“God Has Extended My Territories”


By Lisbeth Overheu, Kenya Client Relationship Volunteer

The road heading to Mihango in eastern Nairobi is lined with buildings in varying stages of construction, piles of bricks and people welding gates and doors. Trucks ply the route in both directions carrying construction materials, equipment and workers. It’s clearly an area under development and the perfect place for Violet Karwimbo’s GHEMT (“God Has Extended My Territories”) Hardware & Electricals shop.

Violet has used Zidisha loans to increase the range of stock in her store, and given the size of the store it’s amazing the amount of different stock Violet manages to carry. She has recently added items as diverse as chicken feeders, plastics, meter boxes, more plumbing fittings and electrical wires. The loans have also allowed her to buy in bulk at cheaper prices, which has really boosted her profits. Violet appreciates how she can make her repayments “without a lot of stress because the interest is low.”


Violet credits the Zidisha community with providing her with much more than just capital for her business and says, “Because of Zidisha I also know about other businesses,” as she is active in Facebook discussions with other Zidisha borrowers in Kenya. Through such forums she learnt about chicken farming and now keeps twenty chickens at home, providing her family with fresh eggs and sometimes chicken meat, as well as some additional income from selling any surplus.

Violet also made contact with a potato supplier through Zidisha contacts, and she now also sells potatoes from her hardware store – which initially seemed a bit strange to me, but just shows her good business mind in recognising a need in the market as no one else nearby was selling potatoes – so this has added another profitable arm to her business.

Violet’s eighteen-year-old daughter, Jacinta, is currently studying hard in her final year of high school and hopes to commence studying medicine at university next year. Eleven-year-old Daniel is also apparently very bright and would like to be either a pilot (understandable since the family lives near the international airport) or a pastor.

Her Zidisha loans have really helped increase Violet’s business profit, which she has been able to use to support her family and reinvest in her business. Last year Violet was able to enroll Daniel in a better quality, but more expensive, school.

Violet also explains how her family is able to eat differently now and how previously it was “hard to put a good meal on the table.”  The family used to eat a lot of githeri (beans and maize) and ugali (cooked ground maize), but they now eat a wider variety of foods, including more vegetables, meat and chapatti and Violet says “we don’t have to strain to eat well.”

The family can also afford to visit Violet’s parents more often (they live several hours away) and she has been able to save some money towards Jacinta’s university fees, and hopes to fund the remainder from her ongoing business profits.

Violet has completed professional training in Computer Technology, and hopes to continue her studies with an Upper Diploma and then Bachelors in Computer Programming. Next year she hopes to be able to hire an employee to assist her in the store while she studies part time, and we joke that she and Jacinta might be studying together at the same university.

Violet understands that not everyone in Kenya is as fortunate as she or her family, so at least once a month she takes her children to visit orphanages to distribute whatever they can spare or collect such as food, candy, clothes and charcoal. Violet says these visits “make you see life in a different view” and that her children “have learnt to accept what I give them.”

Violet usually opens her store from 8 AM until 7 PM six days a week, and she then has a half an hour walk home. On Sundays Violet attends church and spends time relaxing with her children. She also likes watching TV and movies. She recently separated from her husband so this has obviously been a difficult time for Violet and her children, but although softly spoken she remains a very positive, smiley person.

Violet has run her business for several years, but she moved to her current location on this busy road about a year ago.  The move has proved very successful as she is now paying less rent and she has attracted many new customers.


Violet’s years of working in a hardware store before starting her own business mean she is very knowledgeable about the sector. Her short term plans include widening her range of electrical items (there is no other electrical goods supplier in the area) and installing hooks on her front door to display these items. She would also like to extend a shaded covering in front of the store to allow her to display larger items like mattresses and metal boxes which are popular in the area. The population growth in the area and therefore commencement of bus services from the closest main road which travel right past her front door mean she now has the transport facilities available to allow her to stock these popular, larger items.

In the longer term Violet hopes to work from home as a computer programmer and also run a wholesale hardware store supplying to retailers as she understands their challenges. She also has a plot of land she inherited in nearby Ruai, where she hopes to grow crops of beans and maize one day.

“A beautiful growing family”

By Divican Tochi, Zidisha member in Kenya

Before I start to narrate my story first and fore most my sincere thanks goes to Zidisha lenders and to Zidisha as a whole fraternity for their great support for awarding me the first loan of US $47.95. Actually for this first loan I managed to open a cyber café of 3 computers and one printer.

