Entrepreneurship of a Compassionate Kind

Paul in his shop

At age 22, Paul Musembi held a diploma certificate in information technology and is currently working as a computer technician at Mugaa secondary school. He clearly possesses great ambition since he also operates a retail shop. The retail shop was a product of his collaboration with his own mother back in 2009 and it serves to provide customers with goods such as foodstuff, clothing and utensils. When the shop was first initiated, he had injected 10000 Kenyan shillings as his contribution to the business. Overtime, the shop started generating substantial profits and although Mr. Musembi’s mother would conduct its day-to-day affairs, he would relieve her after work and during the weekends. With his Zidisha loan, he is looking to expand into offering computer services. Below is an account of his recent financial journeys through the words of our Kenya Client Relationship manager, Traci Yoshiyama:

Hi, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager.
When the staff of Mugaa Secondary School heard of my visit to Munanda, many asked, “Have you met Musembi?” Purely by coincidence and the inevitability of living in a small village, who do I meet but the one and only Paul Musembi during my visit with another Zidisha borrower in Munanda,
Without hesitation, Paul graciously welcomed me to his shop called Innocent. When asked why he chose the name Innocent, he simply replied, “Because I like that word.” With a savings of 40,000 KES, Paul started his shop in 2008. At this time it was a small kiosk selling fruit, but with the income from his farm and his first Zidisha loan, Paul was able to rent a space right in the heart of Munanda Trading Center. Not only did Paul have his own shop and sell fruit, he was now able to add another item to his stock, plastic shoes.
Some of Paul’s goods

Paul successfully paid back his first loan and is in the midst of paying back his second. As seeing in the photos I have posted, Paul’s shop has come a long way. Through his second loan he has been able to increase his stock by tenfolds, now selling what Kenyans refer to as mali mali. Paul, having a challenging time explaining what this means in English, finally settled on describing mali mali as items sold at a low cost. These items can be seen sold by many of the street venders in Kenya. Fruits were a thing of the past, for although my photos do not capture the plethora of items sold at Innocent, you can be sure to find what you need; locks, snacks, drinks, clothes, toiletries galore, cleaning supplies, jewelry, and of course, plastic shoes. The Zidisha loan has also enabled Paul to purchase a motorbike, which helps him acquire items needed for his store. This has proven to add efficiency and convenience to Paul’s life, for Munanda is quite remote and getting to Nakuru through public transportation can fill your entire day. Now, Paul can come and go as he pleases. In addition to his booming business and new mode of transportation, Paul was able to buy his own plot of land.

It came as no surprise that Paul has also been a spokesperson for Zidisha, often times introducing Zidisha to entrepreneurs in Munanda. I left Innocent happy to have met the infamous Musembi, a client with strong ambition and a love for Zidisha. He wishes all his lenders well and gives a big thanks for all they have done.

Social Business Day 2012

Created in 2010, the Social Business day is a unique occasion to connect people all over the world, around innovation, empowerment, social entrepreneurship and other creative topics.It was held on June 28, 2012, which also happens to be Dr. Yunus’ birthday (no coincidence, this was intentionally chosen!). I remember being a part of the prestigious audience last year, which consisted of social business leaders in the globe today. I was only able to attend since I was working at a nonprofit organization in my country, Bangladesh for the summer but frankly, I was amazed at the passion and ardor these folks had in creating sustainable and effective social activities.
First off, it is imperative to digest the true meaning behind running a  ‘social business.’ Dr. Yunus coined the term in his book, ‘Creating a World without Poverty,’ where he explained it as the new kind of capitalism that would serve society’s pressing needs. Such a business is distinct from a non-profit due to its profit generation methods that are mainly used to expand the company’s outreach, improve the product or service in ways that will enhance the social objectives. This groundbreaking theory was essentially conceived by Dr. Yunus who thought that capitalism was narrowly defined and failed to capture human worth within its financial undertakings. Hence, a cause-driven business such as a social business will address these gaping issues where the purpose of the investment would be to achieve one or more social objectives through the operation of the company, since no personal monetary gain should be wanted by the investors.
One of Grameen’s most successful social businesses have come in the form of Grameen Danone, that creates subsidized yoghurt called Shokti Doi. This product basically contains numerous nutritional elements such as protein and calcium and is designed to fulfill the nutritional deficits of children in Bangladesh. Its overarching aim is to reduce poverty and to empower the local people with employment opportunities. Grameen Danone yoghurt was also rated by Businessweek to be one of the 25 products that might change the world. Such is the power of a social business that originated from a simple, thoughtful idea.
It was unfortunate not to have been able to attend this glorious event this year. For the 2012 edition, the Yunus Centre organized a 2 day conference in Dhaka with great speakers like Pr. Yunus, of course, his friend from NASA Ron Garan, Eric Lesueur from Veolia Water. The speeches that took place on Social Business Day 2012 have not been put up yet but this an amusing video created for this special occasion:

Tailoring in Munanda

Stephen in front of Irungu Modern Tailoring


Stephen in his shop

Stephen Irungu is one of our Kenyan borrowers living in the town of Munanda. At 25 years of age Stephen is quite busy running a tailoring business to support his young family. Stephen designs pants, shirts, skirts, and alters them as needed. For all of his hard work Stephen earns a profit of about $2.38 per day. While Stephen is a tailor by trade, he also farms to make money on the side (like many other Kenyans do). If his loan is funded (this will be his second) then Stephen will be able to stock his store with clothing during the upcoming harvest season. One of our Client Relationship Interns was able to visit Stephen last week. You can read about their meeting below in her own words:


Thursday, July 4, 2012

Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. 

