Ken's Story

Ken was born on the 27th of January, 1973 in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). He spent his childhood in the colonised country until he was forced to depart for neighbouring South Africa during its violent civil war in 1978. He would later return to the landlocked Zimbabwe after it gained its independence in 1980. Upon his arrival back, seven year old Ken was catapulted into a new era of social change, cultural integration and uncertainty from a land he used to be familiar with.

Ken's Story

Ken was born on the 27th of January, 1973 in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). He spent his childhood in the colonised country until he was forced to depart for neighbouring South Africa during its violent civil war in 1978. He would later return to the landlocked Zimbabwe after it gained its independence in 1980. Upon his arrival back, seven year old Ken was catapulted into a new era of social change, cultural integration and uncertainty from a land he used to be familiar with.

Ken is a #serialentrepreneur and a #visionary for #businessinafrica to bring economic emancipation to the poor with investment and job creation. First he is a #manofgod and says #family comes first! He has a sense of #adventure for the #outdoors and #nature. He believes in getting the most out of this mortal #life by having sheer gut determination and perseverance is his motto for making it and of course enjoying some of the fruits from the success is important especially those found in good #food. #lastbutnotleast he believes in giving back and having an impact where it’s most needed and to those who need a hand up rather than a hand out!

He was born in Harare and grew up on a gold mine because his Dad owned his first one in Mazoe near Christon Bank. His Dad bought another mine outside Bulawayo and the family moved there when he was 5, that’s where he started junior school at Khumalo Junior until his  Dad bought another mine called Trio on Tafuna mountain in Shamva and they moved to Harare which is when his parents got divorced.

In 1988, Ken decided to travel overseas.

At age 16 Ken moved to UK and less than two years later came back to Zimbabwe to bereave the death of my great Aunty. This is where he met the love of his life, Ludmila (aka Joanna); who was from the Ukraine (Soviet Union at the time). He also started his business in 1991 in FMCG (sweets and chocolates) imports and distribution because I saw an opportunity with the Government policy of ESAP in which the markets were opening up. However, this was just a means to an end as the real story and truth be said was he had fallen in love with a woman from USSR and because his Dad would not support him he had no option but to support himself and follow his heart to go get his future bride from Moscow in Soviet Russia to start a life together in Zimbabwe. The couple were married in 1993 and three years later welcomed their only daughter, beautiful Tatiana.

In 1990 to 2010, Ken established a confectionery and food distribution business.

Over the span of 20 years the businesses Ken, as a serial entrepreneur, rapidly opened had ripened into the Holdings Company “West Group.” Some of the divisions opened in chronological order are: West Food Distribution, West Beverages (bottling), West Agencies, Intercrop (Agri Inputs), West Sanitary Pads Manufacturing, West Tech, West Oils (edible Oils), FellowGold Mining, West Star Cash n Carry (formally Red Star), and West Properties and Augur Investments Ltd (Real Estate Development). These trading divisions spanned the SADC region including operations in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa. He also established operations in Ukraine and Europe.

From 2001 to 2003 Ken threw his hat into the beverage market in South Africa.

Ken established InterAfrica Franchise Bottlers (IFB) with his creation of Twizza as the main CSD brand and one of the most effective mechanisms to compete with the Coca Cola Company. He created mini bottling units, in which IFB sold as complete turnkey projects under a franchise scheme, using IFB brands and other raw materials he created. In 2003, he sold his interests.

In 2006 onwards…...Property (Kens main asset base)

Ken decided in 1994 at the young tender age of 21 and explained to his newly wedded bride that he would own 5 properties in different countries so as when they retired they could live in one or two of them and rent the others out for a passive income. Little did he realise that he had underestimated himself and within 10 year he would accomplish this goal and eventually own more than 10 properties in over 10 countries. Once his personal ambition was satisfied he wanted to make it a business and in 2006 together with his partner Oleksandr Sheremet they started investing and buying property in Zimbabwe. They acquired and started several companies including partnering with the City of Harare in a PPP and formed in 2007 the West Property Group which today is the largest privately owned property development company and has a land bank and pipeline that Ken says will outlive his lifetime and last several generations. Despite his earlier aspirations and dreams for property he believes it is truly not himself who has made this all possible and gives all honour and glory to God. His story and journey is an arduous and tumultuous one filled with adversity and challenges for which one day he hopes to write a novel about how his tenacity, determination, resilience, perseverance and gut to never give up and trusting always in God is what brought him in the end victory.

