The Zambian Craftsman

Matthews Kasamka 10

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Mathews Kasamika was born and raised in Mpika, a small rural village in northern Zambia. He was born into a large family and completed his primary and secondary school studies locally. After finishing school in 2001, he began selling homemade ice cream in the streets of his community. With the proceeds, he was able to raise the funds to attend a mission school. After finishing his program, he began working as a volunteer mission worker through his church which he continues to do today. In addition, he is also happily married, has one child, and loves playing volleyball in his free time.

To support his family, Mathews decided to enter the arts and crafts business where he also does t-shirt printing. Zidisha has proven to be a great partner for him as his lenders are able to help him grow and expand his business in ways that he wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

With his business profits he is able to invest in other ventures such as a poultry farm. So far, Matthews has acquired 5 Zidisha funded loans. With his first loan of $63 in February of 2017, he purchased printing ink to print t-shirts.

For his second loan, in April, 2017, he had a very practical request. He decided that buying a bicycle would be a smart move as he spent a significant amount of time and money on transportation costs. He was spending $20 a month just to get to and from his workplace and this did not even include the additional transportation costs to visit his clients. For as little as $90 he could purchase a bicycle of his own.

A few months later, in June 2017 and in August 2017, he was ready for two more loans. While his business and work were going well, he hoped that Zidisha lenders would assist him with a project at home. His home was not unfinished, however, with the help of his faithful lenders, he was able to pay for cement, door frames, building sand, and labor costs. He shares, ‘First and foremost I thank you all my lenders for my past loans, you have really made my life lot more easy.’

On August 31, he updated lenders and shared, ‘Thank you so much my lenders for having confidence in me. I will use the money to buy cement, sand, door frames and to pay for the labour cost of plastering the inside part of my house. I am very grateful for the help you have given me. May the Almighty God bless you.’

Matthews Kasamka 3

The completed plastering job!


Most recently, in December 2017, Matthews secured his fifth loan. With $788 from lenders he was able to purchase an egg incubator for his poultry business. As a multifaceted entrepreneur, he was ready to shift gears, and make progress in his poultry farm. He explains, ‘The incubator will help me grow my poultry business, at the current time I’m spending a lot paying for incubation service. If I buy my own incubator I will cut on incubation costs and I will be able to raise some extra money through incubation services. Your assistance towards raising this loan will be highly appreciated as it will greatly boost my business.’

On December 23, Matthews proudly shared, ‘Hi lenders, this is the incubator I have bought from the loan I got from Zidisha. Thank you so much for your help. This will greatly improve my business.’ Then, exactly one month later, he was back with an additional update, ‘Hi lenders I just want to let you know that I have already started using the incubator. On 20th January, 2018 I had my first hatched chicks. I’m always grateful for your support.’

If you’re ready to make a difference in a family or individual who will really appreciate it, head on over to our Lend page  to read dozens of stories of hardworking entrepreneurs.


With Zidisha, He Can Do More

John Okoth 11

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

‘My name is John Okoth. I’m a fatal orphan with no mother, father, sister or a brother, I just stand alone. My mum and dad left me while I was only 4 months old. My grandmother was the one who took care of me. Unfortunately she also passed away.’

With such a rough start at life, it would be easy to assume that John continued to struggle throughout his early adulthood, holding a grudge against the unfair cards that were dealt to him. However, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, he shares, ‘When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide will turn.’

So, how did John the orphan grow up into John the wise truth teller? After his grandmother passed away he went to live with his aunt where he started his education in Eldoret town. He attended Obambo primary school in 2002 and finished his class 8 in 2008. After that, he joined Chianda boys high school in 2009, unfortunately, he had to drop out as he didn’t have a way to pay the required school fees.

Shortly after, John went to live with his aunt in Nairobi. However, after two months, his aunt’s husband chased him out of the house. Luckily for John, opportunity was just around the corner. In January 2011, his friends father agreed to employ him as a home cleaner. After 3 months, he was able to save enough money to quit that job and start selling mtumba clothes. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he also enrolled in a computer training course. After finishing the computer training in 2012, he acquired a job at Josflo Supermarket as a cashier. After proving to be a great employee he was promoted to a management and accounting role to work with the suppliers.

Currently, John continues to work in the supermarket and also has a mini shop on the side selling mtumba clothes. Since he is so busy in his day job, he is able to employ his best friend to run the clothing shop for him. Each of his Zidisha funded loans has helped him to continue to grow his shop and increase his inventory.

He shares, ‘Life is full of many challenges but we have not to give up on whatever we are doing no matter how it is, we never know about tomorrow.’

