By Betsy Ramser Jaime
James Chege was raised in a small village in Central Kenya, where he started his education at the local primary school before moving on to secondary school at Thika High School. After graduation, he went went on to study Aircraft Maintenance at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, receiving a certificate in Engine and Airframe.
This led to a job in a local maintenance firm. Unfortunately, even with a job, James says that life in Nairobi was a struggle, as he shares, ‘In Nairobi life was so difficult for me considering the salary was too little for my needs. At some point I decided to live in the slums because good rooms were so expensive to rent. So I moved to Dandora slums. I even went a step further to walking half distance to work and half by bus.I had to sacrifice with an aim of getting enough skills in workshop jobs, maintenance work and electronics diagnosis.’
By early 2015, James was still struggling and felt certain that it was time for him to go out on his own and become an entrepreneur. He felt that he had the skills to get him started so he returned to his village, where he mother provided him with a small room to set up his own workshop.
James shares that, ‘Life was so hard trying to establish myself until ZIDISHA came to my rescue where I got a loan to rent a big workshop in our local shopping center where I have grown steadily. Thanks to all Lenders.’
Some of his typical business expenses include: 70 USD a year for a business license, 50 USD a month for rent, and 120 USD for wages for his employees. With his profit he is able to continually re-invest in his business, while also helping to support his parents and younger sister. In addition, he has also been putting funds towards construction materials for the house that he’s planning to build and does his best to help support the needy in his community.
He is also proud to say that he had a ‘colorful wedding made possible by my business, thanks to my lenders.’
James operates under the business name of ‘Jaycobs Electric’ where he has both a workshop and a sales section where he sells electrical fittings, lightings, conduits, electronics repair, and he also offers consultations. Within the workshop, he and his workers provide electrical and electronics repairs, mechanical repairs, and installations.
Since December 2015, James has successfully raised 5 Zidisha funded loans ranging from $150 to $2,021. With his first loan he started by purchasing a power drill. He explains, ‘This is after I lost a client who wanted me to fix an LCD TV on his sitting room wall. I had no tool to drill holes in the concrete wall.’ After using about $65 USD to purchase the drill, he used the remainder of the loan to travel to Nairobi to purchase wholesale components. Lastly, he also was able to purchase a fiberglass tool box that he could safely transport around on a motorcycle, as well as some business cards to start promoting his business.
The following April, James was ready for his second Zidisha funded loan, raising, $505 from lenders. At the time, he was still operating his home based workshop, but had a vision of expanding to a workshop and sales shop outside his home. He explains, ‘ This has been mostly influenced by a big number of my customers who have frequently asked me to set a service shop where they can access me anytime even at night after their duties. Here I will be in a position to even serve more customers because it is a Center located by the main road. It is a move that can make me grow in my business and skills since I will do more sales and services considering the better location. I have so far booked a spacious business room enough to accommodate a sales section and a service section. I will use the loan to stock Electrical fittings including types of switches, sockets, conduits, lightings, cables, circuit breakers, distribution boxes, antennas, and also electronics spare parts to be used in the service section.’
By March 2017, James was in need of an inventory boost, requesting a $954 loan from Zidisha lenders. This allowed him to purchase a variety of cables that his customers had been requesting. He also saw this as an opportunity that would allow him to hire a second employee as his sales continued to increase.
As 2017 progressed, James continued to thrive and saw more opportunities for growth in his business. Observing his customers preferences and business demand, he decided to utilize his next Zidisha funded loan of $1,487 to hire another technician. He also increased his inventory for the sales side of his business, purchasing, ‘strobe lights, sirens, LED lighting, cables, and a computer.’
While James has come incredibly far in his business, he only views this as the beginning for him. With his most recent loan of $2,021, he has been able to upgrade his inventory and registered his business as a company. He shares, ‘Zidisha microfinance has brought me this far. I feel I got the strength to take my business to the next level. I have a dream of employing 100 young ladies and gentlemen and give them a foundation of becoming self-dependent. With the loan am planning to register my business as a company which is a requirement in Kenya for one to apply for a Supply or Service Tender. As a company CEO I will have the capability of handling big tenders and finances and in turn employ many staff members.’
Would you like to empower an inspiring entrepreneur like James? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about our other Zidisha business owners around the world.