Making the Impossible Possible

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

‘My name is Stephen Kimani, but my friends call me Steve. I was born in Kiambu County in the central highlands of Kenya twenty three years ago. I was born in a farming community where most people are involved in food farming as well as livestock keeping. My parents are such farmers and I spent my childhood years in our farm helping them in their farming activities.’

As a student, Steve completed his primary and secondary studies before pursuing a course in Electronics Maintenance, which trained him to become a qualified technician for mobile phone repair. However, he realized that this was not the right career fit for him as the work was very demanding with a low income.

Afterwards, Steve decided to make a transition, and he moved to Mombasa to live with a relative who owned a business selling motor vehicle parts. After gaining two years of experience working as a shop attendant, he decided that it was time for him to venture out, to start a business of his own.

He started his own business selling second hand school books, and it worked out so well that he’s still doing it today several years later. He explains, ‘I deal with the selling of second hand school books. I normally get the old books from parents whose children graduate to the next classes. This is a common practice in Kenya where old books are passed on to those who are in lower classes instead of buying new books which are more expensive.’

If he happens to run out of old books, he also sells new books, but he finds that this is a rare occurrence. With a profit margin of 40%, he has a steady business. The major challenge for Steve is that there is a seasonal nature to his business, usually peaking at the beginning of a new school term in January, May, and September.

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In his time with Zidisha, Steve has been able to successfully raise 5 Zidisha funded loans, dating back to April 2015, with a $100 start. He took his $100 loan and used it to purchase a new batch of second hand books to add to his current stock. He explains that dictionaries and atlases tend to be two of his biggest sellers. He says, ‘The expected return will help me grow my business at an even faster rate and bring my dream of moving into a better place even closer.’

Later that same year, he raised his second loan for $181 as a new term was starting. Since this is his best time of year for sales, he wanted to take advantage of this by increasing his stock. For this particular loan, he was able to purchase textbooks for both primary and secondary school levels.

For Steve, he knew that if he could increase his inventory, this would better position him to be a one stop shop for all textbook needs for students in his area.

By April 2016, Steve was ready for another loan, this time for $363, and he was excited to share with lenders, ‘My business is doing well. With ever growing demand for education, I have enjoyed a continuous flow of customers throughout the year. My bookstore is now bigger and my clients have increased tremendously. I intend to use the whole amount from this loan to get more copies of fast moving titles. This will increase my sales and profitability significantly.’

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As Steve saw the outcome of lenders investments, he proudly shared, ‘Thank you Zidisha lenders for making things that seemed impossible a few months ago possible. With your credit, I have been able to grow my business to a level that I would have otherwise taken much longer to achieve. My books selling business is doing well and I hope to keep growing with more of your support.’

As 2017 rolled around, Steve was ready for two additional loans to grow his business. In April, he raised $575 and purchased a variety of new books for students doing their final exams from both primary and secondary school. He hoped that this income would propel him to a level where he could move to a permanent building from his current makeshift structure.

Then, in October 2017, Steve was able to raise his largest Zidisha funded loan, of $1,093. With 1/4 of the loan, he intended to add more stock to his business. Then, with the remaining 3/4 he hoped to lease another store and also hire another person to help with that location.

He shares, ‘Having the two shops, it will help increase my earnings and someone else in earning his/her living. I’m hoping to make more than half of the loan as profit within a period of one year.’

As of 2019, Steve is currently thriving in his business and is also back in school as he says, ‘Hello my dear lenders, I wish to thank you for your generosity. My previous loan came at the right time when mostly needed. I purchased books with some of the amount and used the rest in renting another store. This has helped me to employ another person whom his life has changed since then. This has increased my profit margin which has greatly helped me pay my college fee and advance my education. Below is my photo in class studying.’

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Would you like to empower another student entrepreneur like Steve? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to learn more!

 

 

 

Entrepreneurship Has Always Been My Driver

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Anthony Mwirigi may come from humble beginnings, but today, he’s ready to take on the world! As a child, he excelled in his studies and successfully made his way to university, studying to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and earning a degree in Economics and Finance from Kenyatta University.

He shares, ‘Entrepreneurship as always been my driver to overcome hardships throughout my college life. I could buy clothes in large quantities and sell them to students, making a significant profit to facilitate my upkeep at the university. I started my dairy farming business during my last long vacation at the university. My motivation was the financial hardships. My finance source was working in a milk production company for those few months.’

When Anthony first discovered Zidisha in 2015, he had two dairy cows. He found that he had entered a good market as more and more families continued to migrate to his town, creating a shortage of milk.

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Because of Anthony’s business and financial education, he brings a strong foundation to his business. In addition, he also has the practical experience, having worked in the milk processing industry as an internal auditor, while he was in university. He explains, ‘During my industrial university attachment, I worked in a milk processing industry in the field of internal audit. I discovered that every morning the CEO urges the employees to help the industry acquire higher milk intake from farmers due to idle machinery that could not get enough milk to process 24 hours a day. I decided therefore I could start daily production and advance it in the future to large-scale farming in order to enjoy the advantages of economies of scale and also supply raw milk to the industry.’

