody will welcome you.
Eat and drink where the locals eat, you will get the locals’ respect.
My Family Life: 1990 - Present
On September 3rd, 1990 (his 25th birthday), he met a Canadian girl, Louise Vogler. She was also a scholarship student at East China Normal University. "We were friends throughout her year at East China Normal University. After graduating, she returned to Canada and we lost touch," he recalls.
"Five years later, while I was in Southern China on business, I met her again by chance in a local bar," he said. "This changed our lives. We started dating and we were finally married on April 29th, 2000," he lovingly added.
Louise works for Standard Chartered Bank and has held several senior management positions at their Shanghai Branch. Her current goal is to run the whole Standard Chartered Bank in Southern Africa.
"We have two children: Munalula Mundia (aka Nalu), and Enock Mundia Jr. (aka EJ). They are both doing very well at school. It looks they are following the footsteps of their parents."
My Personal Formula to Success
“Determination + Hard Work + A Little Luck = A Successful Life”
It has been 13 years since he graduated with a M.Sc. in Textile Chemistry from China Textile University, and 15 years since completing his undergraduate studies at Shanghai East China Normal University. Above all, it is now 20 years since he first set foot on Chinese soil, having arrived in Tianjin to study Textile Technology in June 1988.
"I am now the owner of Lilume Textile Ltd, as well as the General Manager and shareholder of Shanghai Liberty Apparel Co Limited, working Monday-Friday at our garment factory in Jintan, Changzhou in Jiangsu Province," he said. "My company is specializing in high-end garment manufacturing for export to the US and Europe. We manufacture for some of the most highly regarded contemporary fashion brands in the OECD, doing complex, highly specialized orders for names like Juicy Couture, Liz Claiborne, Polo Ralph Lauren, Uniglo, Gap, Eddie Bauer, Marks & Spencer, etc.," he added.
He is also married to a Canadian lady with two great children, a daughter and a son. "My entire family speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently, and we consider China to be our home,” he humbly said.
He told us that he often asks himself, how he got from his scenic rural hometown on the western Zambian flood plains to the eastern manufacturing hub of Jiangsu province, PRC.
How did I make it from my Lilume village in Zambia, where I was born and raised, to Jintan City in Changzhou, P.R.C.? How did I manage to become a Regional Manager (Asia) at a Fortune 500 US company, traveling throughout the Asia region; to India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, etc.? How did I manage to reach my very challenging General Manager role at Liberty Apparel Co. Ltd managing a team of over 5,000 people and handling more than US$50, 000,000.00 volumes of exports per year?
In fact, he is not the only one who asks these questions. His customers, suppliers, colleagues and acquaintances also ask him these questions. Mwape.com also did, especially that James also arrived in China August 1988!
The following “ingredients” are what he believes has helped him reach his goals and aspirations. It's his “formula for success”.
1. Positive Determination
He has always been an extremely determined individual. He has a gift for visualizing his goals and objectives clearly, mapping out a plan to achieve those goals, and then relentlessly following through his plan. "I never lose my confidence that I will be able to reach my goals, never lose confidence that a problem can be solved," he explained. This above everything else has been key in achieving his career success so far. The guy simply never gives up. And he always keep a positive attitude towards everything; life, family, and career.
This attitude is particularly critical for success in manufacturing. Every single day, technical issues with fabric supply or logistics issues with fabric delivery pops up. "What makes the difference in keeping our clients happy despite these problems is how relentless and determined we are in finding solutions to deal with the situation. This attitude is not only my secret to success, but also the reason why my company is renowned in the industry for being able to handle orders that no other garment OEM manufacturer can handle. This is also why our factory is quite profitable compared to our peers," he added.
2. Priority On Education
Enock has been very fortunate to have received his education at very high quality institutions in China.
"My education at Donghua University (formerly known as China Textile University) gave me an excellent foundation for future career success," he proudly said.
He frequently go through his old text books or look through his old classroom notes, whenever he encounters a difficult problem at the factory that he can’t seem to solve quickly. After reflecting back on what he learned at Donghua, he is always able to find a solution to his problem. His Master’s thesis on Bio-Finishing to replace stone washing on denim (jeans) has also come in handy a few times, especially early on when he was starting out at Eddie Bauer. He said, "Although I had little work experience, I did have practical research experience through my work on my thesis paper".
