My Life Is Not the Same

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

If you were to travel to the town of Eldoret, Kenya, you might come across, Tonny Lukalo. And you’d know it was him because he has a contagious smile that seems to spread across his entire face. He also comes from a large family and is the eldest child in his family with 11 younger siblings! As a student, he attended Cheplaskei High School and later on pursued Horticultural courses at the Bukura Institute.

He currently has a farm with his wife but before discovering Zidisha, a lack of finances limited their ability to grow and expand the farm. He’s also hoping to change the perception of farming that people have in his community as he shares, “Where I stay, people think that farming is meant for old or retired ones and you can’t get money for the whole family but for me it has really helped me feed and keep my children in school. One of my children wants to be a vet doctor.”

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When joining Zidisha in 2015, Tonny had been in the farming industry for 2 years and was planting vegetables such as tomatoes and onions. In his area, these foods are staples and are therefore always in demand throughout the community. He continues, “ I chose this kind of business because of high demand on the ground and in the community around us. It is also my passion to plant and sell for money so my family can have something to put on the table and to take them to school.”

Although his family and farm keep him pretty busy, when he has free time, he enjoys attending his church called, Living Rock church.

So far, with 6 Zidisha funded loans between January 2015 and September 2018, Tonny has been able to make some impressive changes to his business. With his initial $50 loan, he was able to purchase seeds and fertilizers that allowed him to expand his production. In his own words, “If this business grows it will be a great blessing to my family and create a job to others too.”

A few months later, in March 2018, he secured a second loan from lenders, this one for $98. This allowed him to keep expanding and to take care of his family through school fees for his children. At this point, he dreamed of saving up to add pigs to his farm! Seeing the success and benefit of his Zidisha partnership, he doubled his following loan to $188 in August 2015 to buy fertilizer and DAP for his business. With the remaining funds, he was also able to purchase two jembes, pay his son’s school fees, and even hired someone to help with weeding on his farm.

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Not only is Tonny able to supply fresh vegetables to his community but he’s also so proud that once in a while he is able to offer employment to one member of his town needing employment. And an added benefit is that he strives to make sure that half of the food that his family eats includes vegetables so that they grow up eating a healthy diet. He also foresaw this loan as having a 20% increase in his profit.

As the new year rolled around, Tonny received his next Zidisha funded loan of $384 from lenders and purchased a water pump, water pipe, and two bags of DAP, with the remaining funds paying the remainder of his son’s tuition.

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The following year, in March 2017, Tonny was ready to keep expanding the farm with another loan of $384. This allowed him to purchase DAP fertilizer, CAN fertilizer, seeds, and knapsack sprayer. The rest of the loan helped him to pay his farm rent, at a cost of $180.

Sharing this important season with lenders he mentions, “It’s planting season in Eldoret and the farm will give me 20 percent profit. Also, it will help my family and the community to have food.”

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Recently, in September 2018, Tonny was able to secure a sixth Zidisha funded loan for $433, his largest yet! He shares his vision and dream as he explains, “Hi Zidisha family, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Zidisha family in helping me realize the dream of my farm. With this loan I will buy a second hand motor bike that will cost 400 dollars, the bike will help in transporting my farm produce to the market. About 18% of the cost is used in transporting my produce to the market and farm inputs to the farm. Since the fuel prices have gone up the transport cost will be much higher so with the motor bike I will reduce the cost of production.”

On September 4, 2018, Tonny took to his discussion page to share this update with his lenders, “My last loan was of great help I bought the generator that increased my profit by 20%. The increment that I got, I used to add one employee to help on the farm and I was able to help the needy children with vegetables once every week. The last holiday I went to the rural home with my family. Thanks Zidisha.”

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One of the most inspiring aspects of the lender/borrower relationship at Zidisha, is that growth is inevitable for both parties, this is one of the reasons why Zidisha is so unique. The process stretches you and for the lender it forces you to trust your financial resources with another person. And, as the borrower, there is a great responsibility to make your lenders (and family) proud by using your resources well.

