Eggs and Education


By Rebecca Wolfe

Benard Onyango is a farmer, accounting assistant, and, above all, a caring and supportive guardian for four boys, all of whom came into his life about six years ago. Benard’s wife at the time had a sibling who died and left behind two sons. At Benard’s insistence, he and his wife brought the oldest of the two, Samuel, into their home. Samuel’s younger brother, Godfrey, proved difficult to track down. He had dropped out of school and joined a group of street children in Eldoret. Samuel, Benard says, was “really devastated but… could do nothing.” Not long after Samuel came to live with them, Benard lost his own older brother and sister-in-law in a “greasy accident.” This couple also left behind two boys – Paul, age eight, and Silmax, age seven. After the burial the two boys, having nowhere else to go, joined their cousin Samuel in their uncle’s house. “With 3 boys now,” Benard says, “life had to change completely.” Benard’s wife did not wish to stay with the family and moved away. All of a sudden, Benard was tasked with raising and providing for three growing young men. Soon enough, that three turned into four. After his wife left, Benard  went in search of Godfrey, finding him on the streets of Eldoret. Convincing him to come back home with him, Benard reunited Samuel with his younger brother, and introduced him to the cousins who had, in effect, become his siblings. This trip to Eldoret, Benard says, “was one of the trying moments,” but he “had faith that [Godfrey] was an innocent boy who was pushed to the wall.” All four of his boys, Benard says, “are very bright and willing to fulfill their dreams in life.”

Benard himself “grew up in a very challenging situation” under his stepmother’s care, with his parents having divorced when he was three. He is familiar with the struggles of a painful childhood. Benard cites this as one of the primary reasons he has been so eager to take in his nephews. “I really understand what they go through,” he says. For six years now Benard has been caring for his boys, and in March of 2016 this care brought Benard to Zidisha. “I was stuck with Samuel’s final exams fees,” he says, “and went to request my long term friend to bail me out. He then told me about Zidisha.” This friend was a new member with Zidisha and, after their talk, sent Benard an invitation to the platform. Within a week of applying, Benard received his first loan. The $150 provided by Zidisha lenders allowed Benard to pay for Samuel’s final exam fees which, in turn, allowed him to graduate. Samuel walked across the stage, receiving his diploma and First Class Honours from Muranga University. With his degree in accounting, he can pursue employment in the financial sector. In Kenya, an accountant makes around 550,000 KES per year – more than four times the national average of around 126,500 KES. Thanks to the determination of a loving guardian, and the help of Zidisha lenders, Samuel can look forward to a life of greater prosperity. In the future, he hopes to enroll in a CPA course, furthering his ability to provide for his brother and cousins, as well as any children he might have himself one day.


Benard repaid this loan out of his wages. Since 2008, just a few years before the boys came into his life, Benard has been working for the Institute for Security Studies. Having begun his tenure as a driver, he is now assisting in accounting and administration, as well as operating as the “authorized agent in the Institute Accounts.” Recently, however, the organization has “been experiencing funding difficulties,” forcing them to lay off twenty-five staff members. Benard was among the few who remained on payroll. The office is now running with a skeleton staff, and will likely be closing down in December. “We are still holding on to faith that… the institute will get funding to continue with their activities,” Benard says, but the very real possibility of his job disappearing, and school fees for Godfrey, Paul, and Silmax on the horizon, has led him to pursue entrepreneurship. With a crowded job market, Benard decided that he would create his own source of income, starting up a small poultry farm in the village where he grew up. “It’s still in its early stages,” he says, “but I have high hopes it will grow rapidly with the help of Zidisha.”

Around the same time as Samuel’s graduation in June, Benard applied for his second Zidisha loan. He had already purchased chickens and wire mesh, but required financial assistance to fund a fencing project. With unenclosed land, Benard’s chickens were vulnerable to theft, disease, and simply getting lost. Benard’s loan was quickly funded, and he immediately took to constructing the fence, keeping his chickens from harm and allowing him to better support his boys. This poultry business alone, Benard says, will pay for Godfrey’s school fees.

It was not very long ago that Godfrey, the second eldest of Benard’s boys, had joined a group of street boys in Eldoret after dropping out of school. “He had already given up in life,” Benard said, “because he had nowhere to turn to.” Benard gave him a place to turn, and this year, “to prove the world wrong,” Godfrey was his school’s top student on the KCPE exams. The next step for Godfrey is high school, but with further education comes further financial strain. Benard put out a large number of scholarship applications, but came up empty handed as the school year approached. In the end, he was forced to use a small part of his second loan to directly finance Godfrey’s enrollment. This, however, is really what the money was intended for all along – an education and a chance at a more prosperous future, a chance that Benard is doing everything to provide for his boys.

