Needle and Thread

atik

by Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

The whirr of a sewing machine fills the little room, the gentle noise softening the edges of the day. Aat Atikah sits at her table, using both hands to guide a strip of fabric beneath the needle as it bobs. She settles into the familiar, soothing rhythm of sewing. She blinks, her eyes keeping up with flash of thread through a pattern of flowers. This is going to be a beautiful dress.

Aat Atikah, called Atik by her friends, family, and lenders, is a wife, mother, and designer in Bogor, Indonesia. Age 38, Atik has three children. The oldest, a son, is 21 years old and lives elsewhere in their island nation. The two younger daughters, ages 15 and 1, live at home with their mother and father. Since the birth of her first child, Atik has been a stay-at-home mother, leaving her eight-year job as a tailor in a garment factory upon confirmation of her pregnancy.

As a young woman, Atik says, “I had a lot of dreams that I wanted to achieve.” She had big plans to build a clothing empire. “I wanted to be a woman entrepreneur who has a large industrial garment factory,” she said. She wanted to “Provide jobs for the needy… Help my beloved family’s economic welfare.” When Atik became a mother, however, she put that dream on hold.

Spending her days in the role of what Atik terms a “normal housewife,” Atik has provided for the needs of her family physically, emotionally, and mentally. As her children grew older, Atik began to have some free time. With her entrepreneurial spirit firmly intact, she took up sewing for neighbors and relatives. As word of her excellent tailoring work spread, Atik began to receive requests from people she did not even know. Atik had, inadvertently, launched a small tailoring service. This business grew, and allowed her to provide a supplemental income to increase her family’s economic welfare.

Presently, Atik is able to accept and fill one order a day. She alters pants, makes shirts, and designs dresses. You name it, she sews it. With customers paying an average of $2 to $10, depending on the complexity of the order, Atik brings in $14 to $70 per week. As her husband is the family’s primary breadwinner, Atik is able to contribute to the family’s funds while also putting some money away for future investments. Currently, Atik says, “I have only one dream. I just want to be happy with my lovely family.” Familial happiness and entrepreneurship need not be mutually exclusive, though, and this is something she well knows.

With her skills and expertise lying in the realm of fashion, Atik is well prepared for a venture into clothing and textiles. The dreams of her youth are coming back to life, coming off hold. “I really want to have a bigger, industrial clothing production and employ many employees,” she said in her January 2016 application for a $50 loan. “But I know it cannot be achieved easily, cannot be instant. There must be a process that I go through to achieve success. Therefore, at this time, I would like to start from zero.” Her zero is what she calls her “little tailor shop,” the table in her home where she slides her seams beneath the whirring needle of the sewing machine. With her first loan, Atik purchased a stock of fabric, and that fabric turned into profit.

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Atik is working, “slowly but surely,” toward her long term goal of a clothing empire. Six months after her first loan, she returned to Zidisha. “I am very happy I know this site and all of you,” she said. “This program has much helped my business grow up.” With her second loan, a larger sum of $200, Atik plans to buy a new sewing machine. “Yipiiee hehe,” she exclaimed in a discussion post. “I will buy a machine to make my production better. Hope all lenders… know and trust me and can help me again.”

As Atik has said, there is much hard work ahead of her. With help, however, from Zidisha lenders, she has come several steps closer to reaching her goals. Hard work and determination can take a person far, and with a little help from friends around the world, anything is possible.

If you would like to make something possible for an entrepreneur, head over to our loans page and contribute to the project of another self-starter like Atik.

 

 

Hope in the Hills

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By Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

The sun beats down. Sweltering waves of heat and light bake the red, dusty roads of Ngong, Kenya. A motorcycle drives along, stopping and parking beneath the corrugated tin awning of Dannex Motorbike Spares & Repairs. The rider dismounts his bike and walks inside where he is greeted by the shop’s owner, Daniel Maluli, Daniel’s wife, and one of the two mechanics that the shop employs. His bike is one many in the area, the number of which is steadily increasing. Most all of the riders, when they need repairs, come here to Daniel’s place. The parts they need are always in stock.