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Tonny is one of those borrowers that has continued to grow and thrive throughout his time with Zidisha as he expresses his gratitude, “Hi Zidisha family am very happy to be part of you. My life is not the same, I am able to do things that was hard for me in the past, my family is able to have food thanks to Zidisha.”

Would you like to make a difference in a family like Tonny’s? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs around the world!

The Strength to Keep Going

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

As a child, Rebecca Esere was raised in a large family, as the youngest of 11 children. She explains that having such a big family was often a burden for her parents in finding a way to feed the whole family, pay for necessities, and also send them to school. But somehow, they found a way, as she says, ‘thanks to their resilience we all are able to stand on our feet as grown ups. I recognize their sacrifice and struggle and I am grateful to them for that.’ At the age of 17, she started working as a Pharmacy Assistant to support herself and her brother.

Now, Rebecca currently works as an Administrative Assistant, and while her job pays the bills, she rarely has much money after that. Wanting greater opportunities for herself, she set out to venture into the farming business. When she first started with Zidisha in 2017, she shared a bold and exciting goal of purchasing land and a greenhouse to grow capsicum and tomatoes. She hoped that in time, this would provide a supplemental income to her current job, enhancing both her own life, and that of her family’s.

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To better understand the working climate in Kenya, Rebecca explains, ‘without any professional qualification it’s almost impossible to get work in Kenya, and with qualifications it’s still difficult, but even when you have work it barely covers your living expenses. It makes more sense to go into business as you not only provide for yourself but also create jobs for others. That is the reason I would like to go into agribusiness not only to make a living but it will create jobs, and provide food for several people, at least in a small way. I will be contributing towards helping with the food security problem. In addition, everywhere on earth I personally think the most important commodity for every human is food, so I have confidence that it is a business that will succeed.’

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At the start of her project, Rebecca shared her broad vision with lenders as she explained, ‘The green house project will also provide employment to those who will be working in it and food that will be sold to other, I feel in some way I not only better my life but of others.’ While she was aware that the cost of the project would be high, she also knew that her greenhouse would then last for 10 years. The entire cost of the investment would be $600 paid in installments. But this didn’t deter Rebecca as she envisioned the potential, knowing that once up and running, she could add up to $4,000 per year to her current income.

By starting this business, Rebecca saw that what she was creating was much bigger than a side business for a little extra money. She was starting something that would help alleviate the food shortage problems in her community and would also eventually provide jobs for her fellow community members.

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So far, in her time with Zidisha, Rebecca has secured 8 Zidisha funded loans, between May 2017 and September 2018. While that first loan in May might have seemed insignificant at $5, she recently obtained her largest loan yet for $891, putting her well on her way towards achieving her goals.

Recently, on September 4, 2018, Rebecca expressed her gratitude for her lenders and the Zidisha community as she said, ‘I am humbled, and grateful to you all for supporting and trusting me with your money, so I can achieve my goal and help my people and others as well. I am so very happy to inform you that with your assistance I have made huge strides, I have been able to combine what savings I had and the assistance you have given me and have been able to finally complete payment for land, now I begin payment for the green house and God willing that too I will soon complete. I was able to visit the land and see the projects progress for those who already completed payment, I have attached photos so you have in mind what the greenhouse project is all about. The empty space is where my greenhouse and others will go, currently they have planted tomatoes and after the season is over probably capsicum. Again, from the bottom of my heart thanks for your continued support and good wishes. You give me strength to keep going.’

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Would you like to make a difference in the life of a female entrepreneur like Rebecca? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about our other inspiring business owners.

The Solar Entrepreneur

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By Betsy Ramser jaime

Peter Gatundu is a true hustler, in the best possible way. He started out with a second hand shoe business in his town in Kenya, but always had his eyes set towards the future as well. With a passion for environmental conservation, his mission has been to start an affordable solar water heater project and indigenous tree nursery.