In early September Benard posted photos to his discussion page, sharing the progress of his farm. Fencing was up, and chickens were roaming. With three more boys to put through school, Benard hopes that his chickens continue to thrive. He is making plans to expand his farm to include dairy cows, as well considering starting a taxi business. Such endeavors require significant effort but Benard says he believes “that a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step, and that is the step I have already taken.” With Zidisha lenders walking Benard’s road with him, the path ahead looks a bit smoother, the climb a bit less steep. There are many steps to come on this journey that has already begun, and together, with Benard, his boys, and the Zidisha community, these steps will lead to great places.

If you would like to journey with a member of your global community, head on over to our loans page and help fund an entrepreneur’s dreams.


Seeing the Light


by Rebecca Wolfe

The soft fibers of the wick flicker, crumble, and flame, feeding off the kerosene that seeps into its weave. A fuzzy hum something like the noise of far off crickets fills the cinderblock home. A dim, orange light casts long shadows along the empty floor. A student takes his papers over to the small table and sits, squinting as he scratches out the solutions to the problem sets he was assigned. He coughs, blinks, and coughs again.

“Growing up in the village… raised by my great grandmother, kerosene lamps were the only affordable source of lighting.” These are the words of Francis Mbewe, a shop owner, clean energy advocate, and Zidisha borrower. Using kerosene lamps to study for his grade seven and grade nine exams, Francis wound up with a cough that forced him to miss school for two weeks. While Francis did face hardship throughout his education, he made it all the way through to university, where he began his journey as an entrepreneur. Struggling to find the funds to purchase his textbooks, he got creative. By taking on several part-time and weekend jobs Francis was able to gather enough capital to purchase a set of refurbished phones, which he resold to fellow students for a small profit. It was a successful venture. Francis was not only able to buy his textbooks but also to expand his business, developing the small sales production into the shop he owns and operates today. Francis’ business, Royal Towers Zambia offers a plethora of technologically oriented services, from music downloads to phone charging, software installation to printing. Francis says that he chose to enter into this technology based business because “there was no one providing these services under one roof.” He knew that he could bring it all together in one place, creating a one-stop-technology-shop for his community.

While Francis’ business was doing fairly well, he did not have the capital that he needed to expand his services and create more opportunities for his family – his “lovely and caring” wife of four years, Thelma, their three-year-old daughter Nadalisika, and their second child who is on the way. Francis was looking for opportunities to increase his capital, and that is how he came to find Zidisha. “I did not take it very seriously the first time because it was too good to be true,” he says, speaking of his first encounter with peer-to-peer lending via a Facebook post about a year ago. A while later, however, Francis was visiting a friend who told him about Zidisha and how it could be a good fit for his business. So, Francis decided to give it a shot.


Francis received his first Zidisha loan in March of 2016. His application, for a sum of $200, requested funding to purchase a toner printer, which would make large printing orders less expensive and more reliable. Zidisha lenders made this switch to a toner printer possible, increasing the shop’s printing profits by 60% in the first two months. In an update to his lenders Francis said that the increase in income helped him to better the nutrition of himself and his family, as well as pay his daughter’s school fees. It also enabled him to repay his loan and lay the groundwork for expanding his business into a new venture: providing solar lamps for those not connected to electricity.

This venture is Francis’ work of passion. Having spent many nights doing school work by the dim flame of a harmful kerosene lamp, he knew that wanted to help his community become free from the toxic light source. “Looking back,” he says, “I feel bad when I see any household in my village still using kerosene to light their homes or even to study. That’s why I launched my social business to distribute solar lamps to every household in my community. No student should be allowed to go through the challenges I went through! All students should have a chance to own a solar lamp and study for as many hours as they want.”

Following after this passion, Francis posted his second loan application in June of 2016. This loan, for a sum of $321, was to serve as the start-up capital for his goal of providing solar lamps to his entire community. “Energy poverty is pervasive in rural and slum communities of Chipata,” Francis said in his discussion page. “Over 70% of the population is not connected to electricity and still uses traditional sources of energy. Many rely on kerosene lamps for lighting. Each kerosene lamp releases a ton of carbon dioxide smoke every year, contributing to global warming and creating risks of burns, pneumonia, bronchitis, and lung cancer. The [kerosene] lamps are too dim for good reading and kerosene purchases eat up family income.” The average household, he said, spent $85 per year on kerosene for light and cooking. His business, Royal Towers Zambia, he said, was working toward a new goal of “distributing solar lamps to students and families so that we replace kerosene use with clean solar lamps that are affordable and lights 10x more than a kerosene lamp.” With solar lamps costing just $15, and coming with a one-year warranty, the replacement of kerosene with this product has the possibility of saving a family up to $70, “which they can use to improve their nutrition intake or invest in their children’s education.” One of Francis’ lenders praised his effort and Francis replied with thanks. “It’s a Social Business,” he said. “Helping people while making money to support my family.”


