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.

I Am a Business Lady

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Lornah Nachair was born into a middle class family with four siblings. As a child, she loved going to the farm with her mother and always had a curious mind, asking lots of questions about farming. Unfortunately, with the passing of her father when she was in form 4, she knew she would need to stay at home until she could eventually save up the money to attend college. Later on, after she finished secondary school, she set her sights on becoming a secretary and hoped to eventually become an entrepreneur.

Although her first job out of school was not well-paying, she was able to slowly save some money, laying the initial foundation for what her business is today. To explain what her business is today, Lornah shares, ‘I do photocopy and typesetting in my business. This business generates a lot of income which am able to sustain and run other activities both in my house and my business, if my company will grow I will help people around me to get employment and also invite them to come on board and get a Zidisha loan for them to venture into business.’

As a hardworking businesswoman, Lornah is also able to set a great example for her teenage daughter who dreams of becoming a journalist and TV presenter! In addition, Lornah explains that in her free time, ‘I go out with friends who are ready to explore new ideas and expand their business and when am free I go to church to practice songs for Sunday with my fellow praise and worship team.’

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Lornah has successfully raised 7 loans, along with the help of Zidisha lenders. With her first three loans in April, July, and September 2017, she started out by purchasing photocopying papers, printer cartridges, white out, stepping pins, small equipment, and an antivirus program for her computer. While these three loans combined, totaled less than $35, she was able to make this small sun go a long way towards advancing her business.

As 2017 came to a close, Lornah was in need of her fourth Zidisha funded loan, for $68. With this loan, she was able to have her computer serviced. This was essential, as having a well-functioning computer is an essential component of her business.

As business continued to grow for Lornah, she approached lenders in April 2018 with a request for a $174 loan. With this loan, she hoped to purchase a second computer and also determined that it was time to hire an employee to help her in the business.

Fortunately for Lornah, her good fortune was only just starting, as business continued to increase throughout 2018. By August, she was ready to raise $273 from lenders to help her purchase an additional printer and computer. In addition, she was also excited to extend employment to the youth of her community. She shares, ‘I have known my people very well and I want to elevate the youths to better people in the society. Thanks Zidisha team to enable me to be an employer and not just a business lady.’ For Lornah, being able to employ her fellow community members is a huge honor.

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Following her August loan, she was able to share this update with her lenders, ‘I am a very happy applicant. I bought the computer and have now employed someone and now my customers are very comfortable when they come in. I have seen my business grow to a level I did not expect because of  the Zidisha team. Zidisha thanks so much and my lenders may God expand your territories.’

Lornah was able to secure her most recent Zidisha funded loan in October 2018, as she raised, $407. She shares, ‘I am a single mother with one daughter who is having school fees arrears in school. I thank Zidisha for at least they have helped my business grow and now I can support myself in the house. But since I am having arrears in school I wish part of the money to pay school fees and the balance I may add stock for my business.’

For Lornah, entrepreneurship has drastically changed her life. Having a business and becoming an employer have allowed her to become exactly the type of mother and woman that she hoped she could be. Lornah says, ‘Thanks so much Zidisha for making me a proud woman. God bless my lender’s, you are great people. I want to thank my lenders because before I joined Zidisha I used to struggle in my house and business could not be maintained even for two months, but since I joined Zidisha I pay school fees myself and I pay my bills. Thank you so much for changing my life.’

Would you like to empower another mother and business owner like Lornah? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to read about dozens of other entrepreneurs making a difference in their communities!

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.