Secondhand clothing- a route out of poverty

Here is a great update from Dan in Kenya!
Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidishas Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.
Today I visited with Keziah at her store in the center of Nakuru. This store is one of her two businesses. In Nakuru, you will find many stalls lining the streets selling secondhand clothing. There are a few upscale stores that sell clothes for formal occasions and many local tailors who make custom made clothing, mostly for women and children. Outside of these two clothing options, most people purchase clothing from the street vendors. Keziah supplies these vendors.
Keziah, or her business partner and hopefully future Zidisha borrower Elizabeth, regularly travel to Nairobi to purchase bales of clothing. These bales are about three and a half feet wide and two feet in height, tightly packed with clothing. Keziah is not able to open the bales and inspect the clothing, they are sold as is. Similarly, after Keziah transports the bales back to Nakuru she sells them to the local vendors as is. Each bale costs about $75-$100 for Keziah to buy in Nairobi and she is able to resell them for $175-$220 in Nakuru. It only costs $2 to transport a bale from Nairobi to Nakuru, so Keziah is able to make a tidy profit on each one.
When walking the streets of Nakuru, it is not uncommon to see people walking around wearing American football jerseys from the 1990’s, tee shirts promoting small town American restaurants, and obscure US politicians. Obviously, these items of clothing were donated to various NGOs in America by people intending for their donations to be given free of charge to people in the developing world. In actuality, these items of clothing are shipped to Mombasa, they are then purchased by wholesalers in Nairobi, sold to people like Keziah in the clothing business, who then sells them to local vendors, finally the local vendors sell them to the townspeople who were initially intended to receive them for free.
The secondhand clothing business in Kenya is immense. Prior to my meeting with Keziah, she was completely unaware that the clothing she was selling was actually intended to be donated to people in need. The vast majority of clothing vendors are equally unaware. Regardless of the fact that these clothes were intended to be donated, it is probably best that this secondhand clothing business exists. It provides an income for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people.
In addition to her clothing business, Keziah’s second business, which she describes as her main focus and passion, is cosmetics. For the past three years, Keziah has been selling cosmetic items, including every type of make up imaginable as well as weaves and human hair wigs. All of these items are very popular among women in the urban center of Nakuru. Because of this, it is difficult to find a street that does not have a salon or cosmetics store.
Due to the high level of competition in Nakuru, Keziah travels to the surrounding villages to sell her wares. She has developed a loyal customer base in the areas surrounding Nakuru. With her first loan, Keziah increased her supply of cosmetics and human hair wigs, which is a highly profitable item. Keziah is also adept at applying make up, weaves, and wigs.
In the future, she envisions using her next loan and the profits of her two businesses to purchase a cosmetics store in Nakuru. Though competition is high in town, Keziah has many loyal customers from the surrounding villages and towns. Currently, her customers outside of Nakuru are only able to purchase her products when she is visiting their village. Since Keziah is often traveling, she wishes to have a permanent store in Nakuru where she would employ someone full time. Keziah believes, correctly, that this will allow her to travel and continue to expand her customer base while allowing her current customers to purchase cosmetics at their lesiure from her store.
Keziah is a very motivated young woman and has a sharp mind for business and her future is bright.

Look Good to Feel Good

Here is a great update from Traci in Kenya!

Traci and Judy


December 19, 2012


Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.

Look good to feel good, a universal approach to life amongst women everywhere in the world, Kenya being no different. Salons and boutiques ubiquitously line the streets of every town, big or small. Heaps of secondhand clothing can be found on the busy downtown sidewalks of Nairobi, women picking through the piles to find that special piece to add to their wardrobe. And formal dress is not only set aside for Sunday’s best, but every day men and women, the rich and poor, can be seen sporting the latest fashion trends. With clothes being an easy, affordable, and high-demand commodity, many women, including Zidisha borrower Judy Mburu, decide to venture into the clothing business. 

After leaving her job with EPZ, Judy began her new career as a hawker, selling shoes around the town of Githunguri. Proving to be a success, she soon earned enough money to rent a space constructed out of iron sheets along the side of the main road, neighboring produce stands and similar boutiques (see profile picture). Progressing even further, Judy introduced secondhand clothes, called mitumba, to her stock. For two years her business grew, allowing Judy to put food on the table for her family (two young boys), pay rent, employ a woman to upkeep her home during her long 13-hour workdays, and chip in for a security guard to watch over the shops in the evening. 



Always looking to expand, Judy became a Zidisha member in November, receiving her loan shortly after. Thanks to Judy’s astute business skills and the help of Zidisha, she no longer has an iron sheet shop, but now rents a permanent room. Furthermore, with her Zidisha loan, Judy was able to become an M-PESA agent, dedicating half of her shop to M-PESA matters. A similar approach to strategically placing knick-knacks along checkout counters, Judy’s M-PESA customers will inevitably browse her clothing shop. No longer selling mitumba, due to an increase in import taxes, she now offers new clothes for all ages. Obviously not a one trick pony, Judy also sells popcorn outside her shop, though due to the day’s downpour, her machine could not be set up. Wanting to pay back her loan earlier than expected, Judy would like to use her second loan to buy more clothes and add hair accessories. She would also like to move to a larger space, preferably back to the main road, which draws a lot of foot traffic. 

After only two years, it is hard to imagine that this all started with a portable shoe business. But after meeting Judy and witnessing her conviction to succeed, it all makes perfect sense. Being in Githunguri often, I look forward to greeting Judy at her future shop along the main road. Asante sana Judy, kwa tembelea mzuri! 

View more pictures of my visit with Judy at www.talkingstory.posterous.com/pages/snapshots 

Achieving Literacy Through Technology in Africa

An update from one of our interns on the ground in Kenya:

Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.

The town of Salgaa, located 30 kilometers west of Nakuru, would not be described as a technological hub. In fact, many of the homes here do not have access to electricity. Considering this, it is not hard to imagine that many residents of Salgaa are not overly familiar with the use of computers. Boaz aims to change this. 

Boaz opened his current store in July of this year but has been teaching computer literacy classes since 2010. He was previously conducting classes in his home. However, the genesis of Boaz’s passion and appreciation for computers dates back to 2008. Boaz was in the town center of Nakuru four years ago where he saw a young Kenyan student being instructed on how to use a computer by an older Indian gentleman. Boaz remembers thinking, “If this young boy can use a computer, why can’t I?” He promptly enrolled in a two month computer training course. 

Currently, Boaz has 20 students who attend his daily 2 hour classes. The students are taught to use Microsoft Office and various other computer programs. Upon completion of the course, each student receives a certificate verifying that they have a competent computer literacy. This certificate is now mandatory for many government jobs. Boaz says the course he offers would cost students 5,000 Kenyan Schillings in an urban center like Nakuru or Nairobi, but he is offering his course at 2,500 Kenyan Schillings to entice the technology wary citizens of Salgaa. 

With his first Zidisha loan, Boaz plans to buy a printer, scanner, and photocopier. In the longer term, he plans on expanding his current business which currently includes six computers. He envisions starting Salgaa’s first cyber café. He also wants to start working with some of the local schools to incorporate computer science into their curriculum. Boaz is passionate about helping members of his community enhance their level of computer literacy as he believes it is of the utmost importance when trying to secure a job in today’s economy. With the help of his loan from Zidisha, Boaz is spearheading the movement to educate his community.