With his second loan fully funded Francis was able to purchase 30 solar lamps, which he distributed to students and families, “the most vulnerable people and communities who constantly continue using unreliable sources of energy for lighting and cooking.” Adding solar lamps to his business also increased Francis’ income by 60%, allowing him to raise his family’s standard of living as well as contribute to the greater health of his community. “Thank you so so very much for this great opportunity I have been given to grow my business from all of you my lenders.”

In mid-July Francis posted to his discussion page. “To all my lenders, I want you to meet Rachel Zulu, our very first client of the solar lamps we are selling.” Rachel, a young mother in Francis’ community, lives in a home without electricity. Her typical light sources were candles and kerosene, which were expensive and unreliable, affecting her daughters’ ability to study at home as well as her family’s health. Rachel’s purchase of a solar lamp, Francis said, would save her $310 over the course of 5 years. Another ten days after that, Francis introduced James Mwanza, another solar lamp client. A husband and father of 3, he and his family lived in a community without electricity and used kerosene as their main source of light. “Every year,” Francis said, “James spends $200 to light his house so that the children can study and also to light his small shop that brings income for the family.” The purchase of a solar lamp, Francis said, would save James’ family “over $1,000 in the next 5 years!” James had said that his children had “problems with the smoke that used to come from the kerosene lamps and their health was at risk.” With a solar lamp, this was no longer a risk. “James has no access to the internet,” Francis said, “And can’t access the loans here on Zidisha, but indirectly you are helping James save more and live a life that is worth living!”

In September, Francis shared the story of Doreen Bwalya, a “good friend and neighbor” to Rachel, his first solar customer. A mother of five, Doreen and her family live in an area of Chipata where “89% of the population still lives on less than $1.5 a day.” At night, Doreen had been lighting her home with candles. To ensure that the candles would last as long as possible, she and her family only lit them for a few minutes in order to prepare for bed. “This broke my heart,” Francis said, “because when I go home every day, I have electricity… it’s a privilege that sometimes I have taken for granted in the past.” Doreen saw a bright light coming from her neighbor Rachel’s house and went to ask her what it was. Rachel told her about the solar lamp, and the next day when Francis arrived to open his shop, Doreen was waiting there for him. After crunching the numbers, Doreen bought a lamp, delighted at the impact it would make for her children’s studies and her family’s ability to light their home.


Francis is passionate about his business and the impact that it is making for people in his community. Excited by the possibilities of solar technology, he is working toward a clean energy future for his friends and neighbors. With the increase in profits from Royal Towers Zambia, Francis has been able to begin construction on a home for his family, which should be finished by June of 2017. This building, he says, “will be powered 100% by solar energy… every single day am working on moving from grid electricity to clean energy lighting.”

An astute businessman and passionate community member, Francis is making his community a safer, healthier, and more productive place. “Thank you again all my lenders,” Francis says at the end of his updates. “Always know that not only are you improving my life and that of my family, but you also impacting lives of many families in my community!”

Francis’ business is still going strong. With three sales people and a security guard now in his employ, Francis is seeing his dream grow. The Royal Towers Zambia team has a goal for 2017—to distribute 1000 lamps to the people of Chipata. “With Zidisha and all the lenders supporting our cause,” Francis says, “the goal is achievable!”

To keep up with Francis’ and his journey, follow him here. If you would like to make a life-changing difference in another community, invest in an entrepreneur over on our loans page.


Weaving Promise


by Rebecca Wolfe

Promise Badu loves his work and loves to share it. Operator of Dogbeda Vormawu Kente Training Center in the Volta region of Ghana, the twenty-seven-year-old has a passion for teaching others.

“The aspect I do enjoy most about my work is telling people (tourists) the history of the art/fabric, and teaching it.” Giving a portion of his tour speech, Promise elaborated. “Kente weaving is an ancient indigenous method in which thread (any colour) is set on a loom and woven into strips that are later sewn together into larger tapestries. These cloths are used for ceremonial events in Ghana. It can also be used as wall hangings, table cloths and the like. This ancient art has gained international recognition and tourists come from around the world to see how it’s made.”

