Profile In Excellence: Constance Moonzwe
Profile In Excellence: Constance Moonzwe
MHA, CEO: ITH Staffing, Inc., Vice President: ITH Charities
On her past, her body of work, her triumph over the adversity of losing her husband and her dreams for the future:
Today as the Executive Director and CEO of ITH Staffing, Inc., a premier healthcare and information technology staffing company serving organizations across the country, Moonzwe leads all operations, strategic planning and staff development for this high-volume firm in Rancho Cucamonga, California. With 20-plus years of experience she has managed large portfolios ($10M) and successfully delivered professionals to companies in hospitality, engineering and health risk management. Moonzwe's broad experience in business consultancy and leadership has made her an expert in her field. As a member of society for Human Resources Management, she continues to be recognized by industry peers, colleagues and employees as a trail blazer, role model and mentor.
Putting equal time into her community work, Moonzwe is the Vice President of ITH Charities, an organization she founded in an effort to promote sustainable healthcare and educational development initiatives, primarily in her native Zambia.
The accolades which follow Moonzwe's important work are just as impressive: Women of Color Achievement Award, Favorite Healthcare Staffing (selected by the Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval), Certified Women's Business Enterprise, and other honors for this entrepreneurial champion. A graduate from California Polytechnic University (Cal-Poly Pomona), and the University of La Verne (ULV): she received a BS in Human Resources and a Masters in Healthcare Administration.
In this interview with our Publisher, Hon. Chike Nweke, Constance talks about her past, her body of work, her triumph over the adversity of losing her husband and her dreams for the future:
Tell us a little about your background and your growing up years in Zambia?
Constance: I was born in Zambia, and we spent a couple years in England, while my parents were pursing their graduate degrees. I had a sickly childhood, and my memories of Zambia as a child are not as many as I would prefer. I do remember it was really important to my parents that we spent time with our extended family. Weekends were always busy with family visits and activities. Church and Bible study was a must for my family, my spiritual foundation was set in my childhood. I remember our holiday trips to Zimbabwe (the good old days). I have very fond memories of all our family vacations to Zimbabwe, Livingston and the Victoria Falls. My parents worked a whole lot, however it was very important that we vacationed as a family, those are the memories I cherish the most. It was also in Zambia where I learned the importance of giving back. My parents were constantly giving to the family, community and church. Giving back to causes I believe in was installed in my upbringing. I was innocent in those growing up years in Zambia, I always felt safe, secure, loved and valued.
When did you come to America, what motivated your coming to America and what where your experiences in those early years as a new immigrant?
We came to the United States when I was 13 years. It was not my choice, and to be honest, I thought it was a bad idea. My dad was pursuing his PDH in Theology. The early years in the United States were very difficult. We went from "riches to rags" it was very hard for me to deal with the adjustment. My younger sister and older brother seemed to adjust better than I did. Coming to the US as a freshman was tough. With a new school and new friends, everything was foreign. It was difficult. Although looking back now, coming to the US saved my life. In 1997 I fell into a medically induced comma that I would of not of survived that if I was in Zambia. My condition was such, that Zambia would not have had the medical technology needed to treat me. I also am really grateful, that for my father it was never an option for him to come to the US without his entire family, we all traveled to the US at the same time.
Did you go to school here in America or did you finish your education back in Africa?
I came to the US as the Freshman in high school, I did my undergraduate and Master's degree in California. I'm a true Californian girl. I love California!
What career did you first pursue here in America and how did you transition to become a business owner?
I feel I have always been an entrepreneur, even in my childhood I was always selling something. In high school and college, I always had a side "hustle". My first job was at Disneyland, I was 17. By 19, I was the HR Manager for a Hilton Hotel. I have spent about 12 years in and out of corporate America. I think it is important to have the experience of working within a corporate structure, you can draw on that experience when you start your business.
I would say I had my first "real" company at 25 years old, it was a medical staffing company that I started from the ground up, we did over 2 million in the first 2 years, unfortunately in 2008 the recession hit, to cut a long story short we ultimately sold the assets for very little and closed. It was my first true business failure and business success. Lessons that I would take to heart in my future business endeavors.
You lost your husband a few years ago and have gone on even after that tragic experience to build ITH Staffing into a business that has over 3 Million Dollars in annual turnover. How did you rise up from that traumatic experience and your ashes to where your business and life is today?
Your "why" has to be greater than your pain. It is the only way to push through, you must be willing to turn your pain and fears into fuel and use it to become better.
I believe we honor the dead by becoming better, stronger and wiser. I lost my best friend and soulmate. I had waited all my life for Chibeza, finally, a man who truly loved me, and in a blink of an eye, he was gone, our youngest was 7 months old when he passed.
The journey has not been easy, I would be lying if I said I never thought of taking my life and ending it all, the pain was dark and deep, the kind of pain that takes your breath away, literally, I would have intense moments where I could not breath.
It is complicated, being a young widow, mother and entrepreneur, it is just complicated.
One day at a time I would like myself and was constantly forgiving myself and others. Living in a space of gratitude. Never forgetting God's promise. Psalms 68:5 "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling"
Through the pain, I went to what I know best, business. Business is in my blood, I know it, I love it and I would rather fail at business than anything else. I like stress and failure, because I get stronger and better every time.
To me, when Chibeza passed away, I had one choice only, start and grow a million-dollar business, I did not have a plan B, I only had plan A. Like Will Smith says, there is no point to having a plan B because it distracts from plan A."
Your life is truly inspirational and you have a web portal- "Meet Constance" where you speak life, faith, and inspiration into the lives of thousands of people. how fulfilling is this aspect of your body of work and how do you find time to do this and run ITH and cater to your children as a widowed single Mom?
Honestly, people hate when I say this, there is no such thing as balance. What I have is family and friends who know and understand that I will work 24/7 if they let me. I have people who put me in check, like my cousin Monga, who is constantly adding family activities to my calendar, my sister who shows up unannounced from the East Coast, and my parents wo call me 10 times a day...LOL... I could not do this without the support of my family and team members. I think my entire office team is on my children's pickup scheduled. I have support with childcare and cleaning as well.
I love to work, and I love my kids, so I work when they are sleeping and while they are in school. I take time to vacation. Monday - Friday, I'm on the clock until 8 pm, then break for a couple of hours, read bedtime stories and back at it until 1 am or 2 am. It is not easy, whoever said, you can run a million-dollar business in 8 hours a day, knows something I don't - that is not my truth.
At this stage in my business, I don't have balance. What I have is a small group of people that love me and accept me for who I am. They don't bother to change me, but love me and my kids unconditionally. I have a good team, that is focused on growing ITH.
My children are my greatest why, they will put me in check in a heartbeat, my 4-year-old will tell me. "OK mommy, only 2 hours on Saturday, then park", then my cousins will call me, and be like "Get off the computer and go to the park..." That is pretty much it.
Where do you see yourself in 10, 30, & 50 years from now and when your work is done, how would you like Constance Moonzwe to be remembered?
When I die, I want my tombstone to say: Constance, the lady who never stopped giving.
Also, Right now, I'm really focused on building my company to be worth 50 million. That is all i'm focused on. 30 & 50 are too far out to plan. As a matter of fact, I plan my life in 90 day increments.
What advice will you give to an African immigrant just arriving in America on achieving success in this country?
As it is said, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", follow the customs of those who live in it, follow the lead of those who know the ropes. Your heritage will be your strength, use it, integrate it into the way of life in the US. I have American friends, have coaches and mentors who have done what you are trying to do.