From Teacher to Business Owner

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Before venturing into entrepreneurship, Osmond Ndegwa spent more than 10 years working as a teacher. He shares that his schooling and training prepared him to be self-reliant and disciplined, both qualities that serve him well in his business. He’s also extremely proud of the fact that all three of his children have completed university and are now working.

In his business, Osmond owns a metal workshop where he produces: wrought iron gates, grills, and windows, all of which are in great demand in his community.

Prior to teaching, he was trained in welding and motor vehicle mechanics as a boy. He explains, ‘The business has grown and now I have started a hardware shop for selling the materials that are needed for welding. My customers are the welders near my location.’

Upon joining Zidisha in February 2016, Osmond raised $150 from Zidisha lenders in order to purchase new materials for his workshop and store. This provided him with the boost he needed to keep going.

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Shortly thereafter, he raised his second loan, raising $302 in June 2016. With this loan, Osmond bought metal bars, square tubes, and mild steel plates. Osmond explains, ‘This will help me save on transport since the number of times and the time I spend when I go to do the purchase will be reduced. This will make my profit to go up and thus benefit my family. I go to purchase at least 4 times a week and use about US$20 per trip, if this can be reduced by half then I will save US$ 40 every month and of course the profit will increase due to the increase in volume of the purchase.’

One of the amazing benefits of the lender/borrower relationship, is that borrowers are given the capital to buy larger quantities of stock and other items that they would never be able to purchase on their own. In the long run, this can save them considerable sums of money and also time, benefiting both borrowers and their clients and customers.

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A true entrepreneur, Osmond started thinking ahead about expanding and growing his business. To do this, he decided to purchase a machine for making steel window hedges, costing approximately, $450. Additionally, he set out to buy the metal plates that he would cut with the new hedges, at a cost of $200. In total, for this Zidisha loan, he was able to raise, $610. Osmond predicted that these changes would result in an income increase of $100 per month and would also put him in a position to employ one person in his business.

By September 2017, Osmond found himself in need of new stock. Fortunately, through the help of his lenders, he raised his largest loan yet, $1,118. Specifically, he bought, hollow section tubes in different sizes, metal plates, welding rods, and zed and tee bars. Beyond this, he also had an idea to start selling plumbing pipes and fittings. Osmond confidently shares, ‘The purchase will bring in new customers who I had not targeted earlier and shall save the customers time since the goods will be closer. I intend to have an increased profit by up to 50% and I know that this is achievable.’ After receiving his loan, Osmond shared, ‘I thank all lenders for their willingness to lend for it’s a rare gift you have. I’ll put the money in my business and hope to repay in good time so other people can benefit.’

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Recently, on March 1, 2019, Osmond took to his discussion page to share this heartfelt update with the Zidisha community. ‘First I want to thank all the lenders who believed in me and the Zidisha team for giving needy small business entrepreneurs a platform to borrow money for empowering themselves. I will buy a generator assembly without an engine, a motor, battery, solar panels, a flywheel, and other items to help me build a system that will generate electricity.’

In addition to making a huge impact in his own life and his family, Osmond also deeply cares for his community. He loves to assist the less fortunate so that they can be empowered to change their lives for the better!

Would you like to help Osmond, and also empower others? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read story after story of determination and perseverance.

Being a Light

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Raised by his great grandmother in a village, Francis Mbewe grew up studying with a kerosene lamp. He shares, ‘every month I missed school due to sickness caused by the fumes from the kerosene lamps. It’s an experience I don’t wish any child or woman to go through.’ His grandmother worked hard and put her small earnings towards medication for him.

While his great grandmother and aunties were steadying influences on his life, he was also forced to grow up seeing his uncles abusing his aunties and spending their money on alcohol. Francis explains, ‘I grew up knowing the challenges women go through. I grew up knowing that when a woman is empowered then the whole village is empowered. I saw it through my great grandmother Sofia and through my aunties.’

While some might view these experiences as stumbling blocks, not for Francis. Instead, he’s been able to use his background to change the trajectory of his life and career path. In his own words, ‘I chose to be a Social Entrepreneur so that I can create opportunities for women and girls. So that I can enable women and girls to have equal access to products and services that can put them on a road to economic prosperity.’

And that is exactly what he is currently doing in his social business called, ‘Kukula Solar.’ The aim is to distribute 100,000 solar products to rural and peri urban communities throughout Zambia. More specifically, the goal is that 90% of these products will go to women and girls. By doing this, girls can study for longer periods of time and women can work hard for longer hours.

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Francis says, ‘It’s here at Zidisha were we launched this social business and together we have distributed over 3,000 solar lanterns.’ Throughout his partnership with Zidisha, Francis has been able to raise 4 loans with the help of Zidisha lenders.

In addition to his love for solar products, Francis also operates a business center where he does printing work, primarily for students. With an initial loan of $200 in March 2016, Francis was able to purchase additional printer toner for his business center. This allowed him to increase the amount of printing that he was capable of doing.

With his next loan of $321 in June 2016, he set out to buy more solar lamps to re-sell to students and families in his community. He shares that these people don’t have any access to electricity and are forced to rely on kerosene, candles, and batteries. At $10 per unit, Francis intended to purchase 30 units to sell to 30 students and families. Francis predicted that this would allow his solar business to grow by 60% in the first 3 months.

