Zidisha Team Spotlight: Betsy Ramser Jaime, Entrepreneurs’ Story Writer

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Betsy Ramser Jaime, Entrepreneurs’ Story Writer (Photo credit: Nikki Romani)

By Julia Kurnia

At Zidisha our mission is not only to fund loans, but also to connect people across geographic, socioeconomic and cultural barriers.  We do this most powerfully by hosting stories.  In addition to information about their loan projects, our members share stories of their childhood, how they acquired education or started businesses, their families and their hopes for the future.

Many of our members lead inspiring, even heroic, lives.  They overcome overwhelming obstacles to achieve their goals, and give back generously to their communities.  Zidisha lenders play transformative roles in those lives, bringing opportunities within reach and amplifying the enterpreneurs’ impact.

Thanks to Betsy, these stories are reaching a wider audience.  Each week she selects an especially inspiring Zidisha entrepreneur to profile, and skillfully combines photos and narrative to present the story in our blog.  She also shares the most interesting news and content from the Zidisha community in Twitter and Facebook.  I am always amazed by her ability to communicate these stories in such a vivid, memorable way.  Reading one of Betsy’s stories makes me feel as though I’ve met the entrepreneur in person.

Betsy joined our volunteer team almost a year ago, and we finally caught up with her for an interview this week, reproduced in full below.  Betsy, thank you so much for generously giving of your time, energy and talent to our community!

 

How did you hear about Zidisha?

I first became interested in Microfinance as a grad student studying entrepreneurship back in 2011. I read a few books but nothing really happened beyond that. Then, in early 2017, I was browsing volunteer opportunities on Idealist and came across Zidisha. I checked out the website and knew that I wanted to be a part of what Zidisha was doing. The Entrepreneurship writer position really pulled together all of my passions and past experiences from getting a Master’s in entrepreneurship, working for a few startups, and living in Africa for three months.

 

Why do you choose to spend time working with Zidisha?

I’ve found that the Zidisha lenders, borrowers, and other volunteers are some of the most inspiring, resilient, and warm-hearted people I’ve ever met. As I type up each borrower story, it is so clear to me that Zidisha is making a profound difference in that person’s life, family, and surrounding community.

When I first started with Zidisha, almost a year ago, the thought of writing a new story each week felt really overwhelming. I also wondered if I would get burnt out after a few months, fortunately that hasn’t happened at all. Instead, I’ve discovered that the practice of writing has started to come more naturally and now I really enjoy the process of storytelling.

 

What does your work with Zidisha involve?

I am currently the Entrepreneurship Writer for the blog. In a typical week, you can find me researching and digging to find our best borrowers. If needed, I will reach out to them with additional questions or photos that we might need. I then write and edit a new post each week which will go live on the blog Monday morning. I also connect with the borrowers to let them know that we have shared their story with the Zidisha community. In addition, another interesting role is Social Media Management. Specifically, I work with the Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s fun to see what content really sticks or resonates most with lenders and followers.

 

Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?

Wow. What a hard question! One that immediately comes to mind is Jared Mogendi. As the sixth of eight children with two unemployed parents, his early life was certainly not easy. However, he was still able to go on and receive a certificate in both Computer Science and Development. Now, he’s the founder of a project called, ‘Amazing Smile Children’s Centre’ which supports orphans and children from poor families. Plus, he is a Technology Manager and also runs two cyber businesses.

I love his story because it really echoes the lives of so many other Zidisha borrowers. There’s often a huge ripple effect because most of our borrowers are hugely invested in improving not just themselves or their families, but their communities at large. It’s inspiring to see how a single Zidisha entrepreneur can change the entire trajectory of a town or city. And I think that’s really the heartbeat of Zidisha.

 

What do you like to do in your free time?

I would say that my #1 hobby is reading, in fact, I’ve loved to read my entire life. I try to read a few minutes of non-fiction each morning and then some fiction right before bed. Right now a new hobby of mine is learning Mandarin. I am a complete beginner but try to practice for at least a few minutes each day. I also enjoy spending time outside with my husband and listening to as much K Pop as I can.

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Betsy with her husband Josh (Photo credit: Adree Rodriquez)

What do you wish borrowers knew about lenders and volunteers?

I hope that borrowers know how inspired we are by their stories and perseverance. Our borrowers are always quick to thank the lenders and volunteers and show their appreciation. I know that if I’m having a bad day, one of my favorite things to do is to read through the kind comments or notes that I’ve received from borrowers. Zidisha is such a supportive community and I’m always learning lessons from the borrowers that I can take and apply in my own life.