Promise has, in some ways, followed in the family footsteps. Raised in a single parent household, he lived with and learned from his father, a master kente weaver and founder of the kente center that Promise now operates. All throughout his formal education, Promise was also receiving instruction in kente weaving. “As a kid,” he says, “I use to stay with [my father] and watch him do it, and helped him after school and on vacations.” His father had little taste for academics and so struck a bargain with his son: he would pay for his school fees until he came of age if Promise worked with him in the kente center on school vacations. Even with assistance from his father, Promise sometimes found it difficult to gather the funds to pay for his fees and textbooks, and often went to school without money for lunch. Promise fought to finish his education, and succeeded, graduating from Agortime Senior High School.

Soon after graduation Promise was hired by the president of Trinity Yard School, a fee-free vocational-secondary school on the west coast of Ghana. Working as the school’s kente instructor four years, Promise “learnt from the kids (students) and also made friends with visiting groups and volunteers from the US and other parts of the globe.” While there, Promise trained a young man named James Awotwe Niffio. Promise described him as “a smart, hardworking guy,” who struggled in formal lessons, but thrived in kente class. A 2012 graduate of Trinity Yard School, James has recently stepped into Promise’s shoes as the school’s official kente instructor. Furthering his own kente education, James is also “undergoing an intensive internship training at the center.”

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Graduation at Trinity Yard School

In the course of his time at Trinity Yard School, Promise came to strongly identify with the school’s mission to “educate and empower the youth… to honor the potential of young Ghanaians.” This is a vision which Promise now applies to his own community in the east of Ghana. “My dream is to raise the less privileged in my community with the help of my business,” he says. “Creating a business avenue to help them get a vocation on their own.” Most of the young people in his community, he says, “have limited access to formal education due to high levels of penury.” This is a struggle which Promise understands. “I have also gone through the same plight,” he says with great empathy. “I know the zeal embedded in these youths, but due to limited resources, they can’t realize their potential.” Lack of opportunities and resources is a condition which Promise hopes to change. He wants to provide “jobs to the jobless, training and educating the youths.” He praises Trinity Yard School, and its founder Rory Jackson, as a “LIGHT in the lives of many.” His time there, he says, “has motivated me to replicate his ideas… turning the center into a light in my community as well, because kids here need same thing.”

Promise long held a dream to empower the youth of his community, but without access to capital, struggled to see how it might come to fruition. After finishing up his time at Trinity Yard School and passing the baton of kente instruction on to his former pupil James, Promise returned to his hometown and began to develop a plan for growing the family kente center to accommodate such an effort. In April of 2015, Promise applied for his first Zidisha loan, one of the first major steps in his new and ambitious project.


Strips of Kente Cloth

This first loan, for the small sum of $46.75, allowed Promise to repair several broken looms. Faithfully and efficiently repaying this loan, Promise established financial credibility with lenders. With his second loan, $93.50 funded in June of 2015 by three Zidisha lenders, Promise purchased colorful skeins of yarn. These first two loans helped Promise put “stuff in place” in the kente shop, developing capital and resources, building toward Promise’s long term goal of youth empowerment. Six months after this second loan, having repaid his lenders and spent the summer and fall building infrastructure and laying groundwork for a youth engagement and occupational training program, Promise again applied to Zidisha. This loan, a credit of $262 disbursed in January 2016, covered the start-up cost of employing three young members of Promise’s Ghanaian community.

In the ten months since this second loan was received, Promise has fully repaid his lenders and his training program has grown considerably. An August 2016 loan of $348, the most recent sum to date, enabled the purchase of yarns, shuttles, bobbins, and other materials for weaving, as well as supplied the funds to hire two additional young employees. “These loans helped greatly in laying the foundation of the dream,” Promise says.

At this time, the Dogbeda Vormawu Kente Training Center employs nine people. Three work on a full-time basis, two are in training, and four operate on contract. “Work normally starts at 7 AM,” Promise says, describing a typical day at Dogbeda. “You have everyone busy in their various looms, except those training may be assigned to other things.” Weavers take breaks as needed throughout the day, closing up shop around 5 PM, though sometimes special projects will keep them there until 8.

As Promise’s business grows, so do his dreams. “I have been using the funds I get from the sales of these beautiful kente clothes as a source of income to enlarge, renew, and purchase more working materials for my center.” He is delighted at the success of the program, grateful for the opportunity to employ young people in his community. Ultimately, he wants to see the center expand to locations all across Africa. “I want to be a source of motivation and inspiration,” he says. “I always count myself fortunate to have gotten to this level of my business in which I can give a helping hand to few people in my community. My dream is to see more of them not only inspired and motivated but make available resources and jobs for them.”


