Lumbie Mlambo, the definition of calm-composure, with a grace that can't be missed-- is the best way to describe this self-starting entrepreneur. It’s no wonder her magazine Equanimity is a platform for real people and their search for better lives. Lumbie herself has been on quite a journey. During our chat, she candidly shared with me her ability to make something out of nothing and the courage she has faced amidst many insurmountable circumstances. This story is more than just #motivationmonday its motivation daily. As I often say, we all have it in us to be great, its what we choose to do with the gifts planted inside that determine the crop. Take a look at this captivating chat!
Mm: I am really fortunate to be able to chat with you. I have watched you from a distance, start your Magazine and it become a great light that is spreading globally. I also was intrigued to learn that you started this project while working at JP Morgan Chase doing computer science.
How long did you know that doing a Magazine of this Magnitude was something within you? Was it a leap you finally took or did this passion come to you-- through a series of situations?
LM: It came through a series of situations. I really wanted to see a different kind of Magazine that did not just focus on pictures of people. I thought that it would be nice to see a magazine that talks about things that people really want to hear. One that shares stories of success and failure so that people can learn from each other rather, than not being able to read much of the magazine. I just don't like to be flipping pages and seeing pictures only because pictures only tell so much. But, sometimes you really need to hear what is behind that picture, what is this person saying.
Mm: When was the moment that it clicked for you, that this is a need that you're able to fulfill?
LM: When I got to the point that I was tired of seeing Magazines not [ I don't want to blame magazines] I just felt that magazines have a platform but they were not using it well enough to talk about issues that people needed to hear. For me, that was a breaking point when I felt like enough-is-enough of the pictures ---we can look at pictures so much but what about the content? People can read and learn something! It was also driven by me having had an illness, I had a stroke and I really wanted to share my story with people. I just couldn't find a way to share that story cause I felt like when people see me, they look at the pictures that look beautiful -- but they don't really know what I am going through. It helps to know what a person is going through because we learn from each other. We learn from mistakes sometimes --and we learn from hearing somebody else’s story. It makes our own problems seem so small, when somebody shares their story. You find a way to move forward and say, I can do that. If they did that -- if that person did that, I can do that.
Mm: In terms of the belief “I can do that” how did you know, not having worked in publishing prior ---the next best step to-take-to build this magazine? What did you look to for business inspiration, creative inspiration and foundational guidance?
LM: The moment I made a decision to start the magazine timing was so perfect because President Obama had just taking office. He said, “each of us should be doing something, we shouldn't just sit back and leave it up to Washington D.C.” I used this as a tool, a vehicle to create jobs for others. For people to work with me and the Magazine, even though I didn’t know how to do it. I went straight to work searching the internet to find out how do I study magazines. What does a magazine do? How does it work, how do all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I was constantly searching and taking little seminars here and there. Online, I listened to recordings and just learning how to do it.
Mm: Then the name Equanimity meaning state of mental calmness, how did that idea come to life?
LM: Well the name actually wasn't my choice. The name that I picked when I started was balance. One of the editors of the magazine thought what a boring name -- who wants to name a magazine balance?! So, I thought well, I’ll come up with a better name. And, indeed -- I went to sleep and came up with a better name! That better name was Equanimity which I hated so much.
LM: I couldn't pronounce Equanimity. I just couldn't but they didn't really care if I knew how to pronounce it. They really didn’t care they said, you know what-- it is what it is. That’s going to be the name. Just sleep over it, keep practicing saying it until you get it right. That is going to be the name. I said, ok I gave the name to several other people ...they were like, we can’t pronounce it. I asked them to just try for a whole day and overnight and let me know tomorrow how you feel? Everybody who tried it, came back the next day and said, “ Oh my gosh, I love the name of your magazine, its beautiful”. Not only that, it teaches us how to pronounce this vocabulary, this new word that has a beautiful meaning behind it. Which means balance, mental or emotional stability and composure. How beautiful is that? Nobody uses that word, now your magazine has become a teaching magazine. It’s not only teaching people about themselves and about appreciating their stories, but you are also teaching them vocabulary. I thought “wow” thats nice.
Mm: Wow, that is a solid foundation and now you are approaching your 2nd year anniversary this December....Congratulations! That’s major.
LM: Thank you.
Mm: Seeing where you're heading and seeing where you started..... plus all the dots that have led you to this point, how have you evolved as a person? From December 2014 up until now?
LM: I think we have evolved quite a bit. I didn't know that starting a charity, requires so much work. I thought, oh well we’re going to start small. So even though last year we had our first Gala which was a success. We expected fewer people than I actually dreamed of and it turned out that people actually responded and came to the Gala. We didn't have enough space. We grew a lot from there. People didn't actually donate that much because they didn't know much about who we were and what the charity was for. Yet, I really wanted to communicate to everybody that the charity fights poverty. Not just in America but it fights poverty in all other countries where we can do work. We finish what has been started or we start what has been thought of... yet not started. In this case right now we are working on a project in Africa, Zimbabwe. It’s a hospital that my father use to help but he died, so he never got to finish the work. So, we’re really finishing up his work and building that hospital to where its livable and has basic necessities. A lot of hospitals there don't have the basic necessities so thats what the charity is for. It’s called JB Dondolo and its named after my father-- JB Dondolo. Right now we need water, clean water. They don't have water there at all. The water they have now is full of lime. Its unsafe for drinking and cooking with, so we want to install a clean water system. That’s what the Gala this year is focusing on as well---raising awareness for water and trying to find a water system there.
