By Nikhil Srivastava, Kenya Ambassador Volunteer
Today I had the pleasure of meeting an inspiring entrepreneur who has used Zidisha to dramatically expand his business, who single-handedly supports his mother and brother, and who has ambitious plans to start another venture in the near future.
Would you believe that Francis Maweu is only 24 years old?
Francis owns an internet cafe called Global Computer College in South B, a district of Nairobi three kilometers south of downtown. Just a few blocks away from the Mukuru slums, the storefront sits on a busy thoroughfare lined with stores that serve local residents as well as students and staff of the nearby Railway Training Institute. Francis moved his store here in March 2014 after identifying this location as one in desperate need of computer services.
Global Computer College provides internet access on computers equipped with productivity software for word processing and accounting, meeting the needs of students and professionals in the area. In addition, the venue has a walk-in service center for photocopies, passport photos, and driving licenses.
Francis is currently on his second Zidisha loan and has maintained a 100% repayment rate throughout. His loans have enabled him to dramatically expand his business over the last 3 months: he bought an additional 4 computers (he now has 10), started a program of computer training classes, and hired a new employee to teach classes and manage the store while he is away. Francis himself works hard, keeping his store open as late as 10 PM.
Francis is especially enthusiastic about the computer classes, which not only provide supplemental income to his business but also enable him to help those in his community looking for employment. While an unskilled laborer might earn just $30 – $50 per month, becoming proficient in computers and standard software can qualify the same person for an office job with a steady salary of $300 – $500 per month. Not surprisingly, the demand for affordable IT courses is strong, and the number of computers is the limiting factor on how many students Francis is able to serve.
New computers purchased with Zidisha loans have almost doubled the capacity of Francis’ computer training center.
Francis hails from a small village in eastern Kenya and is a member of the Kamba tribe, a group prevalent in the semi-arid regions immediately east of Nairobi. His father passed away when he was in 10th grade, leaving him to support his mother and brother who both still live in the village. Francis smiles as he thinks of them: his brother, 19, always wanting to follow in his footsteps; his mother, proud of his accomplishments but wishing he were closer to home. Francis tells me he is planning a trip back to the village this weekend in what seems to be a regular journey of financial and emotional support.
Francis’s decision to relocate and expand his cyber cafe appears to have paid off – the store was busy with patrons during my visit, and according to Francis its income is trending higher each month. Francis is confident about the store’s future. In fact, he is already planning ahead to his next venture – a photo and video production service – currently a part-time hobby that he wants to develop into a professional operation. It is clear Francis has a head for business; he recites from memory the expected expenses and revenues from video production, and he even gives me advice on how to make Zidisha more efficient!
Francis speaks highly of Zidisha. He likes the certainty and speed of loan disbursement, a process that can take up to 2 months when working with a bank. He also appreciates flexibility in his repayment schedule and cost substantially lower than other financing sources that range from 20-30% interest. More personally, he has a distaste for the regulations and headaches that bank creditors put him through – they don’t trust me, he asks, so why would I give them any business?
Francis’ business registration certificate. He wrote, “I chose the name because the success and development of the college is not mine doing, rather by support I have got globally from Zidisha community, and that’s why I cannot fail to recognize you in my project.”
What does the future hold for Francis? He has already demonstrated a knack for entrepreneurship, and more compellingly the desire to help those in the communities around him. Francis is a Volunteer Mentor with over 50 borrowers, many of whom he signed up and trained in his very own internet cafe. While he is committed to his business in the near future, Francis speaks passionately about the shortcomings in the Nairobi political scene and sees himself joining it one day.
Francis, thank you for hosting me this afternoon and for teaching me about your business. I’m inspired by your story, and I wish you the very best in what will certainly be a bright future!