Story of the week: Violet Karwimbo

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By Traci Yoshiyama

Zidisha has reached beyond the entrepreneur’s doorstep and has now become a family affair.  Emanating a sense of pride, Violet Karwimbo smiles as she speaks about her two children’s interest in their mom’s celebrityhood among the Zidisha community.  

Violet and her children (16 and 10 years old) often go together to the cybercafe in their Nairobi neighborhood to update lenders on the progress of her store, God Has Extended My Territories (GHEMT) Hardware & Electricals.  The children find joy in seeing their mother’s photo on the internet and her obvious success as a self-made businesswoman.  Prior to becoming a Zidisha member, Violet found computers to be foreign and daunting machines, but through the encouragement of her family, friends, and the organization itself, she can now use one without intimidation.

Violet’s career in hardware began in a shop similar to her own, where she worked as an employee for ten years.  Her decision to seek employment there was a choice of convenience, for she was able to take her baby with her to work, but it eventually became a life-altering experience.  For ten years, Violet slowly built the knowledge base needed to start her own business in hardware – until she was let go due to the shop owner’s decision to employ family.  This unexpected change of events set the path for her current success: Violet launched GHEMT with a savings of $250 in 2009.  The growth of GHEMT Hardware & Electricals since then is proof of Violet’s successful business approach.

Violet was introduced to Zidisha by another member, Vitalis Opondo, and received her first loan of $302 in 2012.  Since then, she has been able to stock her shop with desirable and hard to come by plumbing equipment, such as water pipes.  Wanting to make her store more aesthetically pleasing, Violet also put in new shelves, which enabled her to display her stock to the many passers-by.  Having the opportunity to supply GHEMT with new supplies has increased her sales, for although there are many hardware stores in the area, most do not sell water pipes and fittings.  As her name grows and sales increase, Violet hopes to move her store to the newly paved road in the town shopping center.  She would also like to start selling mattresses, plastic wares (buckets, wash bins, etc.), and school trunks for students attending boarding school.

Before our departure, Violet invites Vitalis to her shop, where another benefit of being a Zidisha member is revealed.  Violet comments that without her business, she would have never met Vitalis, heard about Zidisha, or learned how to use a computer.  The encouragement they are now able to provide for each other is uplifting, and the avenues that Zidisha paves have proven to be endless.

Violet successfully repaid her first Zidisha loan, and went on to raise a second loan of $966 to purchase a higher-value inventory of materials for installing electricity and plumbing in homes.  Her children continue to be supportive: “My kids assisted in helping me do window shopping,” she wrote in a recent update. “It was fun including them in buying this items and arranging them in shop.”

To learn more about Violet Karwimbo, check out her Zidisha profile page.

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