 

It All Started With a $3 Loan

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Kioko Kimau was born in Makueni county, Kenya, in 1974. As a child, he spent his afternoons and weekends tending to his father’s cattle. This allowed him to develop a strong work ethic which he carried with him through school. Eventually, this led him to move to Nairobi where he attended College. He proudly shares that in school he was always good at football and singing folk songs.

Kioko has created a simple cereal shop primarily selling beans and maize. His offerings are somewhat seasonal and vary throughout the year. He’s found that being in the cereals business is wise as these are foods that people eat regularly. After paying  business expenses such as, business permits, transport, rent, and electricity he is able to use his profits to take care of his family, pay school fees for his children, and even save for the future.

Kioko serves as a great example of the saying, ‘A little goes a long way.’ In fact, his first 4 Zidisha funded loans were all under $20. For example, he obtained two loans in quick succession in July and August 2017, both for $3. With the July loan, he purchased a bag of maize and then set aside the profits to pay Zidisha. Shortly after, with his August loan he bought another bag of maize for his cereals shop and used the profits for his family upkeep.

He then obtained a second loan in August, for $7, and was able to purchase a bag of beans as his stock had been depleted. With this loan, he was excited, knowing that the profits would allow him to pay the school fees for his daughter! And indeed, that’s what happened. On August 23, Kioko shared on his discussion page, ‘Hi guys thanks a lot for your trust in me and lending me your money, the last loan has helped me in my cereals shop business boost and made me get an extra profit which I will use in family upkeep.’

Then, in September 2017, he requested two more Zidisha funded loans. One for $17 and the next for $58. These loans were also used to increase his stock of beans for his shop. He envisioned that through selling this stock, he would have the funds to expand his business. Kioko had his eyes set on adding soda to his shop lineup. Afterward, Kioko shared, ‘Hi my good lenders thanks once again for your trust in me and your support, the last loan I bought a bag of beans for my cereals shop and I sold all of the beans in a very short time and the profit I got used to pay my daughter school fees, the loan has helped me in both family upkeep and business boost.’

Remaining consistent, in December 2017, Kioko raised another $141 from lenders to vastly increase his stock of beans. He noted that during the December festival season beans are in high demand!

Kioko recently shared with lenders, ‘Hi, my lenders thanks very much for your loan which I invested in beans stock and the profit has enabled me to pay my daughters school fees for term one am happy for you. With your loans my life has changed to the better, with the beans business is good. Thanks.’

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So far, in his time with Zidisha, Kioko has obtained 6 loans. Amazingly, all 6 loans combined, amount to a mere, $229. Regardless of how much or how little you have to give, remember that Kioko started with a $3 loan. I think it’s also not just about the number behind the dollar sign. Whether you can give, $3 or $300, you are doing more than giving financially. You are also telling that borrower, ‘I believe in you’ which is often just as powerful as the loan itself.

Would you like to impact the life of another entrepreneur like, Kioko? Make sure to check out our Lend page to read about other business owners that need your help and support.

Going To Greater Heights

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Evans Sackitey is a hard working entrepreneur living in Prampram, Ghana. At 33 years old, he has gained experience, graduating from the Tema Technical Institute in 2004 and also earning a City and Guilds Certificate in Block Laying and Concreting. He notes that since then he has been working as a mason on building projects on a contract basis.

Evans is used to long days, as he usually wakes up at 5 am to catch the first bus to his work site. Depending on the location, he often lodges on site for the rest of the week to reduce his overall transportation costs.

He is also currently working to start a cement sale business as an additional income stream for himself. He shares, ‘My dream is to start a cement shop business and later block molding. The latter would require heavier investment so that is for the long-term. A man I once worked for gifted to me his unused container. I intend to refurbish this for my cement shop business. This would help augment my income and make me a business owner. Currently, I need to weld, screed and roof the container and get it ready for this business. When given a loan, I would use it for these preparatory works. The source of income that will be used to repay the loan will come from my masonry work.’

So far Evans has acquired five Zidisha funded loans, his first being in December of 2013 for $50. He enthusiastically shares, ‘I would use the loan to start the preparatory works needed for my planned cement shop. Currently, I need to weld, screed and roof my cement shop container and get it ready for business. I would use this loan to pay for welding costs. There are a few rusts and cracks that need to be fixed on the body of the container to make it more secure. I have spoken to a Welder located in my neighborhood and he has assured that he can do this job perfectly.’