The future of 2017 and beyond…. Tech and data

Ken teamed up with operating partner JW Oliver and co-founded his 1st Tech company Global BP Solutions which is an outsourcing company that helps you find the best virtual teams for your business. He is committed to providing jobs to Zimbabweans and showcasing their ability, talent and capabilities to the rest of the world and using this platform is a unique win for the job seeker, a win for the job provider and a win for the good social work (its more than just CSR)  that gets done from 51% of the profits! Yes Ken and JW have given the majority ownership of their company to Gods work; with philanthropy and charity being the primary beneficiary of the funds that flows as well as the ministry and salvation work that gets done at the same time.

January 2007 - A second chance.

A private family man, Ken’s and Joanna have been married since 1993, raising their daughter Tatiana in Zimbabwe where they agreed to bring her up despite the options of living overseas. He and his family also agreed to sponsor (particularly in education) and foster their son Denzel in 2008. Ken’s family is his number one priority and main source of hope, inspiration, courage and love. After family, Ken’s other passions are traveling, cycling, theatre, skiing, outdoors, adventure sports, his faith and philanthropy; or simply just relaxing with friends and family enjoying a good meal as he is a devout foodie and loves to cook.

He’s also discovered an immeasurable passion and gratefulness for just being alive and enjoying the simple blessings of being able to see, breath, walk, talk and hear; especially after he was given a second chance to live………….The 16thJanuary 2007 would be another life altering moment for the young businessman, but in a very different way. Whilst on a private family vacation to Whistler, Canada Ken survived a life threatening ski accident. As a result of skiing off-piste without a helmet and hitting his head into a tree, he suffered from the possibility of permanent brain damage and memory loss. According to doctors, his chance of survival was only 2% and almost a 100% assurance that IF he awoke from the coma he would be a vegetable with no memory  or faculties; the outcome looked bleak. After surgery and many prayers from friends and family, Ken miraculously woke up after five days in a coma; ironically on his daughter’s 11th birthday (something she hoped and had faith that her Dad would never miss her birthday). The miracle was not just to be alive and out of the coma but that his brain (now 98% of its original size) functioned perfectly and immediately on waking up he was able to remember everything up to the moment he lost consciousness and like he says ‘the pause button was pressed and played when I woke up, like nothing has happened’.

But during what seemed like his hour of desperation and shortly after a very fast recovery, Ken had a spiritual encounter with God which altered his perception and perspective on life, where we come from, why we are here and where we are going.

He believes life is a precious gift from God and what we do with it is our gift to Him. His purpose and mission going forward is to make real lasting and sustainable changes in his personal, family and business life.

“Paying back” what’s been given to him, Ken actively participates in charitable and philanthropic activities in his country and all over the world.

Ken has also interacted at a senior Government level in Zimbabwe in an attempt to try and contribute positively toward the socio/economic impact he has in his homeland by making a difference.

His focus is to drive poverty alleviation, job creation and responsible transformational development through FDI (foreign direct investment) – hence his initial involvement in the World Economic Forum, Young Presidents Organisation (YPO) as the “Doing Business in Africa” and the “Family Philanthropy Network” Chair. He had been since February 2005 an active member of the Harare YPO Chapter, serving as the Chapter Forum Chair, Education Chair and youngest Chapter Chairman in 2008 and resigned in 2015.

Since then Ken has focused his energy and attention on where he believes the biggest single societal change will come from; generational momentum and the role of the family as the greatest and most important core unit and fundamental building block of strong societies. He believes in the jurisdictional authority of the individual to choose in which sphere of Self, Family, Business, Church or Civil Government we decide to have the greatest effect and then focus your energy and impact accordingly because in todays world people have placed too much reliance on centralised government and politicians who have fallen short of what God expects to be done in building his Kingdom on earth.

Ken has given numerous presentations and speeches on these experiences and his resultant driving motivation is being enthralled throughout the world.

