By Betsy Ramser Jaime
Mercy Jowi was raised as the first born in a family of five. As she was growing up, she gained some entrepreneurial experience as she worked in the family business, which was a bookshop.
However, before venturing into business as an adult, she first started as a teacher of ICT and Computer Studies. She spent 7 years as a teacher but realized that she wanted to pursue self-employment and she desired to pursue her love for graphic design. To put her dream into action, she started by enrolling in a design course and worked for a year as a Junior Graphic Designer in a design firm where she gained valuable experience.
Because of her past experience working in the family business Mercy shares, ‘”Getting into business almost came naturally for me. In 2014 I opened a stationery shop and did graphic design on the side. I used gratuity that I got from my job as a teacher. It was $1500 that I used as my capital.’
In her stationary shop, Mercy offers school, office, and personalized items. Since starting her business she has been able to diversify her products and has moved to a larger office space. She’s even added an MPESA as well, and Equity and Co-operative Bank Agency Banking.
Within her sector, most of her items are in season year round, however, her sales are best during the school year, which accounts for 9 months out of the year.
In addition to her many gifts in business and design, Mercy is also a woman of many talents in her personal life. She is a gifted cook and likes to refer to herself as a “Chapati Specialist.” She also has a love for fashion and enjoys getting creative with thrifted, upcycled, and repurposed clothing. With each outfit, her goal is to have at least 5 different ways that she can style it.
Mercy describes how she chose her particular business idea as she says, ‘I chose selling stationery because the goods do not face the challenge of revision as textbooks which make one end with dead stock. Juices, milk and water was to meet the demand of customers who wanted alternative to sodas which are the popular soft drinks. The MPESA provided an ‘easy’ investment with capability to fit in the same premise without constrain in space. The costs I incur in running the business is rent, salary, watchman fees and electricity bills. This comes to Kshs. 19700 per month. Though there are also annual fees of licence and accountant fees.’
With the money that she makes in her business, Mercy is able to continually reinvest in the business and also set a little aside for herself as she is currently working to build her own home!
Mercy has been with Zidisha for a little over 2 years and has been able to raise 7 loans from lenders ranging from $26 to $941. With her first 3 loans in 2017, Mercy was able to purchase whiteboard markers, exercise books, shorthand notebooks, and pens. She says, ‘The multiplier effect of reinvesting my profits will go a long way in growing my business.’
Since Mercy’s business is heavily influenced by the school cycle, by August 2017, she was in need of new inventory. As she received an $108 loan from Zidisha, this allowed her to stock up Oxford Mathematical sets. She shares, ‘This is a basic requirement for each candidate in class eight and form 4 who are going to sit for their examinations. The demand will be there and I would not want to be in a situation whereby I do not have enough sets in stock for my customers. On this loan I will add some little money so that I can get 2 cartons of the said sets. The profits I get in selling the sets will be used to stock more exercise books for the January 2018 school opening.’
As the end of 2017 rolled around, Mercy prepared to stock up on items for spring and also chose to start adding books to her product mix as well, using $658 from Zidisha lenders to help make it happen!
Mercy always likes to be well stocked and ahead of the competition as she says, ‘When I buy this early it means that when everyone will be buying at the last minute and finding much of the items out of stock, I shall already be having what I need. This means that my clients will find the items they require. ‘
Most recently, Mercy successfully raised her largest loan to date, raising $941 in April, 2019. She explains, ‘My business has been growing and two banks approached me to offer their agency banking services. This is Equity Bank and Co-operative Bank. To be in a position to serve my clients well without disappointments of I do not have enough float or cash to honour their needs. I wish to apply for a loan to help in increasing my seed capital for the agency banking. With the introduction of the agency banking I will be able to make extra $120 per month in profits (commission). The profits (commission) will be ploughed back to the agency banks until I get to $1000 working capital.’
Would you like to be a part of helping an entrepreneur like Mercy along on their entrepreneurial journey? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to read dozens of stories of inspiring Zidisha business owners.