Mm: I have a bit of a multi-tiered question. Speaking to the issues going on in the hospitals in Zimbabwe with unclean water. I remember back in 2009 a Cholera outbreak was at a record high. At the time, I was working with a NY based organization and I started this-- lets send clean water packs to Zim campaign. In an effort to get clean water packs in the hands of the people. Yet, I ran into a lot of legal red tape with the government. Seeing that you have more of a basis of support from the Gala and so forth. How have you been able to do these really needed tasks within the medical arena and navigate-through the political disconnect that lets face it, is a very real situation?
LM: The political disconnect is still there and very much alive. I’ve tried many things even sending doctors like visiting doctors and failed. But now, I’m working with the commissioner there and anything that I do, I work with the people on the ground. They all agreed that they really need water there more than anything else. I know that with the hospital itself even sending medical supplies is going to be a challenge. I’m starting with something very small that is a need a human right and that people there are asking for. So, I am working with the commissioner to say, can we just start with the water system at the hospital? Is it, ok? They said, yea its ok. So, I said... ok we’ll do things smaller until we get there. Medical supplies is going to be a very big challenge, but I am working with other organizations to see how are they are getting them there. What do I need to do, to get to that level? Things are just going to take time because of the political situation. I’m starting with the easier things like water. Things that are not medical because I can get water from there -- fund the system there. Lets replace this with something clean. I’m not putting anything else other than just replacing the water lines.
Mm: How would you like to be further supported as well as spread this word? Someone reading this feature might not be aware of the water epidemic in Zimbabwe or in the loop with Equanimity yet how can they support you-- the charity and further get supplies out there?
LM: We accept donations -- in kind donations are very welcome. If someone can donate for example the water system supplies then we can go and install it over there. They can do that by contacting us www.jbdondolo.org Thats what we need. We want to paint the walls--- replace the roof, windows and doors all those things. That can also be in kind donations if a company has those kind of materials such as roofing materials then we need to talk to them and see how we can get them there. Those are some of the things that we need, but then also at the same time you can donate money. I know that its hard to send money to Zimbabwe but there is always a trade off. We can get the materials from here and send them overseas. We don't have to send money to Zimbabwe at all. If someone has funded the materials and asks us to send them, sure we’ll do that. There’s ways to work around the broken system in Zimbabwe. There are ways that are legal to work through the system.
Mm: That’s good to know because I feel like at times---- people have been choosing to stay away, due to all the red tape. I strongly feel that there is a need and I love that that JB Dondolo is taking steps to fulfill that need and get the word out there. It’s such a senseless way to die, from dirty water.
LM: Exactly, exactly! Sometimes we forget that barriers will always be there. But, I think anything is possible through God if you believe in your heart, if you believe that there is a God anything is possible. Miracles can happen, even though the system is like this doesn't mean that it will stay like this forever. Or that people won't be able to do anything. There will be a time when people are able to help as much as they can in Zimbabwe. Things may get better, it will take a miracle-- miracles they still happen. We just have to be patient but also.... we must try.
Mm: Well in addition to miracles happening and all things are possible, you have pioneered/founded the Walk4Green movement. As 2016 is wrapping up, what are some other desires on your heart that you would like ending this year on? As you also go into your 3rd year with the Magazine.
LM: You know, some things that are on my heart --- I’m actually using the magazine to fund JB Dondolo Foundation as much as possible. I’m actually auctioning the covers-- the Equanimity covers its a quarterly magazine. So, I am auctioning off the four covers to charity, to my charity. If anyone wants to be on the cover they can. As long as they pay to be on the cover, I donate all that to my charity. That way people are happy that they didn’t only give to my charity but they're also promoting themselves on the cover of Equanimity Magazine. We have a huge digital platform and thats a great way for somebody to promote themselves just by being on the cover. That’s where I see myself in 2017 doing. Just auctioning all the covers for Equanimity to support my charity so that we can move forward and get some things done like the water system taken care of.
Mm: Seeing that you are an inspirational woman who has rebirth herself in a new career charting your own territory. What advice would you give to other women who have not yet navigated their path or are in an-established-career and want to make a leap in a different direction?
LM: I tell everyone that I meet who is wondering or unsure of what to do. I tell them to follow their heart, because your heart never lies to you. Also know that everyone on this planet earth has a purpose. Each and everyone of us has a purpose. If you haven't found your purpose, you will find it. You also have to follow your heart. What is your heart telling you to do? Who I am is the kind of person that loves people. The kind of person that appreciates the help that I get from people. It’s an all around thing, its not just one way. People loving me or me loving people. I try to find ways to bridge that and what is truly in my heart that I really want to pursue. Follow your heart, your heart never lies to you.
Mm: To piggy back off of that, I meet a lot of people who want to follow their heart yet they are also listening to their fears. So how have you not allowed the fear to be what drives you? How have you shut fear out for yourself?
LM: You will always have fears you know! Thats not something that I can tell you.... there will never be a time where you are not somewhat doubtful. A lot of times we fear even when we are confident. But, you have to learn to overcome your fears as well. You don't always go through life and say, its going to work no matter what. You have to learn to challenge yourself. Challenge yourself through those fears and fight through them. For me, I pray to God all the time, I pray to be a strong person and to have courage to overcome my fears. Someone else may not believe in God.... but then you are going to find out, what it is that makes you who you are. What drives you to do things that nobody else does? When you are able to do something beyond imaginable, beyond what you normally do you know you have overcome your fears. Fear is that thing that tells you that you can't do this because you're sophomore ----this thing is too big for you. Yet, if you look at everything as though you are much bigger than everything you are going to do, you can conquer your fears that way.
Mm: Wow, that was powerful! I know a lot of women are going to feel encouraged and blessed by your story.
LM: Thank you so much. I try to get out of every situation, no matter how bad it is, that there is something positive and I’ve learned from that. People have shaped me to become who I am today.
For more EXCLUSIVE interviews with Global Media Personality Melissa Mushaka keep up with her for All Things Media