So far, John has raised 5 Zidisha funded loans ranging from $3 all the way up to $693. His first two loans in July and August of 2017 were used to cover travel expenses as he needed to purchase raw materials in his business. Shortly after, his third loan of $10 in September and his fourth loan of $298 were put towards purchasing stock for his shop. He knew that this would allow him to sell to more customers and also to expand his shop over time.

By January of 2018, John was in need of a fifth loan of $693 from Zidisha lenders. One of the amazing things about the Zidisha community and lenders is that they are able to help borrowers when they really need it the most. This loan allowed John to both meet his business needs of restocking his shop and to assist personally as well. In terms of his business, this loan allowed him to replace his crushed smartphone so that he could reach his Zidisha account via phone rather than searching for a cyber cafe.

In addition, on a personal level, he also used $168 of the loan to pay his cousins school fees for two terms. His cousin had lost both of her parents as the result of a road accident and as her guardian, John felt that it was important to be able to keep her in school.

John Okoth 9

In February 2018, John gladly shared this message with his lenders, ‘I do not have enough words to express my gratitude in you my lenders. For now, I want to tell you a heartfelt thank you! Never stop learning because life will never stop teaching. It means that you are never going to be the most wise person in the world because life can discover anything anytime.’

Today, John is also engaged and shares that he is ready for marriage, relaying this final message to his lenders:

‘Thank you Zidisha for your support, because with you, I know I can do more in my life.’

Would you like to be the change maker for other encouraging entrepreneurs? Don’t forget to head over to our Lend page to read their stories!

The Animal Farm


By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Frederick Cudjor is a poultry farmer from  Agona Swedru in the Central Region of Ghana. He attended the Swedru School of Business and graduated in 2004 before continuing on the University of Cope Coast. He is now married with 2 kids, and runs his animal farm on top of his other responsibilities.

Frederick found himself at a crossroads in his business as he needed additional capital to grow his farm. Fortunately, his partnership with Zidisha has allowed him to do just that!

Frederick successfully acquired his first $150 loan through Zidisha in September of 2015. He shares, ‘We wish to increases our production to feed the local market and also create employment for youth in the community, the loan will be used in buying feed, day old chicks and other farm equipment for production. We hope this is going to go a long way to help our dream of producing good poultry product for Ghana. This will also help us to produce on a larger scale.’

As a farmer, there is always work to be done and new problems that need solving. For Frederick, this meant that by November, he needed another infusion of cash to keep his farm running. With a Zidisha loan of $299 he attended to a whole host of problems including: ‘buying additional feed and drugs, purchasing new breeds of livestock and day old chicks, paying for transportation to a veterinary officer to visit the farm weekly and building new pens for the pigs.’

Before working with Zidisha, a common problem for borrowers is that they don’t have the available cash to purchase items in bulk. This means that they are buying very small quantities on a regular basis. However, through their Zidisha loans they are often able to start purchasing in bulk, which allows them to save a significant amount of money over time.

This line of thinking held true for Frederick as well as he shared in March 2016, ‘When the loan is granted, we intend to buy drugs, feeds and new breeds of piglet for the farm. When feed is bought in larger quantity, it’s economical and also the cost of transportation becomes less. We also intend to increase broiler production to about 10%. 30% of the loan is going to be our cash back for salary and other stuff.’

The following loan, which Frederick obtained in November 2016 was for $659 and was used for a variety of needs. First, he purchased feed medication and paid his workers salary. He also used part of the loan to purchase a new breed of piglets, built cages, purchased new rabbit breeds, and bought feed. In addition, he shared that in the coming months he wanted to help educate his workers.

Never one to remain stagnant, with a loan of $928 in June 2017, Frederick set out to expand in a big way. With this loan, he purchased a wide variety of animals including: 50 broilers, 20 pigs, 48 ducks, 15 rabbits, and 4 turkeys. He also bought an assortment of feed options such as, brown rice, maize, fish meal, soybeans, and vitamins. He also noted in the near future he is hoping to add egg production and that at that time he had 3 pregnant pigs.

It is clear that the Zidisha community has really impacted both Frederick and his entire family as he says, ‘Thank you my lenders you guys have put a smile on my face & the faces of my kids, now I am able to pay their school & provide their needs. Look at them ready for school. I  can now take care of my family. My kids are in school, my farm is doing well, thank you Zidisha. You guys have saved me and my community from poverty.’

Frederick 1

Would you like to be a change maker in another community like Frederick’s? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to read similar stories of hardworking entrepreneurs.