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After seeing the success of the previous loan, Francis was ready for another by October 2016 for $580. He had been able to distribute all 30 solar lamps and in doing so, was able to impact 30 families for the better. With this loan he was able to buy 20 regular solar lamps and 10 solar lamps with mobile phone charging stations specifically for female entrepreneurs to offer charging services in his community.

Francis shares the impact of this loan as he says, ‘This loan will impact the lives of more than 2,000 through provision of brighter light for students to study long hours and through provision of mobile phone charging services to the communities that are not connected to the national grid.’

Most recently, Francis successfully raised a loan for $930 in March 2017. This time he set out to purchase 65 solar lamps to sell to low income households. This would account for $780 of the loan cost, while the remaining funds would be put towards transportation costs for the solar lamps.

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Francis has clearly found a winning business model where he is able to make a profit and also provide a needed offering to his fellow community members. Looking forward, Francis can clearly see the impact, ‘This loan will not only help me make more profits but it will help students increase their hours of study so that their performance at school can improve. It will also help families save money since the solar lamps only use the sun to charge which is FREE! The other benefit is that through distributing affordable clean energy products to these low income households we help reducing global warming hence contributing to building a cleaner and better world for all.’

Would you like to help another entrepreneur like Francis create a better world for all of us? Make sure to check out the Browse Projects Page to read about our other amazing entrepreneurs.

A Local Horticulturist

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

“My vision is to empower many jobless youths to embrace farming hence eradicating poverty.”

Joel Kandie is a hardworking Kenyan from a large family with 7 children. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and is currently a horticulturist by profession. In addition to his day job, he has been able to construct a greenhouse on the side and also opened an Agrovet shop where he sells farm inputs and agrochemicals. Joel has been running his business for several years selling agricultural farm inputs and equipment and he shares that so far it is running well. As more and more youth are venturing into agribusiness, the demand for his products has continued to increase.

He also has a passion for working with charitable organizations in his community and reading inspirational books. One of his favorites is, “Understanding Your Potential” by Dr. Myles Munroe. He says, ‘I would like to be an employer and help create employment opportunities to both graduates and non graduates.’

With 6 Zidisha funded loans, Joel has been able to steadily grow his business since starting with Zidisha in 2014. With his first loan of $150, he set forth to lease a greenhouse at $20 per month. He also purchased some planting materials. He projected that at first revenue would be $230 a month and expenses would total $140 a month. However, he predicted that after the upfront costs, the expenses would later on be cut in half.

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By the end of 2014, Joel was prepared for his next loan. This loan went towards purchasing seeds. Wanting to diversify his crops, he purchased some in demand seeds such as, ‘onions, garlic, and tomatoes’ and also planned to introduce some new ones including strawberries and cucumbers. He’d had customers requesting these items but did not yet have them available for purchase.

As he continued to grow, he set his eyes on his bigger vision as he shared, ‘My main aim is to expand my small scale greenhouse to commercial farming which will enable me employ people hence create employment to my fellow graduates.’

A third Zidisha funded loan, in July 2015, enabled Joel to buy additional farm equipment, inputs, and agrochemicals. In addition, by expanding and growing his business, this also created the need for an additional worker. Before opening his business, farmers in his area had to travel 50 km to purchase these products. He also hoped to create a competitive advantage by training the local farmers, which is not something offered by competitors.

As 2016 rolled around, Joel was ready to start the year with a $655 loan from Zidisha lenders. With this loan he continued to expand his stock of farm tools, equipment, agrochemicals, fertilizers, veterinary drugs, and animal feeds. He shared more about his trainings as he explained, ‘I will also commit my time to offer after sale services like farmers trainings, farm visits, farm demonstrations and follow ups. As I am a professional in the field of agriculture I will have an advantage over my competitors because I will organize farmers seminars and workshops to train farmers on better methods of farming hence improving their living standards through agriculture because agriculture is the main economic activity in this area.’

For his fifth Zidisha funded loan, Joel was able to raise $1,022 from lenders in September 2016. He explains, ‘Due to the fact that many farms are located in remote areas where road infrastructure is bad I am seeking funding to buy a motorcycle to transport agricultural farm inputs and equipment to farmers. It will cost me approximately $1,100 to buy the motorcycle.Therefore with the $1,014 loan I am requesting together with my personal savings I will own a motorcycle. A motorcycle will help me reach many farmers unlike my competitors hence selling more products thus increasing profit. To farmers I would have saved them long distances of tracking in search of farm inputs. Conducting farmers training, farm visits and farmers workshops will be reliable and convenient thus benefiting farmers. I expect a net profit increase of approximately 15% because I will have an advantage over my competitors as I will be able to meet many farmers. With the profit together with my monthly salary of $300 I will be able to repay the loan.’

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Most recently, in February 2019, Joel raised, $1,138 from Zidisha lenders to help him prepare for planting season. As this is the most important time of the year for his business, Joel knew that he needed to increase his supply of inputs and seeds. He also was prepared to hire an additional worker, bringing his total to 3 employees. The remainder of the loan went towards rent, electricity, and fuel.

On February 14, 2019, Joel shared this inspiring update with his lenders, ‘First and foremost I’m so grateful for your continued support as l grow my business. I used my last loan to buy a motorcycle that helped me a lot to reach many farmers in remote areas where road infrastructure is a challenge. This resulted in a profit rise by approximately 10%. I was able to compete well with other businesses as I had an advantage of accessing many farmers who they have not been reached before. Thanks once again and May God bless you abundantly.’

Would you like to empower another entrepreneur like Joel? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to read about our other amazing Zidisha business owners.