A month later, in January of 2014, he continued to jump in headfirst with getting his side business off the ground. This required a second Zidisha funded loan of $429 which he used to purchase wood, nails, and plywood roofing sheet to cover his container for the cement business.

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By 2015, Evans was prepared to ask lenders for a third loan. This time around he requested $480 and shares, ‘I am very grateful to you lenders for all your help in refurbishing my new container. Although I have not started business with it yet, but I have made an important preparation for this business. I feel more confident and reassured that this business would take off and be a good investment in the future.’

With the funds, he was ready to purchase a plot of land for the business, which he predicted would cost around GHc 5,000. He would start by paying a deposit and would continue to pay installments on the property going forward. Because he already had a salaried job with a construction company, he felt confident about being able to manage the payments going forward. He is also able to work on the weekends as a mason, which brings in additional income as well.

The following year, Evans returned to lenders for a loan of $1,226 in April of 2016. With this loan, he hoped to complete the payment of his land. In addition, he wanted to use the remainder of the loan to register his land at the Ghana lands commission.

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Most recently, in July 2017, Evans was able to secure another Zidisha funded loan of $2,051 to purchase a concrete mixing machine. Before, he had been renting a machine and he knew that purchasing a machine of his own would really cut down on costs in the long run.

Partnering with Zidisha has been a life changing experience for Evans and has continued to bring happiness and fulfillment to his life as he says, ‘My time with Zidisha and lender’s have been the most happiest time ever in my life.’

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Recently, Evans shared this message with his lenders, ‘Hello lender’s, My construction business is moving from one stage to another. Many thanks to you for making me an entrepreneur and a good influence to others who are now following my footsteps. Thank you. I believe with your support I will go greater heights and also give back to society by employing the jobless.’

Would you like to support another Zidisha entrepreneur, who is making a difference in their community? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to read about dozens of business owners making big changes.

 

 

The Multi Passionate Entrepreneur

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Kusi Obodum is a multi passionate entrepreneur, dividing his time between teaching, selling with the company HerbaLife and working as a driver. He was born into a large family, as the seventh of eight children. After high school, he was anxious to attend college, however, he had to wait a year before his test results came and before he could save up the funds. He pursued an education degree from the Manpong Technical College of Education and upon graduating, received his first post at Abirem D/A JHS in the Kwabre East District in 2012.

Soon after, he got married in 2013. At the time, his wife had been working as a trader. However, once they had their first son in 2014, she decided to stop trading to look after their son full-time. While this was the right decision for their family, Kusi knew that it would be a struggle to support his growing family on his small teaching salary.

His first side hustle was with an American nutrition company called HerbaLife. He was able to sell the product and would then receive bonuses and commissions. Unfortunately, as business slowed, Kusi found that he was ready to try something new.

This led him to enter the vehicle transportation business. He shares, ‘This vehicle business has been of help to the community a lot. l use to carry people from place to place to have their own businesses done. People chatter the vehicle which aid them to alight at a specific places of work and this is helping the community a lot. I selected this kind of business to support the HerbaLife which has been running slow over some months now. I got my income from teaching and the vehicles transportation as well . I also help in carrying who are nearby to depart to their various schools.’

When he first started marketing the HerbaLife products, he really struggled. He would talk about the products but didn’t have the money to keep any inventory on hand to show potential customers. Fortunately, his first Zidisha funded loan of $9 completely changed this. With his $9 Zidisha loan in hand, he bought some products, particularly the ‘Fibre and Herbs.’ He knew that from the customer’s perspective, being able to see and touch the product in person, made all the difference.

The following year, in March of 2017. Kusi secured his second Zididsha funded loan of $91. By this time, he had shifted to focus on his transport business. He was having some car problems and without the repairs, it would be a struggle to continue his business.

A few months later, in July 2017, his car required a new engine, estimating a new cost of $328. Fortunately, his loyal Zidisha lenders were happy to lend a helping hand. He also notes that this will allow him to be punctual in his work, as he won’t have to worry about car problems.

Most recently, in October of 2017, Kusi asked lenders for his largest loan yet, $888. He continues, ‘I will thank lenders of what they have been doing for me. God richly bless them. My vehicle still have a mechanical fault which needs to be resolved once and for all. The tire, the dashboard and as the body have become old. This will help increase my income for myself, the family and the community as a whole and some will also go to the charity fund. I will be expecting a percentage increase of about 70.’