Promise’s Training Center

“I would like to say a big thank you to the Zidisha team, lenders, and to all that are making this program work effectively to help young entrepreneurs raise and expand their business,” he said on his loan profile. “I believe with the help of this platform and the support of the best lenders, together we can achieve the targeted goals, that is making a difference by providing jobs and positioning the youths for the future in my community.”

With a name like Promise it is likely that this young man knows better than most the potential for ingenuity, for bright and productive futures, that young Ghanaians hold. He himself is an example of this promise; promise coming to fruition. Thanks to Promise’s effort and dreams, and financial support from Zidisha lenders, more young people will have the opportunity to fulfill their promise and see their communities grow and thrive.

If you would like to assist another entrepreneur of promise, head over to our loans page and contribute to one of the loan applications posted there. Help a community thrive and a business grow.


Needle and Thread


by Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

The whirr of a sewing machine fills the little room, the gentle noise softening the edges of the day. Aat Atikah sits at her table, using both hands to guide a strip of fabric beneath the needle as it bobs. She settles into the familiar, soothing rhythm of sewing. She blinks, her eyes keeping up with flash of thread through a pattern of flowers. This is going to be a beautiful dress.

Aat Atikah, called Atik by her friends, family, and lenders, is a wife, mother, and designer in Bogor, Indonesia. Age 38, Atik has three children. The oldest, a son, is 21 years old and lives elsewhere in their island nation. The two younger daughters, ages 15 and 1, live at home with their mother and father. Since the birth of her first child, Atik has been a stay-at-home mother, leaving her eight-year job as a tailor in a garment factory upon confirmation of her pregnancy.

As a young woman, Atik says, “I had a lot of dreams that I wanted to achieve.” She had big plans to build a clothing empire. “I wanted to be a woman entrepreneur who has a large industrial garment factory,” she said. She wanted to “Provide jobs for the needy… Help my beloved family’s economic welfare.” When Atik became a mother, however, she put that dream on hold.

Spending her days in the role of what Atik terms a “normal housewife,” Atik has provided for the needs of her family physically, emotionally, and mentally. As her children grew older, Atik began to have some free time. With her entrepreneurial spirit firmly intact, she took up sewing for neighbors and relatives. As word of her excellent tailoring work spread, Atik began to receive requests from people she did not even know. Atik had, inadvertently, launched a small tailoring service. This business grew, and allowed her to provide a supplemental income to increase her family’s economic welfare.

Presently, Atik is able to accept and fill one order a day. She alters pants, makes shirts, and designs dresses. You name it, she sews it. With customers paying an average of $2 to $10, depending on the complexity of the order, Atik brings in $14 to $70 per week. As her husband is the family’s primary breadwinner, Atik is able to contribute to the family’s funds while also putting some money away for future investments. Currently, Atik says, “I have only one dream. I just want to be happy with my lovely family.” Familial happiness and entrepreneurship need not be mutually exclusive, though, and this is something she well knows.

With her skills and expertise lying in the realm of fashion, Atik is well prepared for a venture into clothing and textiles. The dreams of her youth are coming back to life, coming off hold. “I really want to have a bigger, industrial clothing production and employ many employees,” she said in her January 2016 application for a $50 loan. “But I know it cannot be achieved easily, cannot be instant. There must be a process that I go through to achieve success. Therefore, at this time, I would like to start from zero.” Her zero is what she calls her “little tailor shop,” the table in her home where she slides her seams beneath the whirring needle of the sewing machine. With her first loan, Atik purchased a stock of fabric, and that fabric turned into profit.


Atik is working, “slowly but surely,” toward her long term goal of a clothing empire. Six months after her first loan, she returned to Zidisha. “I am very happy I know this site and all of you,” she said. “This program has much helped my business grow up.” With her second loan, a larger sum of $200, Atik plans to buy a new sewing machine. “Yipiiee hehe,” she exclaimed in a discussion post. “I will buy a machine to make my production better. Hope all lenders… know and trust me and can help me again.”

As Atik has said, there is much hard work ahead of her. With help, however, from Zidisha lenders, she has come several steps closer to reaching her goals. Hard work and determination can take a person far, and with a little help from friends around the world, anything is possible.

If you would like to make something possible for an entrepreneur, head over to our loans page and contribute to the project of another self-starter like Atik.