Ken's Skiing Accident

CONQUERING ALL ADVERSITY (IN KEN'S WORDS)

The first transformation in my life was the birth of my daughter; seeing her and holding her as she was born changed me to the core, it was a moment of truth as a father. The second took place in 2007 whilst on a private family vacation to Whistler, Canada on the 16th of January. It was the first ski vacation for us alone as a family, and we wanted to take skiing seriously and even hired a private ski instructor. After learning the slopes for 3 days – without a helmet or safety equipment – I decided to going off-piste (yes the instructor was crazy and I was naïve) and turning to avoid some rocks I took a very fast spin for the worse ending with me colliding inot a tree, knocking me instantly unconscious. After a few minutes I woke up and then waited for the Medic to whom I insisted I could ski down. I made it half way before literally the very world around me was spinning out of control. On examining me he said my right eye was fully dilated and I had internal brain bleeding, I was taken in the gondola and ambulance to the local hospital where an hour later, I was convulsing with severe internal bleeding and was losing consciousness. With no CAT scan (CT) facilities, the doctors decided to transfer me from the local Whistler hospital to Lion’s Gate Hospital in Vancouver.

The therapist told my wife to prepare for the worst, that even if I did somehow survive, I would never be the same; I would be a “vegetable.” Both her and my daughter Tatiana never stopped praying or gave up hope. Tatiana was confident I would wake up intact as the father she knew, and for some reason expected it to happen on-time for her birthday – five days later saying “my Dad has never missed it.” She wouldn’t accept what was being said by the medical staff and had total faith her father would wake up.

Miraculously, I did come through five days later on the 21st of January, Tatiana’s 11th birthday. When I had first awoke, the doctors told my family I wouldn’t have most of my memories nor my faculties, and that I’d never be “me.” But I was me. My first impulse was to get up and walk out of the hospital with over 50 staples still in my head. I went from being brain dead to being fully intact with all my memory and faculties being instantly restored. It was as if a pause button had been pressed on a tape recorder, and then played again five days later. Amazingly, after two days of tests and medical assessment, I was discharged however against Drs orders who wanted me to stay for weeks of rehab.

In that moment of waking up, I felt differently about myself inside. Joanna often says that I was with the angels for five days, and she was in hell for five days, but what most people don’t know is:

When I woke up from the coma, after fighting with the medical staff to discharge me and proving I was “all there” by doing English, math and memory tests, I went to the local Westin Bayshore to recover. As I was walking in the park near the hotel, I was trying to intellectually justify why I was still alive because medically there were no answers that could be given, and as I was speaking silently to myself saying, “it was not because I was lucky or super strong” but I kept questioning why I had been spared and why I was alive. Knowing that I had not lived a very saintly life, I kept asking, “God why me?” It wasn’t long after this contemplating that my questions were graciously and generously answered in way I would have never foreseen. The response came in the form of what I believe to be a personal encounter with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. God spoke to my spirit and told me that “I was his son and He loved me enough to give my life back to me and that nothing would happen to me until I had done what I promised to do in this life”. At that moment I was so humbled I fell to my knees, and started crying and gave my life to God; promising to do “anything he asked of me. In all places, at all times and in exact obedience!.”

Like I said, I was no saint nor did I have a firm faith in God or any religion; in fact I could not even trust my fellow man. I had lived life to the fullest. I had never lived with God as the focal and centre part of my life before. My existence leading up to this point was never spent helping or outreaching to other people. I wasn’t particularly a loving or trusting person to anyone outside my circle. I held more of a suspicious and closed personality, I was not very kind to those I did not know and didn’t serve anyone else but myself and my family. I came from a broken family. My parents were divorced when I was young, and I grew up being bullied and learned to not trust nor rely on anyone except myself. I became a self-made millionaire by working hard, and doing everything with my two hands and head. The only faith I had was in myself. So, when this accident happened it transformed my entire life. It taught me that even though we all want to feel like we’re totally in control of our lives, feeling at times almost invincible and tough, the reality of it is: At the end of the day ‘we’re all very fragile and vulnerable and life is just but a flash in eternity’. I have learned to trust God totally and submit to his will completely.

I can confidently and understandably say “our lives are totally in God’s hands,” and that my life going forward will never be the same.