By Rebecca Wolfe
As a child growing up in the Kenyan farming region of Meru, Godfrey Mugo realized something: farmers had produce, but no market.
As an adult, Godfrey decided to change that.
Leaving Maru as a young man, Godfrey moved to Nairobi to look for work. Though he took every odd job he could find, he struggled to make ends meet, barely covering the cost of his food and his share of the rent for the single room he and several others called home. After a few years in the capitol, Godfrey returned to the land of his childhood and managed to find a job as an accounting clerk nearby. He was paid relatively well for his time, and so managed to save up a few thousand KSE (around $30).
During this time, Godfrey married his wife of eleven years, an early childhood teacher name Carol, and he and his wife welcomed into the world their daughter, Anselim, now ten years old. Godfrey was making enough to scrape by as a clerk, but wanted the best for his wife and daughter. Working everyday with the farmers in the community, Godfrey “saw the need to venture a market for their produce,” and so “decided to start a banana business.” Having learned the ropes of retail at some of his previous odd jobs, Godfrey took it upon himself to create a path to retail for the farmers of Meru. He went farm to farm, field to field, purchasing boxes of bananas until he had enough to take to market in Nairobi. “I sold for a week… managed a small profit… then made it back… and bought more produce.”
Godfrey managed his business well but, due to a lack of initial financing and business infrastructure, struggled to keep it going. After a while, he was forced to put his entrepreneurial dreams on hold. Prioritizing the wellbeing of his family, Godfrey worked construction jobs to put food on the table, hoping all along to save enough to reopen his fruit business and generate market access for local farmers.
In July of 2015 this hope came to fruition. Godfrey heard about Zidisha, and quickly applied for an initial loan of $100. With funds in his pocket, Godfrey returned to the fields, and from the fields went to market. A few months later, in August of 2015, Godfrey posted to his discussion page. “I am grateful to Zidisha. Having received funding, I was able to increase my stock. Now I can hire a pickup to collect my produce and take them to market.” No longer did Godfrey have to walk from farm to farm, nor load, unload, and reload fruit as he had done before. With a hired pickup, he could create a supply chain that was directly farm-to-market.
As the months went on, Godfrey’s business took off. In November of 2015 he shared on his discussion page that not only was his business up and running smoothly, but he had been able to hire two local people to assist him with deliveries, as well as field hands to help select and harvest fruit. A month later Godfrey noted that he was now able to package his fruit, adding value to the product at market. In December he received his second loan, this for $193. The first loan, he noted, had “transformed [him],” and he had been able to repay it with ease. His second loan, he hoped, would allow him to boost his inventory, settle his accounts, and promote his goods, which is precisely what it did. “I take the Zidisha group as a dream changer,” Godfrey said in February. “You have transformed my life. This has helped me to help farmers increase their produce and the quality of their produce. Through the funding, we now have gone far.”
In June of 2016, Godfrey applied for this third loan. He was in the process of putting up a permanent storefront for his produce sales and sought aid for completing the project, “painting, fixing… shelves, buying metal.” In his new store, Godfrey said, he hoped to have new stock and hire an attendant. When the $390 loan came through, reality exceeded dreams. “I opened a new outlet,” he posted, joyfully, in July. “I also introduced new products… improved my packaging, and renovated my work premises.” As this business success continues, the growing profits have enabled Godfrey to build a permanent, sturdy home for his family, replacing their former makeshift residence.
As the business stands today, Godfrey has two full-time employees and an ever-expanding impact in his community. His shop attendant, Morris, has been able to purchase a motorcycle with his earnings and is currently building a house for his family. David, Godfrey’s sourcing employee, is able to provide for his wife and three children, as well as pay all three’s tuition fees. “I have great farmers,” Godfrey says, and they all get along well, “so supportive.” As Godfrey purchases produce from these farmers, they have been able to employ more staff as pickers and packers, as well as afford fertilizer and new agricultural technology.
The entrepreneurial journey is never an easy one, but it is most certainly worthwhile. For Godfrey, entrepreneurship has been the path toward sustainability and success for both himself and his community. “Zidisha loans have really helped me shape my life. Through their funding I have created employment, improved my lifestyle, and that of my employees. And I have also have found a market for farmers’ produce. Since his business has become sustainable, Godfrey has set his sights on even loftier goals. “I am coming up with a strategy to make supply to schools, supermarkets, hotels, and institutions… to touch as many people as possible by providing good, quality… fruits of all kinds.”
If you would like to help another entrepreneur transform their local community, head on over to our loans page and put your funds towards a brighter future.