He is also raising three boys and is teaching them to dream big as well. His first born dreams of becoming a pilot and his second son would like to join the military someday.

With his shoe business, Peter is able to generate about 800 shillings in income per day. He shares that he purchases the shoes in Nairobi and then sells in Nanyuki town. He also has a second side hustle doing taxi work, which allows him to maintain his income when shoe sales are down. And, just when you were wondering how Peter possibly manages it all, he also grows most of his own food on his own farm and sells the extra to make some additional income. On average, this adds about 500 shillings to his daily profit.

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Since becoming a member of the Zidisha community in 2017, Peter has successfully raised 8 loans. With his first 3 loans in September and October 2017, he was able to pay school fees for his boys and also grow his shoe business by purchasing 80 additional pairs of shoes. Generally, he is able to sell each pair for $2.80 and he makes a profit of $.80 cents per pair.

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By January 2018, Peter was ready to get started with his dreams of building a homemade solar water heater, and his Zidisha lenders were behind him to help make this happen. With a mere $75 from lenders, he set to work. He purchased 4 PVC pipes, two iron sheets, 20 connectors, a heated water storage tank, insulation, and plywood. He predicted that the total starting cost would amount to $90. The good news was that he also estimated that he would be able to sell it for $170 making a profit of $80 for himself.

He explains, “This is a very affordable water solar heater compared to a factory one which the cheapest one cost about 800 dollars. My dream is to continue making cheap solar water like this and enable as many people as possible to buy it and save trees and electricity bills. It is also a good idea to take advantage of the sunshine in Kenya.”

On Jan 28, 2018, Peter proudly took to his discussion page and shared with lenders this update, “My homemade solar water is now working. It is all passive.Today after two hours and half of sunshine, the water was very hot such that cold water had to be mixed for any to shower. My next goal is working on retaining the heat so the water can stay hot/warm for at least 10 hours after the sun has set.Thank for your support.”

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In an effort to make his product as close to perfect as possible, Peter set out for his next loan of $90 in April 2018 to make a few changes and improvements to his model. He shares his thought process as he says, “I will use the new loan to improve my solar water heater so that it will be as perfect as possible by the time it goes out to customers. First, I will raise the water heater 8 feet high so that it gets the sunshine earlier in the morning and very late in the afternoon. I will also use the loan to advance the insulation around the storage tank.”

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Soon after this loan, Peter was prepared to share his progress, “Thank you so much for the loan you gave me. It made me have a big step forward as far as my Home Solar Water heater is concerned. I bought four pvc pipes each 20 meters long, 50 connectors and two iron sheets each 1 meter by 2 meters. I really appreciate your help which has made the whole project to have a very good start. Very soon a lot of people will be able to use free heat from the Sun to heat water at an affordable price and save our trees.”

A few months later, in June 2018, Peter found himself in need of an additional loan from lenders. With this next loan of $189, Peter purchased a 2,000 liter water storage tank to feed the heated water tank. He noted the importance of this tank as he explains, “This tank will help me to ensure that I have enough water supply even during dry season to feed my solar water heater. This will also help the community understand how the whole solar water heater system works and thereby will give me more customers in the near future. I would like to take this time to thank all my lenders.Without your help, this project won’t progress.”

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His next project began in July 2018 as he started constructing two water solar heaters for a boarding school. After purchasing materials and building the heaters, he was able to receive a nice profit of $110.

Most recently, Peter was able to raise $384 from lenders in September to purchase additional materials such as, iron sheets, black paint, pvc pipes, connectors, uv protected plastic sheets, tanks, and glue. These materials would allow him to build three additional tanks.

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With a little innovation and iteration, Peter has found a business that he truly loves and is also bringing substantial environmental change to his community.

Would you like to make a difference in the life of an entrepreneur like Peter? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to see other amazing projects like Peter’s solar water heater.