I am 26 years old yet married. I have one baby girl. I come from polygamous family, my biological mother being a second wife. From the stories I have, my father married my mother because his first wife was not bearing children which forced my father to go for the second wife. Later on the first wife started bearing children and my father neglected us.

Coming from the family of five it forced our mother to struggle to venture into business mostly selling shoes and clothes. She managed to educate us up to Form four levels except our sister who dropped in form three because of financial problems. After my form four I joined Gusii institute, because I did not manage to go for my degree course. I managed to accomplish my certificate in Information Technology in the year 2010.

From there I did not get a job so I decide to venture into business of being a technician of programming computers. Being in that time that in Kisii Town Kenya I had many people venturing in cyber cafe business, typesetting and printing, I was so happy that I used to format their computers, installation of internet and also advising them where applicable and I used to get a good token from my customers.

I managed to marry in the year 2012. I raised some capital to start a business with my wife. We started a small shop with about Kshs 25,000 (US $312). I used to go for my daily business in town for self employment for being a level middle technician. I have assisted my wife to add a little capital of about Kshs 1000 ($12) per week. Today our capital can run up to Kshs. 60,000 ($750).

My wife operates in the shop. When I had about Zidisha I informed my wife Divinah and she congratulated me very much about the information and gave me a go ahead to borrow a loan from these lenders at least to enlarge our shop and for me to start a cyber cafe of about 4 computers since we can manage to get location to locate our new business as she will be operating our shop. On May 29, 2014 I received Kshs 3,274 ($47) from Zidisha and immediately we added a stock to our shop and God was on our side and we got many customers which enabled us to repay back the loan. From these daily sales we were able to save kshs.1,000 ($12) daily and we used to save Kshs 200 ($2.50) daily set aside for the weekly repayment to Zidisha. In a month we managed to save Kshs.32,000 ($400). I used the Kshs.32,000 to buy 3 computers and I managed to come up with a cyber café whereby I manage it and my wife manages the shop. We are a beautiful growing family. Thanks.


“This barrier was eliminated”

“I will forever be grateful for the credit you advanced me in April this year. I operated my business for a long time without the benefit of credit facilities. This was not by choice but due to stringent conditions set by local lenders. This made my business to stagnate for a long time and I could just envy my competition some who happened to grow very fast due to credit facility they get from local lenders. The main handicap in my case was lack of collateral but this barrier was eliminated by Zidisha who granted me the loan without much ado. With the $150 from Zidisha, I was able to buy some spare parts and cartridges that I use in my business. This increased efficiency since I was able to serve my clients without asking them for money upfront. This has improved my relationship with my clients who now trust me even more and even made referrals to their partners. As I approach the end of this loan I am already excited about getting the second loan.”

- Muhande Zachary, Mombasa, Kenya




A glass half full


By David Henning, Kenya Client Relationship Volunteer

Dorine’s story is one of the most remarkable I have heard so far. It is not necessarily the story itself that is so intriguing, but the way Dorine told it created a lasting impression on me.

We met at the main bus station in Busia, a town on the border to Uganda. After visiting her workplace we took a bodaboda (motorbike taxi) to her home. When we arrived it was already getting dark, but I could still see the sewage on the side of the road as we entered a small space, surrounded by elongated houses divided so that there is space for several families in each home. Throughout the evening Dorine told me her story in bits and pieces.

Out of the blue Dorine’s father decided to leave his wife and five kids approximately four years ago, leaving them with absolutely nothing. “You cannot even imagine how it is to have nothing, can you?” she asks me with a smile. “No,” I had to admit. They had absolutely, absolutely nothing, just the cloth they were wearing and a little bit of food – can you imagine that? Luckily, her uncle decided to step in and gave them enough money for a small rented room, and a bit of food. At the time both Dorine and her mom were unemployed and the future did not look bright.

Soon after, Dorine managed to acquire a job at a cybercafe in town, and thus managed to bring a little income, US $45, to the family every month.  Her mom however, still had no job. Through a dear friend Dorine heard about Zidisha, and started to look into the idea. Her mom was principally against taking up a loan, but Dorine saw Zidisha as a potential help for their dire situation, and figured they had nothing to lose. After a lot of thinking and weighing up the cost and benefits she decided to take a loan without telling her mom.  When Dorine received her first loan she gave part of it to her mother, who of course immediately became suspicious, and required to know where the money came from. Dorine confessed, and after a heavy discussion the mother agreed to try it out.