He is still in close contact with his two professors, Professor Xu Xue Lin and Professor Zhou, who have continued to give him guidance with technical questions. "Their in-depth knowledge and expertise, as well as their personal coaching and guidance, have helped me immensely over my career," he said.
In addition, many of his former classmates at Donghua have gone on to become highly successful in their respective careers, armed with the strong technical knowledge gained at Donghua. Among them are: Dr. Thomas Abonyo, a native of Kenya, is now a Regional Textile Manager at a USA fashion giant Coach and is based in Shenzhen, South China, and Augustin Bazahica from Burundi, is a Director at Li & Fung, a well known Hong Kong based garment vendor.
3. A Little Bit of Luck
"I would have to say that luck has played some part in my good fortune since graduating from Donghua 13 years ago, although I also believe in the saying that “luck favors the prepared mind” … in other words, the more prepared you are, the more “lucky” you’ll seem to be, he said.
Here are a few examples of his good luck.
Getting his first job in Asia at Eddie Bauer: "I flew over from Zambia to Hong Kong in 1995 with a one-way ticket, hoping to make some money trading in some gemstones (Precious stones). The gemstones were not worth that much in the end, and so I started searching the Career Post, part of the South China Morning Post daily, to find a suitable textile related job. After a week of constantly searching, and with little money left to support myself in Hong Kong, I was really lucky to land my first job with Eddie Bauer in such a short time," he said.
Moving to Liz Claiborne & meeting Diane Long: "In 1997, I had just moved over to Escada in Hong Kong, to take up a role with more responsibility, when I was approached by Liz Claiborne to set up their Shanghai-based textile development and quality assurance department," he said unbelievingly at the chain of events. He immediately took up the challenge, and ended up working with Liz Claiborne for 8 years. "My General Manager, Diane Long, who is very well known in the Shanghai Textile & Garment industry, was an excellent leadership coach and mentor," he said. During the years he worked at Liz Claiborne, he was able to hone his technical fabric skills, Liz Claiborne is famous for its strict quality standards, develop his management skills, learn new skills regarding merchandising, and build his network of contacts in the East China textile industry. "Once again, I was very lucky …," he added.
Finding Chen Feng Group and Liberty Apparel Co. Ltd: "when I was ready to leave Liz Claiborne after 8 solid years, I was most fortunate to have made the decision to partner with Liberty Apparel Co. Ltd and Mr. Yin Guo Hua, Chairman of the Group. Mr. Yin has put tremendous faith and confidence in me, giving me considerable leeway and flexibility in managing Liberty Apparel Co. Ltd," he explained. "I am gaining valuable executive management experience in running a profitable, niche garment manufacturing business in a cut-throat competitive environment. I love it," he added.
Therefore, "I consider myself very fortunate. With the solid textile education I received at Donghua, the continued technical consultations I make with my old professors and colleagues, combined with my determination to succeed, plus a bit of luck, I have been able to build a life beyond what I ever imagined 20 years ago when I first arrived in China!" he concluded.
Short & Long-Term Goals and Objectives:
Before returning home to Zambia, will make sure that each and every member of our family's third generation, my brothers' and sisters' kids, will receive a college degree.
Return to Zambia by 2015 and run my family textile and property business.
Form an Economical Zone in my little Lilume Village. After seeing China developing from a farm land to an industrial power house, I have a belief that Zambia will one day develop itself to an industrial power house. Zambia has a good location and blessed with lots of natural resources. We have great well educated human resources. It’s a matter of time, and leadership. We will get there.
Be involved in Charity – Need to give back to the community.
Reading – I love reading leadership, business, documentaries, biographies, and related books.
Music – I am over 40 years old and still listen to Hip Hop music. More especially the hits of the 80s, and 90s. I just love how the music blends. It gives me so much energy, more especially when I am cruising on the highway with my BMW 645 sports car.
Car Racing – I love car and motorbike racing. My dream is one day to have my son get into Formula 1.
In March 2011, teams from various schools in Western Province will be competing in the Championship Football Match in which the winning team will receive US$5,000.
He tells us, "My phylosophy is very simply: Never Complain, Just Do It!!!!"
Labels: Enock Mundia, Enock Mundia millionaire zambia