Zidisha Team Spotlight: Betsy Ramser Jaime, Entrepreneurs’ Story Writer

Betsy Ramser Jaime.jpg

Betsy Ramser Jaime, Entrepreneurs’ Story Writer (Photo credit: Nikki Romani)

By Julia Kurnia

At Zidisha our mission is not only to fund loans, but also to connect people across geographic, socioeconomic and cultural barriers.  We do this most powerfully by hosting stories.  In addition to information about their loan projects, our members share stories of their childhood, how they acquired education or started businesses, their families and their hopes for the future.

Many of our members lead inspiring, even heroic, lives.  They overcome overwhelming obstacles to achieve their goals, and give back generously to their communities.  Zidisha lenders play transformative roles in those lives, bringing opportunities within reach and amplifying the enterpreneurs’ impact.

Thanks to Betsy, these stories are reaching a wider audience.  Each week she selects an especially inspiring Zidisha entrepreneur to profile, and skillfully combines photos and narrative to present the story in our blog.  She also shares the most interesting news and content from the Zidisha community in Twitter and Facebook.  I am always amazed by her ability to communicate these stories in such a vivid, memorable way.  Reading one of Betsy’s stories makes me feel as though I’ve met the entrepreneur in person.

Betsy joined our volunteer team almost a year ago, and we finally caught up with her for an interview this week, reproduced in full below.  Betsy, thank you so much for generously giving of your time, energy and talent to our community!


How did you hear about Zidisha?

I first became interested in Microfinance as a grad student studying entrepreneurship back in 2011. I read a few books but nothing really happened beyond that. Then, in early 2017, I was browsing volunteer opportunities on Idealist and came across Zidisha. I checked out the website and knew that I wanted to be a part of what Zidisha was doing. The Entrepreneurship writer position really pulled together all of my passions and past experiences from getting a Master’s in entrepreneurship, working for a few startups, and living in Africa for three months.


Why do you choose to spend time working with Zidisha?

I’ve found that the Zidisha lenders, borrowers, and other volunteers are some of the most inspiring, resilient, and warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. As I type up each borrower story, it is so clear to me that Zidisha is making a profound difference in that person’s life, family, and surrounding community.

When I first started with Zidisha, almost a year ago, the thought of writing a new story each week felt really overwhelming. I also wondered if I would get burnt out after a few months, fortunately that hasn’t happened at all. Instead, I’ve discovered that the practice of writing has started to come more naturally and now I really enjoy the process of storytelling.


What does your work with Zidisha involve?

I am currently the Entrepreneurship Writer for the blog. In a typical week, you can find me researching and digging to find our best borrowers. If needed, I will reach out to them with additional questions or photos that we might need. I then write and edit a new post each week which will go live on the blog Monday morning. I also connect with the borrowers to let them know that we have shared their story with the Zidisha community. In addition, another interesting role is Social Media Management. Specifically, I work with the Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s fun to see what content really sticks or resonates most with lenders and followers.


Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?

Wow. What a hard question! One that immediately comes to mind is Jared Mogendi. As the sixth of eight children with two unemployed parents, his early life was certainly not easy. However, he was still able to go on and receive a certificate in both Computer Science and Development. Now, he’s the founder of a project called, ‘Amazing Smile Children’s Centre’ which supports orphans and children from poor families. Plus, he is a Technology Manager and also runs two cyber businesses.

I love his story because it really echoes the lives of so many other Zidisha borrowers. There’s often a huge ripple effect because most of our borrowers are hugely invested in improving not just themselves or their families, but their communities at large. It’s inspiring to see how a single Zidisha entrepreneur can change the entire trajectory of a town or city. And I think that’s really the heartbeat of Zidisha.


What do you like to do in your free time?

I would say that my #1 hobby is reading, in fact, I’ve loved to read my entire life. I try to read a few minutes of non-fiction each morning and then some fiction right before bed. Right now a new hobby of mine is learning Mandarin. I am a complete beginner but try to practice for at least a few minutes each day. I also enjoy spending time outside with my husband and listening to as much K Pop as I can.

Betsy Ramser Jaime Photo .jpg

Betsy with her husband Josh (Photo credit: Adree Rodriquez)

What do you wish borrowers knew about lenders and volunteers?

I hope that borrowers know how inspired we are by their stories and perseverance. Our borrowers are always quick to thank the lenders and volunteers and show their appreciation. I know that if I’m having a bad day, one of my favorite things to do is to read through the kind comments or notes that I’ve received from borrowers. Zidisha is such a supportive community and I’m always learning lessons from the borrowers that I can take and apply in my own life.


It All Started With a $3 Loan

Kioko 4

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Kioko Kimau was born in Makueni county, Kenya, in 1974. As a child, he spent his afternoons and weekends tending to his father’s cattle. This allowed him to develop a strong work ethic which he carried with him through school. Eventually, this led him to move to Nairobi where he attended College. He proudly shares that in school he was always good at football and singing folk songs.