Kusi would also like his lenders to know that his son, Wilford is now two years old and is in the Creative Learning Academy. Kusi hopes that one day his son will grow up to be a renowned businessman with many employees!

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With the help of Zidisha, Kusi has been able to combine his strengths, talents, and education to create multiple streams on income for his family. By doing this, even when one stream slows down, he has two others to help sustain him. Did you enjoy Kusi’s story? Make sure to head over to our Lend page where you can check out the stories of our other inspiring entrepreneurs around the world.

Pharmacy & Farming

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Kipruto Kiptarus is a 23 year old Kenyan who is commonly known by the nickname Rush. He is the sixth child in his family, with 2 brothers and four sisters. Both parents are hard workers as his father is a ‘matatu’ which is a driver, and his mother is a farmer and herbalist. Throughout his life, Rush has helped her look after the livestock and fetch herbs from the forest. He even credits her for his interest in livestock farming and studying medicine for his diploma course in pharmacy. In addition, as a student he even did his research with her, comparing herbal medicines to medicine in the modern world.

In May 2014, Rush started his business with five hens and a cock. At the time, he was also pursuing his course in pharmacy. He found that even as a busy student, he still had some free time in the evenings and weekends, which he could devote to his business. With help from a carpenter, he built a poultry house and a few months later, purchased five more hens and two sheep. By October, sixty chicks had hatched, though some did not survive due to the weather conditions, limited space, and improper vaccination. As he learned and improved, his second attempt was more successful. With his earnings he was able to buy two young bulls and a secondhand motorcycle. It was then that he discovered Zidisha and was excited to learn and continue to grow his business.

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For his first two Zidisha funded loans, Rush obtained $100 in September 2015 and $99 in December 2015. With these loans, he was excited to improve his livestock production by improving his structures. He chose to put up a larger poultry house to accommodate more hens and an improved facility for chicks, with lantern lamps for heat and light, feed troughs, and vaccines. He also hoped to repair the roof for his sheep house and construct a dairy house for dairy cattle. With any remaining funds, he hoped to increase his herd of sheep.

Shortly thereafter, Rush was ready to pursue a third loan in February 2016 for $198. He was ready to purchase two young bulls which would cost between $120 and $150. The remaining money would be put towards the construction of a fence for partitioning the grazing field. With this loan, he excitedly shares, ‘I am looking forward that this will contribute to my future firm investment. It will help me to further my career in medicine, for paying my fee and also supporting my parents and siblings.’

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In April of 2016, Rush was prepared to expand again with a loan of $400. With this loan, he was prepared to purchase one male and one female goat. He would also need to build a dairy house for the female and one for the male. He also shared that goat milk is in high demand so there is a ready market for this.

Next, in August 2016, with a loan of $600, Rush was ready to set up an animal feed store. This loan would go towards a license, hiring, and purchasing a wide variety of animal feeds.

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Most recently, Rush requested his largest loan yet in March 2017 for $1,883. He shares, ‘Drought has been a major cause of hindrance to my livestock activities and, for the past three months, my output yields have slightly declined. For this reason, I am really in need for funds to purchase animal feeds as we are eagerly waiting for the rainy season to come. This will include hay, fodder, feed mash, lick salt and also sources a means of water transport and storage tank. This will cost me $300 for the next two months. I would also like to cultivate a small land for growing hay, maize for animal fodder and nappier grass. I would also like to purchase a chaff cutter for chopping animal feeds into small sizes. It will also cost me an estimate of $250. For the remaining $300, I would like to finish building my house which is already in progress. This will enable me to move from my parents’ home to where I’ll call my home.’

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Rush has continuously expanded and broadened his business since joining Zidisha. He thankfully shares with lenders, ‘My business has grown since joining Zidisha, more so in my poultry farm. Besides home consumption of eggs and selling at local centres, I am now supplying over sixty eggs weekly to various retail shops and hotels in my hometown, Kabarnet. I look forward to increasing my poultry farm and maintaining a thousand hens in my farm. With this, I will create an employment opportunity for other people. I am also looking forward to building my own house and having a family of my own in a few years to come. Thanks to Zidisha for its innovation and to generous lenders for your support.’

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Would you like to empower and support another entrepreneur like Rush? Head on over to our Lend Page to read about our other innovative business owners in Africa.