In terms of his business costs, artificial insemination, concentrates, fodder, labour, and veterinary services of treatment account for the largest expenses. While milk sales are his primary revenue stream, he is also able to sell accumulated manure as well.

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With 8 Zidisha funded loans to his credit, Anthony is making big strides in his business. He joined the Zidisha community in 2015 and began with a $100 loan in December and an additional $222 loan in November the following year. These early loans allowed him to purchase feeds for his cows and to also purchase one new cow.

The following year, 2017, proved to be a big year for Anthony as he successfully raised 4 Zidisha funded loans which kept his business moving forward. He says, ‘I thank the lenders for the previous two successful loans granted to me. It is because of your support that my livestock business has grown.’ With his March loan, for $372, Anthony purchased a chaff cutter machine to make his work of feeding the cows a little bit easier, reducing his time spent in feeding the cows.

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A few months later, in July and August, Anthony was able to take his business from 3 cows to 6 cows! Shortly thereafter, he also used a $2,217 loan from Zidisha lenders to construct a silage tank for his cows, allowing him to store his feed during the rainy season, to use later on during the dry season.

Most recently, in 2018, Anthony raised $715 in August and $329 in December, to buy additional hay for his cows and to also invest in a water tank to store water on his farm. He explains that, ‘the tank will provide sufficient water for cleaning and also drinking by the cows. This will also eliminate the risk of Inadequate water supply.’

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Following the changes in his business, Anthony shared this inspirational message with his lenders, ‘thanks so much lenders, I managed to construct silage storage tanks. I can now preserve fodder for up to one year. This has enhanced my dairy cows production since the fodder is available even in dry seasons. My dairy production from the five dairy cows is 80 liters per day an average income of $1,000 dollars per month.’

Would you like to invest in the life of a savvy businessman like Anthony? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs around the world.

 

I Will Achieve More

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

John Muriu Njuguna was raised in Nakuru county, Kenya. As a child, he was educated through the secondary school level, and today he is married and has three children of his own. To earn a living, he operates a boda boda business. John shares the interesting history behind the words, ‘boda boda’ as he says, ‘Boda boda is a corrupted word for border and was a very lucrative business at the Uganda-Kenya border in the past. It involved bicycle transport. With time, the trend has steadily spread to other areas of the country and has evolved to include motorcycle transport. Mine is a motorcycle and it is my livelihood. It has been sustaining me for five years now and I love it with all my heart.’

John is a long-time Zidisha member, obtaining his very first loan, back in April 2013 for $100. Although he was already operating his boda boda business at the time, he also wanted to get into farming to help supplement his income from the boda boda business. With the $100 loan, he was able to plough one acre of maize and beans. He also hoped that the profits from this secondary business would enable him to expand the boda boda business, with the purchase of a new motorcycle in the future.

The following year, in January 2014, John shared that his family was doing well and that his first Zidisha funded loan had truly impacted his family in a positive way. Since his last loan, he had purchased a new motorcycle and was raising his second loan of $263 to put towards planting maize, beans, and peas.

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As John continued to grow both of his businesses, he became more attuned to the needs of his community, noticing that there was a shortage of milk. To help solve this issue, he was able to use a $432 loan from Zidisha lenders, in October 2014, to purchase a dairy cow. In addition, his family would also benefit from this, as they would have a readily available source of milk as well.

By September 2015, John had been experimenting with cattle rearing for one year and found it to be a good business for him. He determined that the next step would be to purchase one more cow, and with a $692 loan from lenders, he was able to make this happen.

A year later, towards the end of 2016, John shared his next request with lenders, ‘Lenders once again thank you for your continuing support. I saw a need to purchase one acre of land at the cost of 250000. I  have managed to save 150000 from my harvest and some savings from my daily cows. I have been having some problem to feed my cows because of the extended drought, a lot of my income was buying hay for my daily cows. I have decided to buy one acre land, plant grass and lucerne that will support me annually. This will reduce the expenses of buying grass. I will focus more on my income to achieve my target come next year. Am targeting six good cows that will be able to supply milk the whole year.’

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John continued to work hard and managed to make steady progress in his business ventures. In 2018, he successfully raised two Zidisha funded loans for $134 and $1,160, and used the funds to purchase additional stock for his shop, which was managed by his wife. His stock included items such as, ‘boots, saddles, thermoses, jikos, mattresses and utensils.

Recently, as of February 2019, John has been busy preparing the land for planting season. With his most recent loan from lenders for $1,160, he was able to buy seeds and fertilizer. With three acres of his own, and three additional that he hoped to lease, his Zidisha lenders were a big help in allowing him to continue to grow his farming business.

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Since starting with Zidisha, John has done a great job of pivoting his businesses to both support his family and also to meet the needs of his community. On Feb 8, 2019 he shared, ‘Hello lenders am grateful for your finding my businesses are doing fine my motorcycle is running well, my Mali Mali shop is doing good and my cows are very good am selling milk well. The demand is high but very soon we will meet these demands. Am educating my three children in a good school and am paying comfortably without straining. I am happy for you lenders thank you indeed, am planning to grow my shop into a big store selling household equipment and continuing farming. Am certainly sure that I will achieve more.’

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Would you like to be a change maker in the life of an entrepreneur like John? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about dozens of other inspiring members of the Zidisha community.