Daniel Maluli is a husband, father, and Zidisha borrower. Not only that, he is a Zidisha mentor and something of a Zidisha evangelist; he has invited twenty-four members to join and shares his business expertise with another forty-seven. Daniel has received funding for four microloans, with the access to financial capital significantly increasing the capacity and revenue of his repair shop. Over the course of the last year, he has been able to obtain and renew his business license, increase his inventory, and hire a second mechanic. In June of 2016, roughly three months after the receipt of his most recent loan of $563, Daniel posted on his discussion page. “I really don’t know where I would be today if it was not for Zidisha!” He said. “My livelihood has really changed dramatically thanks to Zidisha.”

Born in a rural area, Daniel attended primary and secondary school, going on to study shipping in Mombasa. He succeeded in his academic pursuits but, unable to pay the exam fee for his final evaluation, could not complete his course of study. Following this, Daniel was hired as a trainee at a 5-star hotel in Mombasa, Kenya’s second-largest city and a popular tourist destination. Located on an island, the city boasts beautiful white-sand beaches and a large collection of historic and colonial sights. After working at the hotel for four months, Daniel was offered a position as a reservation clerk. Taking quickly to his new role, Daniel enrolled in an evening Travel and Tourism class, paying his own way through to the Consultant level. He sat for and passed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) exams in 2013 and received full accreditation as an IATA travel agent, granting him greater access to the travel industry.

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The next year, encouraged by his success as a travel agent, Daniel opened a motorbike repair shop in his new residence of Ngong Town on the southwestern side of Nairobi. Nestled into the beautiful, sloping Ngong hills, the town has lots of motorbikes. Buzzing and rumbling up and down the narrow roads, two wheels are better than four for traversing across the lush green slopes, sailing past the gleaming white windmills and squat little shrubs that freckle the hills. Daniel chose his market well. His profits were significant, “almost 100%”, and his business was growing. He found, however, that he could not always keep up with demand. As the number of bikes in the area increased, so did the need for parts and repairs. Though he still worked as a travel agent, his income was not enough to significantly increase his inventory.

It was in the midst of this struggle that Daniel found Zidisha. “When I saw Zidisha and how it has built people up through lending them money, at 0% interest rate, to grow their businesses, that gave me the courage to believe that my dreams are attainable,” he said. Receiving a $50 loan in August of 2015, Daniel was able to invest in licensure and inventory. Two and a half months later, Daniel proposed another loan of $100. With this loan funded, he was able to meet the increasing demands of the community as the weather was getting colder and “During the rainy season, motorbike tires record the highest sales.” Daniel provided his lenders with a detailed list of costs and counts, profits and projections for his new purchases. “The stock doesn’t even last for one week,” he said, “as every client is rushing to buy before the rain hits the ground.” In December of 2015, Daniel brought another loan proposal to the table, again with a detailed list of costs and profits projected from the $199 investment he hoped lenders would make. This loan, he said, “will see my business grow, step by step.”

Lenders came through, and with their help, Daniel has accomplished much. His motorbike shop is thriving and growing, and he has been able to gather the capital to register his own tourism company called Sceneric Tours and Safari. He hopes that his bike shop will enable him to invest more in Sceneric Tours, with a long term goal of expanding the business to branches country wide. Since receiving his fourth loan in March of 2016, Daniel has been very active on his discussion board. He posts often – every other week or so – updating lenders on business ventures, sharing concerns about health issues, thanking his supporters and wishing them well. “This really is a dream come true,” he writes.

Daniel shares photos of his family as well, proudly announcing the first day of school for his youngest, Mary Kaveke, and sharing his affection for his oldest, Hervey. Though Daniel has faced many challenges throughout his life, he has responded to these difficulties with determination, not defeat. He has created employment opportunities for members of his community, having hired two mechanics as well as several young people from the community to work the counter. He has repaid all of his loans in good faith and on time, and hopes to, one day, become a Zidisha lender himself.

In March of 2016, responding to a lender’s glowing feedback on his profile, Daniel wrote, “Thank you, Laurie, and I promise not to ever let you or any other lenders down. I will always do what it takes to uphold my trust with lenders throughout. It’s my hope that one day, after achieving my goals, I will also join the good lenders we have here on Zidisha so I can also touch a life.” Laurie replied with wisdom. “You are most welcome, Daniel,” she wrote. “And while I know what you mean, wanting to help others financially (which I’m sure one day you, too, will be able to do), I want you to know… that you and so many of the people I’ve met through Zidisha already *do* touch other lives… and in ways just as important and maybe even more important than financially.”