I was welcomed into the town of Munanda today by Stephen Irungu, the proud owner of Irungu Modern Tailoring. It’s hard to miss his quaint shop, even amongst the many businesses blooming in the Munanda, for hanging on his door is a brown all-leather suit created by Stephen himself. 

In 2005, Stephen started Irungu Modern Tailoring with only one sewing machine. With this flourishing business, he now has three sewing machines, an iron, and also employs three people. It is also a family business, for his wife often times assists with the ironing.

This is his second Zidisha loan and he plans on creating a boutique for the people of his village, the first of its kind in Munanda. With the funds, he hopes to buy clothes from Nakuru and sell it in shop. His passion for fashion is evident, as he describes his store not merely as a job, but a hobby and his happiness.

After my visit to his shop, Stephen kindly took me around his village, showing me various shops and introducing me to friends. He even assisted me in finding some much needed supplies that cannot be found in Mugaa, the village I am residing in. 

Best of luck with your loan Stephen. It was a pleasure meeting you. 






Business in Kenya: the basics

Greetings from Nairobi! While I’m officially here for research, what better opportunity to engage with Zidisha on the ground? East Africa is home to countless Zidisha entrepreneurs and a handful of client relationship staff that I’m eager to meet during my two-month stay.
To convey the climate in which small businesses are operating, I will attempt to convey some of my first impressions. From the capital city’s central business district to packed thoroughfares bordering the Mathare slum, streets teem with commercial activity. Massive foreign direct investment pours into Kenya via multinational firms like Goodyear, General Motors, Toyota, and Coca Cola. But homegrown industry abounds, too. Public busses buzz from stop to stop amid vendors and suit-clad commuters. Flashy smart phone displays adorn Kenyatta Avenue, often alongside high-end retailers and alluring eateries. Cell phone and Internet service centers are ubiquitous, feeding a keen taste for the latest digital gadgets and gizmos.
Now, let’s take a ride outside Nairobi—home to nine of ten Kenyans. Beyond the Great Rift Valley and sweeping central highlands lies a bona fide agrarian gem. In Western province, verdant swathes unfold around each bend, unveiling the backbone of Kenya’s key export industries: coffee, tea, and sugar. The East African nation also exports more roses than any other country on earth. Toward Tanzania, cornfields pepper the corridors linking one village to the next. Major routes spanning hundreds kilometers ensure punctual, unabated trans-national delivery of goods to the Indian Ocean and other regional trading partners.
Community after community brims with welders, carpenters, and shopkeepers. Spectacular craftsmanship is a guarantee at every turn. Bumping down a road tucked into the countryside, I noticed an elderly woman seated on a rock. Before we drove out of sight, a glimpse at her right hand confirmed another conspicuous mainstay of Kenyan society: cell phones. Without a paved road in sight, a portable banking device rested at her fingertips. M-PESA (the same technology that facilitates business transactions for hundreds of Zidisha clients) is Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. M-PESA represents a paradigm shift. It leverages recent advances in telecommunications to lubricate Kenya’s economic machine, so whether you’re in Bongo, Kakamega, Nairobi, or Nakuru, one of Kenya’s 23,000 unmistakable green M-PESA agent booths is never more than a stone’s throw away. Even the most basic phones allow users to transfer, receive, deposit, and withdraw cash from anywhere in the country.

Plus, successive years of robust economic growth point to a business climate increasingly conducive to job creation. Kenya’s unemployment rate has fallen 10% since over ten years. Last week, the nationally circulated Business Daily honed in on Kenya’s bid to reach middle-income status by 2016.
Cutting-edge digital infrastructure, coupled with promising macroeconomic data, bodes well for Zidisha entrepreneurs like Julius Mburu. It puts control over financial management into the hands of business owners unsatisfied with or unable to access the traditional banking sector. That’s how microcredit empowers. It expands that portion of the population equipped to seize the reins of their own pursuits and in turn, their future. It contributes to a mindset that restores dignity and breeds self-reliance. In the coming weeks, I will undertake to see for myself the human connection that flows through every Zidisha loan.
Until then, try focusing on those aspects of life in which your action makes a difference. To the extent we are able to pinpoint and expand upon these activities, the future looks bright for all of us. 

A little help can take you a long way

Massamba Diouf used to run a stationary shop for a living, the profits of which would go to support his wife and two children. During a turbulent time, when he was facing strong competition, he came to Zidisha for help. His ultimate ambition was to use the proceeds of the Zidisha loan to start up a t-shirt and sports shirt business. However, he would need the clothing equipment first to make such an aspiration a reality. Sam Gant, our Client Relationship Manager in Senegal, managed to interview Mr. Diouf on the current state of his affairs:
I’m a Client Relationship Volunteer in Dakar and I visited Massamba the other day in his shop. There were basic office and printing supplies in his shop which he shares with several business partners. What he was most intent on talking about, however, was the t-shrt press that he purchased with his loan and now uses to put prints on t-shirts and baseball caps.
He showed an example of his progress with mastering the press as well as a very nice Zidisha shirt he recently designed with a Client Relationship Manager. He seemed to be doing well with his new business and mentioned that advertisement of his business was spreading slowly but surely, mostly by word of mouth. He seems most hopeful of making shirts for sporting events like football and wrestling as well as various festivals and campaigns.
Massamba lives behind the shop with his wife and two young children. He uses the profits from the store and his new shirt-printing business to support his family. He hopes to be able to save up enough with the new profits to buy certain supplies like expensive printing paper in bulk to cut costs. He also expressed interest in another loan upon the successful completion of this loan for buying in bulk for both his t-shirt press business and the boutique.