Finding The Missing Thread

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Soehardo Soehadak was born in Ponorogo, Indonesia on October 28, 1968. He received a good education and completed his studies all the way through high school. He enjoyed learning so much that at one point during his childhood he even dreamed of becoming a teacher. Then, in 1996 he was happily able to marry his now wife. Ever since, they have been working together in Salatiga. Once he had obtained some good work experience in the sewing services industry, he decided to go into business for himself!

He shares, ‘In Java, the traditional arts are interesting, yatu reog, Javanese dance and tasters. I am interested in running this business because the clothing business has no death, because clothing includes basic necessities. My convection business, which is done by 3 people, namely me, Iatri and 1 worker. My turnover is an average of 5 million to 7 million a month. While the net profit is around 4 million. I use the net benefits for my child’s school fees, meals and daily necessities.’


When Soehardo has free time after work, he loves reading and going cycling. He is also a relatively new member of the Zidisha community, joining in July 2018. However, it’s evident that he’s been working hard to grow his business as he’s already successfully raised 9 Zidisha funded loans, all in the short span of 3 months!

Starting small, he raised his very first loan of $1 to purchase sewing needles and cloth. Then, the following month, in August 2018, he raised a total of 3 loans. With his first August loan of $5, Soehardo purchased additional supplies such as, threads and upholstery. He proudly explains, ‘The advantage that I get in producing clothing, helps the community in meeting clothing needs. With this convection business, it can at least add new fields, namely tailoring.’

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Shortly thereafter, he obtained a second loan in August for $13, this one put towards hard cloth or coatings. Then, his third August loan of $19 was used to purchase hard fabrics or upholstery fabrics. By purchasing entire rolls, he was able to save money that he would then be able to use elsewhere in his business.

While his work in August was nothing short of impressive, he really set to work in September. Through the help of Zidisha lenders, he obtained a total of 5 loans in September 2018, allowing him to make exciting changes in his business.

First, he started with a loan of $31, to purchase 11 meters of fabric. Just as in the previous loan, he was excited that by joining with lenders, he could purchase larger quantities of fabric saving him money that he would be able to use elsewhere in his business.

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By the end of September, he had acquired four additional loans for $31, $45, $49, and $104. Each of these loans allowed him to purchase additional fabric and threads. By this time, Soehardo was really enjoying being able to shop at wholesalers rather than paying expensive retail prices for his fabrics and supplies.

In August, Soehardo shared this exciting update with the Zidisha community.‘With this loan, I will buy a large sewing machine, so I can do sewing orders quickly. So far, to fulfill daily needs apart from my sewing income, it can also be obtained from agricultural products. During this time my wife and I have many neighbors and they are good to our family as a sign of my good reputation so far. In my area I have an interesting habit, usually every year there is a celebration of traditional parties, namely eating together as a thanksgiving for harvesting agricultural produce.’

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Between purchasing a sewing machine and now purchasing his materials in bulk from wholesalers, Soehardo has been able to make the most of his Zidisha partnership. Daily, he is making progress on his goals and it’s clear that he is also working hard to serve his community members with beautiful clothing.

If you’d like to support another small business owner like Soehardo, make sure to check out our Browse Projects page to read about our other amazing entrepreneurs around the world.

My Life Is Not the Same

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

If you were to travel to the town of Eldoret, Kenya, you might come across, Tonny Lukalo. And you’d know it was him because he has a contagious smile that seems to spread across his entire face. He also comes from a large family and is the eldest child in his family with 11 younger siblings! As a student, he attended Cheplaskei High School and later on pursued Horticultural courses at the Bukura Institute.

He currently has a farm with his wife but before discovering Zidisha, a lack of finances limited their ability to grow and expand the farm. He’s also hoping to change the perception of farming that people have in his community as he shares, “Where I stay, people think that farming is meant for old or retired ones and you can’t get money for the whole family but for me it has really helped me feed and keep my children in school. One of my children wants to be a vet doctor.”

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When joining Zidisha in 2015, Tonny had been in the farming industry for 2 years and was planting vegetables such as tomatoes and onions. In his area, these foods are staples and are therefore always in demand throughout the community. He continues, “ I chose this kind of business because of high demand on the ground and in the community around us. It is also my passion to plant and sell for money so my family can have something to put on the table and to take them to school.”

Although his family and farm keep him pretty busy, when he has free time, he enjoys attending his church called, Living Rock church.

So far, with 6 Zidisha funded loans between January 2015 and September 2018, Tonny has been able to make some impressive changes to his business. With his initial $50 loan, he was able to purchase seeds and fertilizers that allowed him to expand his production. In his own words, “If this business grows it will be a great blessing to my family and create a job to others too.”

A few months later, in March 2018, he secured a second loan from lenders, this one for $98. This allowed him to keep expanding and to take care of his family through school fees for his children. At this point, he dreamed of saving up to add pigs to his farm! Seeing the success and benefit of his Zidisha partnership, he doubled his following loan to $188 in August 2015 to buy fertilizer and DAP for his business. With the remaining funds, he was also able to purchase two jembes, pay his son’s school fees, and even hired someone to help with weeding on his farm.

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Not only is Tonny able to supply fresh vegetables to his community but he’s also so proud that once in a while he is able to offer employment to one member of his town needing employment. And an added benefit is that he strives to make sure that half of the food that his family eats includes vegetables so that they grow up eating a healthy diet. He also foresaw this loan as having a 20% increase in his profit.