Zidisha lenders have made a difference in Daniel’s life, and the lives of his family members. Daniel makes a difference in the lives of his mentees, his invitees, and employees, to name only a few. Daniel has found hope for the fruition of his dreams in a little shop in the Ngong hills. Many of his lenders have found hope in watching him succeed.

If you would like to give the gift of hope today, head over to our loans page and make a contribution to another world-changing entrepreneur.

The Clack of Keyboards

by Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

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The clack of keyboards is a constant sound in Elijah Mwenja’s life. The sounds of a computer mouse sliding across a mousepad and a customer’s laughter as she jokes with her friend seated at the computer station next to her are likely also very common occurrences in his busy cybercafé in Githuri, an area of Narobi, Kenya.

Elijah is an amazing example of a self-starter. Entering the workforce in the construction industry, he saved what he could and eventually stored up enough to start his own poultry business in 2008. Entering the realm of entrepreneurship through this endeavor, Elijah grew his business to a capital of more than ten times the funds that he began with. Three years down the road, he was ready for a change. Having a long-standing interest in computers and networking, Elijah, his wife, and his son, started up the cybercafé in 2012. The café is a gift to local residents, enabling them to access information, communicate with distant friends and family, and type up and print their personal, business, and academic documents.

In January of 2015 the booming business began to take its toll on Elijah’s supplies. His café’s printer had worn-out nozzles and was no longer printing as it should. Around that same time Francis Kamau – a neighbor, friend, Zidisha microloan recipient, and owner of a Nairobi hair salon – invited Elijah to join Zidisha. With a small, $100 loan funded by nineteen different lenders from Europe and North America, Elijah was able to buy replacement parts and have the printer professionally repaired. The printer was soon up and running again, shooting jets of black ink onto smooth white pages. Six months later, having faithfully and efficiently repaid his previous loan, Elijah posted another proposal to Zidisha. This loan of $187, funded in June 2015 by a single lender, allowed Elijah to expand his cybercafé business to include a new computer, reducing customer wait time and increasing profit. In later updates, Elijah stated that this new unit was “one of the computers that [his] clients prefer using.”

As Elijah and his family continued to prosper, Elijah’s wife began to see her long-held dream of continuing her formal education as a financial possibility. Possessing a “gift and passion for business,” and boasting a strong track record of successful business development, Elijah’s wife hoped to pursue a degree in business. In December 2015, that hope came to fruition. Elijah applied for a Zidisha loan of $366, a sum which covered the cost of the first installment of tuition fees at Kenya’s Zetech University. Elijah’s wife enrolled in the program, and is now beginning the first semester of her second year, becoming one of an increasing number of women in higher education in Kenya. Making swift use of her education, Elijah’s wife has taken over the management of the family’s cybercafé business.

With his wife managing the cybercafé, Elijah has begun work as a local business consultant. Inspired by his community and other entrepreneurs in his area, Elijah wishes to “utilize [his] professional skills to help other businesses.” He now shares his expertise in business, bookkeeping, and credit management, and his work has helped neighboring business to keep better track of their fiscal performance. Currently, with the help of a $564 Zidisha microloan, Elijah is entering into a master’s degree program. He says that “most businesses in Kenya are struggling with strategy management and practitioners in this sector are few.” With the knowledge he will gain through his master’s, Elijah will be better equipped to handle “complex assignments in strategy management” and “be of benefit to the community at large because they would no longer be entering into businesses without a projected growth plan.”

Elijah and his family have been able to repay all loans which they have taken out, in full and on time. They have grown their business and improved their standard of living. Throughout the loan process, Elijah has provided regular updates to his lenders, expressing profound gratitude, sharing his joy about his thriving businesses.

The clack of a keyboard is, for Elijah Mwenja, quite likely the sound of hope, education, and a successful entrepreneurial endeavor. It is a sound that has been made possible in Elijah’s life through the loans of Zidisha lenders. Now, by sharing his business expertise, Elijah is able to help other entrepreneurs thrive. Just as he and his family are now sharing their success with their community, many other people in Kenya will soon be able to do the same. One thriving business fosters another. One generous neighbor creates another.

If you’d like to be a generous neighbor, clack out a number and contribute to the success of one the other self-starters profiled on our loans page.