With the money received through Zidisha they bought a small stall in Busia and started selling clothes. They bought the clothes cheaply in bulk and sold them individually at their stall, which gave them a profit of a few Kenyan shillings. With each consecutive loan they stocked up their supply and widened their range of different clothes, steadily increasing their profits to around US $90 a month today. Together with Dorine’s income from the cybercafe, they now have approximately US $135 USD to live off each month, not a lot for a family of six, but an incredible improvement from the $45 per month they were earning before joining Zidisha. In addition, with their second loan they bought a plot of land and some corn (maize), which they have just harvested, further improving their situation.


Dorine and her mother with a pile of corn they have harvested

I spent most of my visit with Dorine, who is only a few years older than me. At one point I asked her what she does in her free time. “Free time? We don’t really have free-time here. I work [at the cybercafe] from eight in the morning to six every day from Monday till Saturday.  In addition, I usually wake up at five every morning to get water (like most homes in Kenya, Dorine’s house does not have indoor plumbing), do the dishes and clean the house before I go to work.  Afterwards I have to go home and help my mom with the household and take care of my siblings, else it would be too much to do for her. Sunday is usually my day off, but I still have to do the washing for my entire family, and after that I’m so exhausted that I usually sleep the rest of the day.”

I was stunned. It must have shown on my face, as Dorine burst out laughing. “Do you ever complain?” I ask her. “No no no, we don’t complain here, this is completely normal, this is just how life is!” she tells me. “I think you people up there just complain a bit too much!” she adds. “Yes,” I think to myself, “we really do complain way too much.”

Dorine’s story itself is impressive enough. However, the fact that she is still enthusiastic, incredibly positive, never complains and sees the beauty of life in all the small successes she and her family achieve every day is what really caught me. It made a lasting impression on my perspective of life.


Dorine and her family drying corn outside their home

The path to a better life


By David Henning, Kenya Client Relationship Volunteer

A small fishing village known by the name of Uhanya, right on the shore of Lake Victoria, is the hometown of Isiah Osire. This is where he spent his childhood, and after many years he has just recently returned to this place to build his home.

After finishing primary school he saw himself forced to move to Nairobi in search of work, because his parents did not have money enough to pay for his high school education and it was almost impossible to get a job in the area around his hometown. In the beginning life was tough in Nairobi.  Isiah took on any job he could just to get by.

After many months of hard work, Isiah managed to amass enough savings to open a second-hand shoe shop. Isiah was always determined to finish his education, and he used the first profits from selling second-hand shoes to pay tuition for evening classes so that he could finish high school.

Isiah successfully earned his high school diploma, but he didn’t stop there.  He continued his education, this time using profits from selling shoes to take a series of computer classes. This gave him the key professional skills he still relies on today.  In 2008, after finishing his computer classes, he opened a shop offering computing and printing services.

One year ago Isiah’s home village of Uhanya finally gained access to electricity. This marked a sudden change in Isiah’s life. Up until then he saw himself forced to stay in Nairobi, as his shop was impossible to operate without electricity. However, with his hometown now being connected and business getting tougher and more competitive in Nairobi he seized the opportunity and opened up a cybercafe / used shoe shop in Uhanya.


The shop in Uhanya


Isiah is now the go-to person for computing services in Uhanya and the surrounding areas, which have an approximate population of 5000 people. This gives him a solid base income and allows him to live in the same place as the rest of his family (including cousins, aunts etc).

Despite Uhanya now receiving power, the connection is very unstable, and frequently breaks down. Isiah therefore used his first Zidisha loan of $50 to buy a generator, which ensured him constant access to electricity. With his second loan of $150 he updated the software programs on his computer, as they were so outdated they were almost unusable. In addition, he acquired a printer which enabled him to offer printing services, which are in high demand in his community. Isiah’s third loan of $241 is currently being used to refurbish his shop and add two more computers to his cybercafe service.


Inside the shop


At the moment Isiah is also working to become an official agent of M-PESA, a payment system that works over mobile phones and is vastly popular in Kenya. He is thus offering an increasingly diverse range of services. Later he aims to also sell popcorn and sodas, so that when people come to use his computing services they will find it a pleasant and welcoming environment.