Kioko has created a simple cereal shop primarily selling beans and maize. His offerings are somewhat seasonal and vary throughout the year. He’s found that being in the cereals business is wise as these are foods that people eat regularly. After paying  business expenses such as, business permits, transport, rent, and electricity he is able to use his profits to take care of his family, pay school fees for his children, and even save for the future.

Kioko serves as a great example of the saying, ‘A little goes a long way.’ In fact, his first 4 Zidisha funded loans were all under $20. For example, he obtained two loans in quick succession in July and August 2017, both for $3. With the July loan, he purchased a bag of maize and then set aside the profits to pay Zidisha. Shortly after, with his August loan he bought another bag of maize for his cereals shop and used the profits for his family upkeep.

He then obtained a second loan in August, for $7, and was able to purchase a bag of beans as his stock had been depleted. With this loan, he was excited, knowing that the profits would allow him to pay the school fees for his daughter! And indeed, that’s what happened. On August 23, Kioko shared on his discussion page, ‘Hi guys thanks a lot for your trust in me and lending me your money, the last loan has helped me in my cereals shop business boost and made me get an extra profit which I will use in family upkeep.’

Then, in September 2017, he requested two more Zidisha funded loans. One for $17 and the next for $58. These loans were also used to increase his stock of beans for his shop. He envisioned that through selling this stock, he would have the funds to expand his business. Kioko had his eyes set on adding soda to his shop lineup. Afterward, Kioko shared, ‘Hi my good lenders thanks once again for your trust in me and your support, the last loan I bought a bag of beans for my cereals shop and I sold all of the beans in a very short time and the profit I got used to pay my daughter school fees, the loan has helped me in both family upkeep and business boost.’

Remaining consistent, in December 2017, Kioko raised another $141 from lenders to vastly increase his stock of beans. He noted that during the December festival season beans are in high demand!

Kioko recently shared with lenders, ‘Hi, my lenders thanks very much for your loan which I invested in beans stock and the profit has enabled me to pay my daughters school fees for term one am happy for you. With your loans my life has changed to the better, with the beans business is good. Thanks.’

Kioko 3

So far, in his time with Zidisha, Kioko has obtained 6 loans. Amazingly, all 6 loans combined, amount to a mere, $229. Regardless of how much or how little you have to give, remember that Kioko started with a $3 loan. I think it’s also not just about the number behind the dollar sign. Whether you can give, $3 or $300, you are doing more than giving financially. You are also telling that borrower, ‘I believe in you’ which is often just as powerful as the loan itself.

Would you like to impact the life of another entrepreneur like, Kioko? Make sure to check out our Lend page to read about other business owners that need your help and support.

Going To Greater Heights

Evans Sackitay 6

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Evans Sackitey is a hard working entrepreneur living in Prampram, Ghana. At 33 years old, he has gained experience, graduating from the Tema Technical Institute in 2004 and also earning a City and Guilds Certificate in Block Laying and Concreting. He notes that since then he has been working as a mason on building projects on a contract basis.

Evans is used to long days, as he usually wakes up at 5 am to catch the first bus to his work site. Depending on the location, he often lodges on site for the rest of the week to reduce his overall transportation costs.

He is also currently working to start a cement sale business as an additional income stream for himself. He shares, ‘My dream is to start a cement shop business and later block molding. The latter would require heavier investment so that is for the long-term. A man I once worked for gifted to me his unused container. I intend to refurbish this for my cement shop business. This would help augment my income and make me a business owner. Currently, I need to weld, screed and roof the container and get it ready for this business. When given a loan, I would use it for these preparatory works. The source of income that will be used to repay the loan will come from my masonry work.’

So far Evans has acquired five Zidisha funded loans, his first being in December of 2013 for $50. He enthusiastically shares, ‘I would use the loan to start the preparatory works needed for my planned cement shop. Currently, I need to weld, screed and roof my cement shop container and get it ready for business. I would use this loan to pay for welding costs. There are a few rusts and cracks that need to be fixed on the body of the container to make it more secure. I have spoken to a Welder located in my neighborhood and he has assured that he can do this job perfectly.’

A month later, in January of 2014, he continued to jump in headfirst with getting his side business off the ground. This required a second Zidisha funded loan of $429 which he used to purchase wood, nails, and plywood roofing sheet to cover his container for the cement business.