Hope in the Hills


By Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

The sun beats down. Sweltering waves of heat and light bake the red, dusty roads of Ngong, Kenya. A motorcycle drives along, stopping and parking beneath the corrugated tin awning of Dannex Motorbike Spares & Repairs. The rider dismounts his bike and walks inside where he is greeted by the shop’s owner, Daniel Maluli, Daniel’s wife, and one of the two mechanics that the shop employs. His bike is one many in the area, the number of which is steadily increasing. Most all of the riders, when they need repairs, come here to Daniel’s place. The parts they need are always in stock.

Daniel Maluli is a husband, father, and Zidisha borrower. Not only that, he is a Zidisha mentor and something of a Zidisha evangelist; he has invited twenty-four members to join and shares his business expertise with another forty-seven. Daniel has received funding for four microloans, with the access to financial capital significantly increasing the capacity and revenue of his repair shop. Over the course of the last year, he has been able to obtain and renew his business license, increase his inventory, and hire a second mechanic. In June of 2016, roughly three months after the receipt of his most recent loan of $563, Daniel posted on his discussion page. “I really don’t know where I would be today if it was not for Zidisha!” He said. “My livelihood has really changed dramatically thanks to Zidisha.”

Born in a rural area, Daniel attended primary and secondary school, going on to study shipping in Mombasa. He succeeded in his academic pursuits but, unable to pay the exam fee for his final evaluation, could not complete his course of study. Following this, Daniel was hired as a trainee at a 5-star hotel in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city and a popular tourist destination. Located on an island, the city boasts beautiful white-sand beaches and a large collection of historic and colonial sights. After working at the hotel for four months, Daniel was offered a position as a reservation clerk. Taking quickly to his new role, Daniel enrolled in an evening Travel and Tourism class, paying his own way through to the Consultant level. He sat for and passed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) exams in 2013 and received full accreditation as an IATA travel agent, granting him greater access to the travel industry.


The next year, encouraged by his success as a travel agent, Daniel opened a motorbike repair shop in his new residence of Ngong Town on the southwestern side of Nairobi. Nestled into the beautiful, sloping Ngong hills, the town has lots of motorbikes. Buzzing and rumbling up and down the narrow roads, two wheels are better than four for traversing across the lush green slopes, sailing past the gleaming white windmills and squat little shrubs that freckle the hills. Daniel chose his market well. His profits were significant, “almost 100%”, and his business was growing. He found, however, that he could not always keep up with demand. As the number of bikes in the area increased, so did the need for parts and repairs. Though he still worked as a travel agent, his income was not enough to significantly increase his inventory.

It was in the midst of this struggle that Daniel found Zidisha. “When I saw Zidisha and how it has built people up through lending them money, at 0% interest rate, to grow their businesses, that gave me the courage to believe that my dreams are attainable,” he said. Receiving a $50 loan in August of 2015, Daniel was able to invest in licensure and inventory. Two and a half months later, Daniel proposed another loan of $100. With this loan funded, he was able to meet the increasing demands of the community as the weather was getting colder and “During the rainy season, motorbike tires record the highest sales.” Daniel provided his lenders with a detailed list of costs and counts, profits and projections for his new purchases. “The stock doesn’t even last for one week,” he said, “as every client is rushing to buy before the rain hits the ground.” In December of 2015, Daniel brought another loan proposal to the table, again with a detailed list of costs and profits projected from the $199 investment he hoped lenders would make. This loan, he said, “will see my business grow, step by step.”

Lenders came through, and with their help, Daniel has accomplished much. His motorbike shop is thriving and growing, and he has been able to gather the capital to register his own tourism company called Sceneric Tours and Safari. He hopes that his bike shop will enable him to invest more in Sceneric Tours, with a long term goal of expanding the business to branches country wide. Since receiving his fourth loan in March of 2016, Daniel has been very active on his discussion board. He posts often – every other week or so – updating lenders on business ventures, sharing concerns about health issues, thanking his supporters and wishing them well. “This really is a dream come true,” he writes.

Daniel shares photos of his family as well, proudly announcing the first day of school for his youngest, Mary Kaveke, and sharing his affection for his oldest, Hervey. Though Daniel has faced many challenges throughout his life, he has responded to these difficulties with determination, not defeat. He has created employment opportunities for members of his community, having hired two mechanics as well as several young people from the community to work the counter. He has repaid all of his loans in good faith and on time, and hopes to, one day, become a Zidisha lender himself.