Isiah expressed great gratitude towards Zidisha and what the loans enabled him to do. I asked him if the Zidisha loans had increased his income and he said that he now approximately earns about 15000 kenyan shillings a month (US $170). “How much did you earn before?” I asked him. He laughs and says, “It was difficult to even get 10000!” (US $114) – so even the small early loans have helped increase Isiah’s income to about 1.5 times what it used to be.  He uses the profits to support his family and pay the school fees of his two young children.

When I asked him whether he is afraid of competition and what he would do to ensure his position, he answers: “There is already a bit of competition, but now I have been in the business for so long that I know how to handle it. It is all about providing better services than your competitors, and always be welcoming and friendly to your clients. Also, in Nairobi competition was really really tough, so anything is better than that!”

I leave Isiah with a smile, again being impressed by the courage, determination, passion and entrepreneurial skills so many of the Zidisha clients demonstrate.

Isiah recently raised a loan of $241 to grow his cybercafe business. You may read his story in his own words at his Zidisha profile page.

Business without borders

fatouBy Miriam Frost, Senegal Client Relationship Volunteer

Fatou Amar owns her own hair salon in Nord Foire, an neighborhood toward the northern end of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. Her salon has become quite successful in the years since she started it and she now trains others to manage it for her while she travels. Fatou said it was very difficult to start a business in a neighborhood with which she wasn’t familiar and where people didn’t know her, but she was passionate and determined to succeed. Now, she has gained the trust of people in the neighborhood.


At the beauty salon.  Fatou is wearing the flowered shirt.

Fatou’s earnings support her parents, brothers and sisters in addition to her own two children, aged ten and thirteen.  Her loans with Zidisha have allowed her to venture into a lucrative new business, clothing sales – and even to expand her the scope of her activities beyond Senegal’s borders. She has used her recent loans to travel to Mauritania, Mali, and Turkey to purchase clothing and fabric not available in Senegal and then resell them in Dakar. With her last loan, she traveled to Istanbul for six days to buy clothing items that she has been reselling. Fatou showed me a few of them, but they have been selling so quickly she doesn’t have much left!


Fatou with some of the shop inventory she purchased overseas

Fatou is an extremely business-savvy woman, as evidenced by the way she speaks about business. She understands the importance of buying and selling quality products, instead of trying to dupe clients into paying too much for something cheap. That way, her clients will trust her and keep coming back. Fatou also pays back her loans as soon as she has the money instead of waiting until the date it is due, which has led to her repaying most of her previous loan well in advance. She knows how important it is to repay on time and repays early to avoid any problems.

Thanks to her longevity with Zidisha and excellent repayment record, Fatou has the distinction of raising the largest loan ever funded through our platform: her fourth and most recent loan was for $4,136!  Fatou used the loan to fund a trip to Italy and Austria so that she could purchase new merchandise that she resells, like shoes, bags, and basin, a thick, shimmering fabric with rich patterns woven into the cloth.

The Senegalese are connoisseurs of fine fabric, and this gorgeous basin fabric is especially prized.  It is imported plain, and traditional artisans hand-dye with the vibrant colors and patterns that make traditional Senegalese clothing so distinctive.  The basin fabric is very in demand at the moment because many Senegalese purchase basin to make into a special embroidered dress, called a boubou, to wear for the holiday Korite (known as Eid outside Senegal) which marks the end of Ramadan. With Korite coming up soon, Fatou has already sold all but one of the basins she brought back!


Basin fabric ready to be dyed and turned into clothing

Fatou also showed us some bags she brought back from Italy. She purchased them for around 13 or 15 euros, about $17-$20, and resells them in Senegal for 19,000 or 20,000 CFA, around $40. She also allows her customers to purchase on credit and pay later for a small fee. Fatou makes a large profit from these sales and she said her merchandise always goes quickly, because she knows she must choose quality products to resell.


One of Fatou’s imported bags

I asked Fatou if it was difficult to travel to countries where she doesn’t know the language, but she said she gets by easily. She had a Senegalese contact in each country, but getting around and shopping for merchandise she did by herself.

Fatou also said that there are Senegalese people everywhere in Europe – she would often run into Senegalese people on the street and they would help her get where she wanted to go. In Senegal, the concept of “teranga” is very important, and it translates loosely to hospitality, though Senegalese hospitality goes above and beyond, and apparently even crosses international borders. In another example of teranga, even though it is Ramadan and she was fasting, Fatou set out coffee and pastries for us when we arrived.

You may view more comments and photos at Fatou’s Zidisha profile page.