Zane Wilemon is co-founder and CEO of Ubuntu Life and an Episcopal priest. Over 15 years at the head of Ubuntu, he has helped the organization grow from a charity with 3 employees to a blended social enterprise employing over 80 individuals in Kenya and the United States, with sustained revenues over $1.5 million annually. Zane is a frequent inspirational speaker and recipient of the Charles J. Cook Award in Servant Leadership.
Zane co-founded Ubuntu in 2002 with his friend and fellow priest, Jeremiah Kuria. He first met Kuria while volunteering with the Africa Inland Mission and their friendship quickly turned into a long term business partnership with the goal of helping children and creating opportunity for local Kenyans at the heart of their mission.
One of the first projects Wilemon and Kuria began in Maai Mahiu was a rehabilitation center for children with special needs. The mothers of the children in this program eventually requested to receive sewing training during their free time in order to help support the program and provide for their families. Seeing an opportunity to empower these women to earn their own income, Zane launched a product line that would eventually become Ubuntu Made in 2008 – training the ‘Maker Mums’ to sew, hiring them full time, and providing them with health insurance. After responding to that original need, the Ubuntu mission quickly grew as Zane became committed to creating jobs within the Maai Mahiu community.
Ten years later, the Ubuntu initiative now includes Cafe Ubuntu which sources its cocoa beans from local Kenyan farms and Ubuntu Water which provides clean drinking water from Kenya’s natural water resources. Together, these three self-sustaining branches of the Ubuntu enterprise aim to fund the Ubuntu Foundation to offer pediatric health and education programs for children with special needs.
The mission of Ubuntu circles back to the definition of the word itself, “I am because we are” and the human dignity that connects every person. Ubuntu seeks to empower Kenyan communities by creating meaningful jobs that reflect and support the dignity of their employees while providing sustainably produced goods to the public for global change.