In March of 2016, responding to a lender’s glowing feedback on his profile, Daniel wrote, “Thank you, Laurie, and I promise not to ever let you or any other lenders down. I will always do what it takes to uphold my trust with lenders throughout. It’s my hope that one day, after achieving my goals, I will also join the good lenders we have here on Zidisha so I can also touch a life.” Laurie replied with wisdom. “You are most welcome, Daniel,” she wrote. “And while I know what you mean, wanting to help others financially (which I’m sure one day you, too, will be able to do), I want you to know… that you and so many of the people I’ve met through Zidisha already *do* touch other lives… and in ways just as important and maybe even more important than financially.”

Zidisha lenders have made a difference in Daniel’s life, and the lives of his family members. Daniel makes a difference in the lives of his mentees, his invitees, and employees, to name only a few. Daniel has found hope for the fruition of his dreams in a little shop in the Ngong hills. Many of his lenders have found hope in watching him succeed.

If you would like to give the gift of hope today, head over to our loans page and make a contribution to another world-changing entrepreneur.

The Clack of Keyboards

by Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern


The clack of keyboards is a constant sound in Elijah Mwenja’s life. The sounds of a computer mouse sliding across a mousepad and a customer’s laughter as she jokes with her friend seated at the computer station next to her are likely also very common occurrences in his busy cybercafé in Githuri, an area of Narobi, Kenya.

Elijah is an amazing example of a self-starter. Entering the workforce in the construction industry, he saved what he could and eventually stored up enough to start his own poultry business in 2008. Entering the realm of entrepreneurship through this endeavor, Elijah grew his business to a capital of more than ten times the funds that he began with. Three years down the road, he was ready for a change. Having a long-standing interest in computers and networking, Elijah, his wife, and his son, started up the cybercafé in 2012. The café is a gift to local residents, enabling them to access information, communicate with distant friends and family, and type up and print their personal, business, and academic documents.

In January of 2015 the booming business began to take its toll on Elijah’s supplies. His café’s printer had worn-out nozzles and was no longer printing as it should. Around that same time Francis Kamau – a neighbor, friend, Zidisha microloan recipient, and owner of a Nairobi hair salon – invited Elijah to join Zidisha. With a small, $100 loan funded by nineteen different lenders from Europe and North America, Elijah was able to buy replacement parts and have the printer professionally repaired. The printer was soon up and running again, shooting jets of black ink onto smooth white pages. Six months later, having faithfully and efficiently repaid his previous loan, Elijah posted another proposal to Zidisha. This loan of $187, funded in June 2015 by a single lender, allowed Elijah to expand his cybercafé business to include a new computer, reducing customer wait time and increasing profit. In later updates, Elijah stated that this new unit was “one of the computers that [his] clients prefer using.”

As Elijah and his family continued to prosper, Elijah’s wife began to see her long-held dream of continuing her formal education as a financial possibility. Possessing a “gift and passion for business,” and boasting a strong track record of successful business development, Elijah’s wife hoped to pursue a degree in business. In December 2015, that hope came to fruition. Elijah applied for a Zidisha loan of $366, a sum which covered the cost of the first installment of tuition fees at Kenya’s Zetech University. Elijah’s wife enrolled in the program, and is now beginning the first semester of her second year, becoming one of an increasing number of women in higher education in Kenya. Making swift use of her education, Elijah’s wife has taken over the management of the family’s cybercafé business.

With his wife managing the cybercafé, Elijah has begun work as a local business consultant. Inspired by his community and other entrepreneurs in his area, Elijah wishes to “utilize [his] professional skills to help other businesses.” He now shares his expertise in business, bookkeeping, and credit management, and his work has helped neighboring business to keep better track of their fiscal performance. Currently, with the help of a $564 Zidisha microloan, Elijah is entering into a master’s degree program. He says that “most businesses in Kenya are struggling with strategy management and practitioners in this sector are few.” With the knowledge he will gain through his master’s, Elijah will be better equipped to handle “complex assignments in strategy management” and “be of benefit to the community at large because they would no longer be entering into businesses without a projected growth plan.”

Elijah and his family have been able to repay all loans which they have taken out, in full and on time. They have grown their business and improved their standard of living. Throughout the loan process, Elijah has provided regular updates to his lenders, expressing profound gratitude, sharing his joy about his thriving businesses.

The clack of a keyboard is, for Elijah Mwenja, quite likely the sound of hope, education, and a successful entrepreneurial endeavor. It is a sound that has been made possible in Elijah’s life through the loans of Zidisha lenders. Now, by sharing his business expertise, Elijah is able to help other entrepreneurs thrive. Just as he and his family are now sharing their success with their community, many other people in Kenya will soon be able to do the same. One thriving business fosters another. One generous neighbor creates another.

