By Nikhil Srivastava, Kenya Ambassador Volunteer
This morning I met Ann Mwaniki, a wholesale phone card saleswoman and mother of two, who has used three Zidisha loans to expand her business inventory and provide extra income for her family.
Ann operates a delivery service in the town of Lucky Summer where she lives, supplying bodegas and groceries with the prepaid phone cards they sell to their customers. She purchases the cards each day from a bulk retailer downtown to resupply her roughly 30 customers, keeping track of their inventory and turnover to size her purchases. Ann delivers the cards personally to her clients, who choose her among competitors for her punctuality and reliability. Although as a wholesale supplier her margins are low, Ann’s access to a sizable portion of business in the growing neighborhood of Lucky Summer provides a helpful supplemental income for her family.
Ann’s oldest child Favour Blessing in a new school uniform. Her increased business earnings have allowed her to send him to a quality preschool.
Ann is on her third Zidisha loan and has maintained a 94% repayment rate. So far, all of her loans have been used to increase the inventory of phone cards, but within the next year she hopes to save enough to open her own retail store – selling phone cards and additional items like electricity tokens and M-PESA transactions to retail customers. Selling directly to consumers in a physical store will allow her to increase her profits and reduce the travel and delivery time that keeps her away from her family.
Ann grew up in Nyeri, a small town 250 kilometers north of Nairobi, where her parents still reside. She currently lives just off the main road in Lucky Summer with her husband Oscar and two sons: Favour Blessing, almost five, and Trevor Mac, just 16 months. Ann’s husband originally began the phone card business, which Ann took over when he started a job at a nearby factory, but Ann was the first to use Zidisha loans to expand the operations.
Though Ann is a Kikuyu, Oscar is a member of the Luo tribe from the town of Busia in western Kenya. Oscar and Ann met after college, and after two years of dating their families approved the marriage though they came from two different ethnicities.
If there was any hesitation in the minds of Ann’s family about the marriage, it was put to rest four years ago when Ann gave birth to Favour. Unfortunately, the birth was a difficult one, and Ann was stricken with a severe calcium deficiency that left her barely able to feed her baby. For almost two years she was bedridden, eventually contracting tuberculosis due to her weakened immune system and needing to take a cocktail of pills each evening. Through the ordeal, Oscar supported his wife, helping to change Favour’s diapers and clean the house. Ann credits her husband immensely for staying by her side, something she feels another husband may not have done.
Now fully recovered, Ann is blessed with two healthy boys. On her way to work each morning Ann drops off Favour at a nearby preschool and Mac at his mother-in-law’s house, and she collects them on her way home. The two children have opposite personalities; Favour is always smiling and eager to pose for a picture, while Mac is reserved and rarely away from his mother’s shawl.
Ann is thankful to have access to Zidisha, and she serves as a volunteer mentor for 24 other borrowers. In a recent comment, she thanked each of the 55 lenders who had supported her by name, adding, “You are part of my life.”
Ann, thank you for your hospitality today in showing me your home and neighborhood. I wish you much success with your growing business!