Even though he is a man seriously dedicated to his desires, Wayne Mutata’s smile is contagious. Sitting in his meticulous Lancaster home, Wayne is more than 7,000 miles from where he grew up. What brought him here was passion, drive, and a charismatic spirit. Infected with the American dream by a photo of the bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger shown to him by a missionary in his native Zimbabwe, Wayne left his homeland behind to make the venture of a lifetime.
“I fell in love with training. I started training people in high school. One of the ways to leave Zimbabwe is to become a doctor or a lawyer, but I wanted to be a trainer. Most people thought that was hilarious,” says Wayne, who first left the southern African nation (home of Victoria Falls and wildlife-filled national parks) when he was a teenager.
Before his meeting with the training missionary, all Wayne knew about Americans was guns, soldiers, tanks, and the President. Issues and disagreements between tribes in Zimbabwe were sometimes still settled with hand-to-hand combat. He witnessed armed forces from other countries coming into lands to help solve problems; this did not usually help. Things outside of tradition were looked down upon. When he came to the U.S., he was shocked to see people walking around happy, smiling, and not in military garb.
“Like in most countries, people in Zimbabwe think Americans are spoiled and take things for granted,” says Wayne. “Coming from a third-world country there are things that have come to me as a culture shock… having frequent meals, water everywhere—in the sink, in the toilet. For a lot of people (in African countries) they have to purposely search out water.”
Wayne first came to the U.S. as part of the Rotary International Youth Exchange program when he was 16 years old to study as a high school student. He quickly realized his life goal was to move to America, open a gym, and franchise the business.
“I was sponsored by three families and I went to high school here,” says Wayne.
Having been raised in a Zimbabwean educational system requiring school uniforms, one of the biggest shocks to Wayne was having to wear different clothes to school each day. It was a challenge to fit in socially. He started out by wearing what was provided to him by the host family, but quickly adopted his own Western style leading to the creation of his own brand called Menace Clothing.
“I started wearing it to school. It got popular,” says Wayne, understating the initial impact of his first company/American dream realized. The clothing caught the attention of MMA fighter Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez and gained national popularity. Wayne sold the brand and used the proceeds to start what he really wants to do in life: train people in physical fitness. He launched the Lancaster-based iTrain in 2014 with the goal of creating a gym environment where trainers and clients feel like family.
“A lot of people see me and what I’ve done, but they haven’t seen the start—me failing multiple times trying to make this happen,” says Wayne. “There’s a lot of tough sides to things. There’s a lot of disappointment. As long as you can deal with disappointment you can handle anything.”
Wayne has seen Americans through the eyes of outsiders and says the most common misunderstanding about America is “there are no problems here.”
“One of the misconceptions about Americans is that everybody is doing great, everybody is doing well, everybody is doing amazing, and that is not the case,” says Wayne.
To that extent, Wayne has made sure to become a part of charitable events in Lancaster. He sees people here in the United States who are worse off than some of the people he knows back in Zimbabwe. He realizes the standard of life here is better overall, and he hopes his homeland will someday catch up.
“If you grow up in a box, you are used to that. The moment you come out of the box is when everything is different,” says Wayne. “I am home because of how welcome I am here. The American dream was something that was so believable; I am on my way.”