The Next Bill Gates

Aissatou TraoreAissatou Traore is a borrower living in Dakar, Senegal. Madame Traore is a widowed mother  who works to support her son and mother. Mme. Traore is a partner with the American company Forever Living, based in Arizona. Forever Living sells its aloe vera, and various other health products, through a network of independent distributors across the globe. Madame Traore sells the Forever Living products in her surrounding area to a number of customers.

Mme. Traore used her Zidisha loan to purchase $780 worth of inventory from Forever Living in order to boost her income. Tragically, thieves broke into  her home and stole all of the inventory she’d purchased. This did not stop the resolute Mme. Traore.

Read more about Madame Traore from Zidisha’s own Director Julia Kurnia, who recently wrote about their meeting in Senegal.

Dear all,

I was fortunate to have the occasion to meet with Madame Traore at the Senegal headquarters of Forever Living, a direct selling company that produces aloe vera and other natural health products. Forever Living is based in Arizona, but markets its products through a worldwide network of tens of thousands of independent distributors, including Mme Traore.

Mme Traore is the sole breadwinner for her elderly mother and fourteen-year-old son, who she hopes will have the chance to go to university in Europe or the US someday. She has a genius for marketing, and our conversation soon turned to the benefits of her products. She gave a riveting presentation, skillfully weaving international statistics, personal experience and client success stories into a mesmerizing narrative that left me thoroughly convinced that aloe vera toothpaste is, after all, a must-have staple of good oral health. 

Mme Traore used her Zidisha loan of $780 to purchase a large inventory of Forever Living products, which ought to have boosted her earnings substantially. Unfortunately, most of the inventory was lost to a thief who broke into her home and stole her stock before she had the chance to sell it. Completely out of money to buy new stock but undeterred, Mme Traore contacted her best clients one by one and offered a deal: she would give them a special discount if they would agree to pay in advance for the products, rather than upon delivery. She used the advances to restart selling, at a profit margin that was razor thin due to the discounts. She makes up for the narrow profits with volume: her notebook contains the names of several hundred clients, many of whom are located in rural villages a day’s journey from Dakar city. On the days she “goes into the bush” to deliver her products to the villages, Mme Traore wakes up at four in the morning to prepare the day’s meals for her fourteen-year-old son, and returns home as late as one o’clock the following night. This strategy has enabled Mme Traore to slowly reconstitute her working capital, while also making regular repayment installments on her Zidisha loan, which is now 78% repaid.

She seemed completely undeterred by all of these obstacles. By way of explanation, Mme Traore cited the example of Bill Gates: he started on a small scale as well, and she is simply doing the same. She is a voracious reader. On the day we met, she was reading a French translation of “The Leader in You” by Dale Carnegie. Mme Traore said she was inspired by Mr Carnegie’s idea that there is a “mine of gold” inside each one of us, and that the best way to fully realize our potential is to develop our own business. She values her freedom, and says that nothing can stop her from reaching her ambitions.

Best,

Julia Kurnia
Director, Zidisha Inc.

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