Interview: An Insight in The Mind and Life Of Trevor Mumba

Trevor Mumba was an orphan by age 10 and raised by his grandmother in Matero, providing for his school needs and other things was a challenge so he had to start helping his grandmother to pay for his education and other needs by selling whatever he could from things like his grandmothers doormats, groundnuts and even ice books, this marked his selling skills and entrepreneur journey.

Trevor refused to be defined by his surroundings growing up by working hard and visualizing his dream, he went from being a door to door salesman to a Director and partner at one of South Africa’s leading marketing firms. Here is an interview we had with him.

Growing up as a kid who didn’t have much and didn’t come from much. What are some of the valuable lessons that have shaped you and your entrepreneurial side?

 Growing up with very little to nothing taught me to be grateful. I appreciate every little thing I have in my life. I never take anything for granted.

What Kept you motivated when things got rough?

My grandmother played a huge role in keeping me focussed. In her own ways she inspired me to keep pushing and always made me believe that one day things would get better.

What lessons did you learn from hustling on the streets?

Loyalty and respect. These two elements are vital not only for your survival but for building and maintaining relationships. You will need them at every level of business.

Did you have an idea that something big was coming your way or where just trying to sell everything you could?

It’s hard to explain but yes I always knew I was cut out for greatness. I had no idea how but I knew I had to work hard for it. So as soon as I could, I went to work and had to learn the trades of the streets. And for me, it was never about selling pirated movies, or clothes or being a runner for the older and more experienced guys on the streets. I did everything I could, as long as it was legal, to elevate myself to the next level. It was always about progression. I never let an opportunity to learn or grow into something or someone better pass me by. That’s what hustling meant to me.

What books have shaped you?

Hmmm I have read a lot of books. I love to read. However, I cannot think of specific books that I can credit for shaping me. Every book I have read has shaped my mentality in a way. Some of my favourites though include The Life & Death of Martin Luther King Jr (autobiography), The Warren Buffet Way, The Alchemist, My Life in Politics (a Jacque Chirac autobiography), Screw It Lets Do It (both 1 and 2), Da Vinci Code, How To Get Rich, The Third Jesus, Universal Conscious Self, The Conscious Mind and The Afghan. I do not read so much business and motivational books as most people would assume. I find most content in motivational and business books to be common sense and success boils down to how hard you are willing to hustle. Reading a business book on its own will not make you any money at all. You need to get off your ass and graft. I therefore read more fictional, autobiographies, consciousness and quantum physics books to expand my imagination and understanding of the world around me and self. I find that more beneficial to my growth as a person overall.

What daily habits have added into you achieving your goals?

A lot of discipline. I live a pretty conscious lifestyle. I am a teetotaller, I exercise a minimum of four days a week, My diet is at least fifty percent vegetarian and I meditate whenever I can. My work ethic above all else is what has set me apart and opened up my life to endless opportunities. I start work at 5:15 AM Monday to Saturday. The earliest I leave the office is 6:30 PM Monday to Friday and 3 PM on Saturdays…and I love  every second of it!

What are your three pieces of advice on partnership?

 Loyalty, respect and hustle (everybody has to bring their A game all the time).

You started small from selling door to door to business partner, many people today don’t want to start small what is your advice or thoughts on starting small?

 Everything worth building has to be built from ground up. That’s a natural law of life. People who try and run away from that truth never make it far and end up very frustrated. It’s easier to stay focussed on building from a humble begin when you set some solid goals for yourself to keep you in check. It’s not safe to jump into things without a goal to work towards. This is where a lot of people stumble and fall. Without goals, it’s very easy to get distracted by what others are doing. Self-belief is also key to beginning small. Nobody has the right to believe in you if do not believe in yourself first. Lack of self-belief will have you jumping from project to project just because other people seem to be winning there. Never envy what others are up to. You do not know their struggles and inspirations. Stay in your lane. Own your awesome. Know what you want and create a tunnel vision around that till it comes to fruition. No matter how small, every dream can grow when nurtured and worked on whole heartedly.

If you could go back in time what would you tell your young self in those tough days?

 Winners look like you, stay focused and never allow anybody else to out hustle you.

You are an advocate of fashion and style, exercise and staying fit tell us and teach us something about that space?

I have come to gratefully accept that looks are an inborn talent of mine like others are gifted at sports, music, painting or building things. So that part of my life comes easy. I do not have to try hard to pull off looks. Fitness however is a lot of work. It is fun once you get started but it will not be easy. The benefits however are huge. I do encourage a lot of people to get started soonest. It’s not even about having six packs and big arms. The discipline of subjecting your body to exercise is a great habit to have. My commitment to exercise has also brought massive improvements in other areas of my life. Talking of fitness however, goes hand in hand with healthy eating habits. In fact, your eating habits will bring more benefits to your life than exercise itself. Together, they complement each other well and help improve the quality of your life. It’s all about balance.

Where did your entrepreneur and sales drive come from and how have you developed on both over the years?

 I think the cards life dealt me very early pushed me into a position where I had no choice but to learn how to sell. It was about survival. As a kid I had to help my granny sell her home made doormats door to door in the neighbourhood. In order to assist with school fees and books and day to day expenses, at some point I sold peanuts in small packs at various sports events at Matero Stadium as we lived just around the corner from there. Then at some point it was sugarcane and then clothes and then a whole lot of other items after that. So I guess life kept giving me opportunities to advance my skills over time. And I’m grateful for all of it. Things got better over time and as I began making more money, I started investing more time and money in my trade. For me, it’s hard to look at sales and entrepreneurship as two different elements. We are called entrepreneurs to begin with because we have something to sell. And how well and skilfully we sell, determines our success as entrepreneurs. Therefore, my goal is to be the best sales person in my business.

What is your advice for young entrepreneurs starting out and facing setbacks? Do you have any memorable experience of failure?

My advice is that when you set out to run a business, accept and understand that set backs are natural. We need them to keep growing. There will be plenty of them. Anybody who tells you otherwise is setting you up for failure that may cost you big or you may never recover from. Attitude is everything. When the tough times come, how do you respond to them? It is also vital that you find mentors and coaches for yourself. Not only to guide you through the good times but to hold you accountable and kick your butt back into line when you are going astray. 

Yes, I have had my own share of failures too. From projects just not working out to losing money by trusting wrong people to just bleeding money in wrong business moves. But we live and we learn. It’s all part of the game. It’s the life we chose and whoever chooses the path of entrepreneurship needs to develop a thick skin. It’s not a walk in the park but when you stick it out and you pay your dues through hard work and discipline, you will love the rewards.  

What do you know now that you wish you knew earlier on in life?

That the world does not owe you anything. You only get what you deserve. That a big part of the reason Africa is poor because we pray more than we plan and work. That your success is your responsibility and no politician will change your life. That I am a model of possibilities.

What is your advice to anyone who is in employment and also an entrepreneur?

Whatever your hustle is, your passion and attitude will determine how far you go.

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