Evans Sackitay 1

By 2015, Evans was prepared to ask lenders for a third loan. This time around he requested $480 and shares, ‘I am very grateful to you lenders for all your help in refurbishing my new container. Although I have not started business with it yet, but I have made an important preparation for this business. I feel more confident and reassured that this business would take off and be a good investment in the future.’

With the funds, he was ready to purchase a plot of land for the business, which he predicted would cost around GHc 5,000. He would start by paying a deposit and would continue to pay installments on the property going forward. Because he already had a salaried job with a construction company, he felt confident about being able to manage the payments going forward. He is also able to work on the weekends as a mason, which brings in additional income as well.

The following year, Evans returned to lenders for a loan of $1,226 in April of 2016. With this loan, he hoped to complete the payment of his land. In addition, he wanted to use the remainder of the loan to register his land at the Ghana lands commission.

Evans Sackitay 5

Most recently, in July 2017, Evans was able to secure another Zidisha funded loan of $2,051 to purchase a concrete mixing machine. Before, he had been renting a machine and he knew that purchasing a machine of his own would really cut down on costs in the long run.

Partnering with Zidisha has been a life changing experience for Evans and has continued to bring happiness and fulfillment to his life as he says, ‘My time with Zidisha and lender’s have been the most happiest time ever in my life.’

Evans Sackitay

Recently, Evans shared this message with his lenders, ‘Hello lender’s, My construction business is moving from one stage to another. Many thanks to you for making me an entrepreneur and a good influence to others who are now following my footsteps. Thank you. I believe with your support I will go greater heights and also give back to society by employing the jobless.’

Would you like to support another Zidisha entrepreneur, who is making a difference in their community? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to read about dozens of business owners making big changes.



The Multi Passionate Entrepreneur

Kusi 6

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Kusi Obodum is a multi passionate entrepreneur, dividing his time between teaching, selling with the company HerbaLife and working as a driver. He was born into a large family, as the seventh of eight children. After high school, he was anxious to attend college, however, he had to wait a year before his test results came and before he could save up the funds. He pursued an education degree from the Manpong Technical College of Education and upon graduating, received his first post at Abirem D/A JHS in the Kwabre East District in 2012.

Soon after, he got married in 2013. At the time, his wife had been working as a trader. However, once they had their first son in 2014, she decided to stop trading to look after their son full-time. While this was the right decision for their family, Kusi knew that it would be a struggle to support his growing family on his small teaching salary.

His first side hustle was with an American nutrition company called HerbaLife. He was able to sell the product and would then receive bonuses and commissions. Unfortunately, as business slowed, Kusi found that he was ready to try something new.

This led him to enter the vehicle transportation business. He shares, ‘This vehicle business has been of help to the community a lot. l use to carry people from place to place to have their own businesses done. People chatter the vehicle which aid them to alight at a specific places of work and this is helping the community a lot. I selected this kind of business to support the HerbaLife which has been running slow over some months now. I got my income from teaching and the vehicles transportation as well . I also help in carrying who are nearby to depart to their various schools.’

When he first started marketing the HerbaLife products, he really struggled. He would talk about the products but didn’t have the money to keep any inventory on hand to show potential customers. Fortunately, his first Zidisha funded loan of $9 completely changed this. With his $9 Zidisha loan in hand, he bought some products, particularly the ‘Fibre and Herbs.’ He knew that from the customer’s perspective, being able to see and touch the product in person, made all the difference.

The following year, in March of 2017. Kusi secured his second Zididsha funded loan of $91. By this time, he had shifted to focus on his transport business. He was having some car problems and without the repairs, it would be a struggle to continue his business.

A few months later, in July 2017, his car required a new engine, estimating a new cost of $328. Fortunately, his loyal Zidisha lenders were happy to lend a helping hand. He also notes that this will allow him to be punctual in his work, as he won’t have to worry about car problems.

Most recently, in October of 2017, Kusi asked lenders for his largest loan yet, $888. He continues, ‘I will thank lenders of what they have been doing for me. God richly bless them. My vehicle still have a mechanical fault which needs to be resolved once and for all. The tire, the dashboard and as the body have become old. This will help increase my income for myself, the family and the community as a whole and some will also go to the charity fund. I will be expecting a percentage increase of about 70.’

Kusi would also like his lenders to know that his son, Wilford is now two years old and is in the Creative Learning Academy. Kusi hopes that one day his son will grow up to be a renowned businessman with many employees!

Kusi 5

With the help of Zidisha, Kusi has been able to combine his strengths, talents, and education to create multiple streams on income for his family. By doing this, even when one stream slows down, he has two others to help sustain him. Did you enjoy Kusi’s story? Make sure to head over to our Lend page where you can check out the stories of our other inspiring entrepreneurs around the world.