If you’d like to be a generous neighbor, clack out a number and contribute to the success of one the other self-starters profiled on our loans page.


Zidisha is hiring a remote engineer


Update: This position has been filled.

We’re looking for a remote engineer to help us:

  • Build out our nonprofit P2P microlending platform using the PHP Laravel framework
  • Bring opportunity to some of the world’s poorest places by connecting them to a marketplace that’s independent of geography
  • Develop the world’s first direct P2P microlending community – a model that is revolutionizing access to finance in developing countries

Our technology stack: PHP, Laravel Framework, Propel ORM, Elasticsearch, Ansible, Vagrant, Composer, Git, Github, PHPUnitTest, Twitter Bootstrap, Rackspace Cloud, Nginx, jQuery, many third-party APIs (Facebook, Google, Stripe, Paypal, Telerivet, SendWithUs, SiftScience, Geoip2, Phpexcel, Supremenewmedia, guzzelhttp, laravel-phone).

What You’ll Do

As our sole engineering hire (for now), here are some things you might do:

  • Refactor our Laravel 5 codebase
  • Add and update unit tests
  • Optimize queues (Beanstalkd) and database queries to handle a rapidly growing transaction volume
  • User experience improvements: smarter loan project search results, customizable email digests for lenders, loan balance queries via SMS for borrowers, etc.
  • Work with data scientists to integrate credit risk prediction algorithm updates (Python)
  • Interact with our borrowers and lenders via email for technical questions
  • Help with other activities as necessary in a startup

About Us

Zidisha is a Y Combinator nonprofit and the first direct peer-to-peer lending service to bridge the international wealth divide, allowing individuals in the US and internationally to lend to and communicate with borrowers in developing countries without local intermediaries. We’ve been featured in numerous press and media for our groundbreaking work in using internet and mobile phone technologies to connect entrepreneurs in some of the world’s most isolated and impoverished places with the international peer-to-peer lending market.

Our mostly-volunteer team is distributed worldwide.  You’ll work with founder and front-end developer Julia Kurnia, and with our volunteers and interns via Skype, email and our team forum. Opportunities for greater responsibility / leadership will continue to open up as we grow.

About You

You’re not satisfied with a conventional job: you’re compelled to use your time and energy to make an important impact on the world.

You believe the international wealth divide is the major injustice of our time, and have dedicated your life to solving it.  You have a substantial track record of paid or volunteer work on some aspect of this issue.

You’re happy working remotely.  You prefer structuring your own work days and being alone to focus on a project.  You’ve figured out the work-life balance that’s right for you, and your social life is independent of the workplace.

You’re upbeat and consistently exude positive energy.  You think independently, take responsibility for the overall success of the organization, and have the maturity to speak your mind in a constructive way.  You communicate clearly in English.

You’re extraordinarily disciplined with time management.  You comfortably prioritize competing projects, making obvious, substantial progress on the most important goals each working day.  You pace yourself reasonably to avoid burnout.

You’re excited about pioneering something that’s never before been done.  You’re comfortable with ambiguity and lots of unknowns.  You understand that innovation requires constant experimentation and change.  You expect to modify and replace much of what you build as our lending model evolves.

If you aren’t an expert at our technology stack already, you can become one quickly.  You have extensive experience with refactoring substantial codebases and applying unit testing.  You’re comfortable with being the most expert engineer on the team and taking responsibility for the quality of our codebase.

You’re a fast, independent learner. You have a network of people and resources you can tap for advice.  You keep yourself up to date on the latest technology and security best practices, and take responsibility for applying them as appropriate.

About This Job

This opportunity is open to people of any nationality.  You can live and work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

We may consider both part-time and full-time engagements, depending on your situation.  Hours are flexible; you can work any time of the day or night.  Your productivity should speak for itself, rather than number of hours spent.

We have an open vacation policy: take whatever is reasonable and right for you (we recommend minimum two weeks per year).

We’re committed to fair compensation that is competitive with comparable nonprofit positions in your location.

Most likely, we’ll start with a trial period of one to three months.  If the fit is right for everyone, we’ll move to a long-term relationship.

How To Apply

Send an email with your resume to  Answer these questions:

  • Tell us about yourself.
  • How are you spending your time today?  Describe what you personally are building, either for a larger organization or your own project(s).
  • Describe any previous experience working with a team remotely.
  • Include a link to your GitHub page and a sample of code you’ve written.
  • Out of all the worthwhile things you could do with your time, why do you want to invest it in Zidisha?
  • If you had just five years left to live, how would you spend your time?