By Theresa Schneider, Kenya Client Relationship Manager Volunteer
Pleasant, energetic and clever – that’s Samuel Shehi. He is one of those rare people who leave a lasting positive impression in a very short time.
Mr. Shehi accidentally came across Zidisha as he was Googling for a phone product to sell. His search turned up the profile of a Zidisha member who sold that product. He read over the profile and further informed himself. Already for a long time he had been thinking about taking a loan, but the fees and interest charged by local banks were high enough to wipe out the profits on loan-funded business investments. Zidisha’s lending model, with its low interest and fees, was more compelling, and he started his first loan application in August 2013. Since then he has continuously raised loans with Zidisha and enlarged his business, with never a delay in repayment.
Mr. Shehi’s Business Story
Mr. Shehi is very well educated and has a bachelor’s degree in finance. Because of weak employment opportunities and his passion to be an entrepreneur, he decided to set up his own small enterprise. He recognized the technological gap in his area and opened a one-computer cybercafé in a shop he built himself.
He shares the interior of the shop with his friend Jeremiah Maina, who sells milk, water and homemade juices. Their businesses are complimentary: clients have the opportunity to stay refreshed while working on the computer. In addition to browsing services, Mr. Shehi provides hands-on coaching as needed, assisting his clients to access their email, to download forms and to use social networks. Occasionally Mr. Shehi is also asked to fix computers and to replace damaged components. In addition, he sells mobile phone accessories. The latter are in such strong demand that Mr. Shehi opted to invest his loans in developing the mobile phone retail business.
Mr. Shehi used his first two loans, of $100 each, to enlarge his stock of memory cards, covers and other mobile phone accessories. Mr. Shehi’s third loan was for $300, which he used to buy more accessories for Christmas holidays, as during this season there is greater demand in the coastal area where many relatives come to visit their families. He maintained a 100% on-time repayment rate for all weekly installments over the course of the three loans.
His fourth and current loan was disbursed in May this year. This time the loan increased to over $1000. Mr. Shehi used the loan to extend the interior of his shop and to venture into a lucrative new business: the sale of mobile phone handsets, from simple text-and-call phones to data-enabled smart phones that are starting to penetrate the Kenyan market.
So far he is very optimistic. “I sell what people like, not what I like,” he told me. That may be the biggest secret of his success. “I always buy small quantities, though they might be a bit more expensive and first give new accessories a try. If their demand is high I buy more the next time.” Mr. Shehi does not fill his shelves for vanity’s sake. “I only sell the products in the quality and quantity that is demanded.”
Mr Shehi told me that his life has improved a lot within the last month. The new inventory has boosted his revenues substantially, and this in turn has impacted his family’s standard of living. They now use gas to cook, which is much more convenient and healthy than cooking over an open fire. He dresses better, which also helps him to promote his business. And overall life has become much easier and decent as there is less need to worry about money.
In the future he aims to buy his own plot of land to house a larger, more permanent building for his business. At the moment, he still pays a high rent each month for the small plot on which he built his shop.
His work as a Volunteer Mentor
Mr. Shehi engages a lot with Zidisha and he wants other people to benefit from its cheap loans. Therefore he introduces and explains the concept of Zidisha to people he regards as responsible and trustworthy. Mr. Shehi chose to become a Volunteer Mentor because he saw the need of someone in his area to represent Zidisha and help clients to understand the procedures and requirements. Mr. Shehi told me that he wishes for the long-term success of Zidisha and he is willing to contribute with some time and effort to ensure that only serious creditworthy people from his area are entering the platform. He wants more people to benefit from Zidisha, the way he did.
You may view Mr. Shehi’s story in his own words in his Zidisha profile page.