As the new year rolled around, Tonny received his next Zidisha funded loan of $384 from lenders and purchased a water pump, water pipe, and two bags of DAP, with the remaining funds paying the remainder of his son’s tuition.

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The following year, in March 2017, Tonny was ready to keep expanding the farm with another loan of $384. This allowed him to purchase DAP fertilizer, CAN fertilizer, seeds, and knapsack sprayer. The rest of the loan helped him to pay his farm rent, at a cost of $180.

Sharing this important season with lenders he mentions, “It’s planting season in Eldoret and the farm will give me 20 percent profit. Also, it will help my family and the community to have food.”

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Recently, in September 2018, Tonny was able to secure a sixth Zidisha funded loan for $433, his largest yet! He shares his vision and dream as he explains, “Hi Zidisha family, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Zidisha family in helping me realize the dream of my farm. With this loan I will buy a second hand motor bike that will cost 400 dollars, the bike will help in transporting my farm produce to the market. About 18% of the cost is used in transporting my produce to the market and farm inputs to the farm. Since the fuel prices have gone up the transport cost will be much higher so with the motor bike I will reduce the cost of production.”

On September 4, 2018, Tonny took to his discussion page to share this update with his lenders, “My last loan was of great help I bought the generator that increased my profit by 20%. The increment that I got, I used to add one employee to help on the farm and I was able to help the needy children with vegetables once every week. The last holiday I went to the rural home with my family. Thanks Zidisha.”

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One of the most inspiring aspects of the lender/borrower relationship at Zidisha, is that growth is inevitable for both parties, this is one of the reasons why Zidisha is so unique. The process stretches you and for the lender it forces you to trust your financial resources with another person. And, as the borrower, there is a great responsibility to make your lenders (and family) proud by using your resources well.

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Tonny is one of those borrowers that has continued to grow and thrive throughout his time with Zidisha as he expresses his gratitude, “Hi Zidisha family am very happy to be part of you. My life is not the same, I am able to do things that was hard for me in the past, my family is able to have food thanks to Zidisha.”

Would you like to make a difference in a family like Tonny’s? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs around the world!

The Strength to Keep Going

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

As a child, Rebecca Esere was raised in a large family, as the youngest of 11 children. She explains that having such a big family was often a burden for her parents in finding a way to feed the whole family, pay for necessities, and also send them to school. But somehow, they found a way, as she says, ‘thanks to their resilience we all are able to stand on our feet as grown ups. I recognize their sacrifice and struggle and I am grateful to them for that.’ At the age of 17, she started working as a Pharmacy Assistant to support herself and her brother.

Now, Rebecca currently works as an Administrative Assistant, and while her job pays the bills, she rarely has much money after that. Wanting greater opportunities for herself, she set out to venture into the farming business. When she first started with Zidisha in 2017, she shared a bold and exciting goal of purchasing land and a greenhouse to grow capsicum and tomatoes. She hoped that in time, this would provide a supplemental income to her current job, enhancing both her own life, and that of her family’s.

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To better understand the working climate in Kenya, Rebecca explains, ‘without any professional qualification it’s almost impossible to get work in Kenya, and with qualifications it’s still difficult, but even when you have work it barely covers your living expenses. It makes more sense to go into business as you not only provide for yourself but also create jobs for others. That is the reason I would like to go into agribusiness not only to make a living but it will create jobs, and provide food for several people, at least in a small way. I will be contributing towards helping with the food security problem. In addition, everywhere on earth I personally think the most important commodity for every human is food, so I have confidence that it is a business that will succeed.’

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At the start of her project, Rebecca shared her broad vision with lenders as she explained, ‘The green house project will also provide employment to those who will be working in it and food that will be sold to other, I feel in some way I not only better my life but of others.’ While she was aware that the cost of the project would be high, she also knew that her greenhouse would then last for 10 years. The entire cost of the investment would be $600 paid in installments. But this didn’t deter Rebecca as she envisioned the potential, knowing that once up and running, she could add up to $4,000 per year to her current income.

By starting this business, Rebecca saw that what she was creating was much bigger than a side business for a little extra money. She was starting something that would help alleviate the food shortage problems in her community and would also eventually provide jobs for her fellow community members.

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So far, in her time with Zidisha, Rebecca has secured 8 Zidisha funded loans, between May 2017 and September 2018. While that first loan in May might have seemed insignificant at $5, she recently obtained her largest loan yet for $891, putting her well on her way towards achieving her goals.

Recently, on September 4, 2018, Rebecca expressed her gratitude for her lenders and the Zidisha community as she said, ‘I am humbled, and grateful to you all for supporting and trusting me with your money, so I can achieve my goal and help my people and others as well. I am so very happy to inform you that with your assistance I have made huge strides, I have been able to combine what savings I had and the assistance you have given me and have been able to finally complete payment for land, now I begin payment for the green house and God willing that too I will soon complete. I was able to visit the land and see the projects progress for those who already completed payment, I have attached photos so you have in mind what the greenhouse project is all about. The empty space is where my greenhouse and others will go, currently they have planted tomatoes and after the season is over probably capsicum. Again, from the bottom of my heart thanks for your continued support and good wishes. You give me strength to keep going.’

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Would you like to make a difference in the life of a female entrepreneur like Rebecca? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about our other inspiring business owners.

The Solar Entrepreneur

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By Betsy Ramser jaime

Peter Gatundu is a true hustler, in the best possible way. He started out with a second hand shoe business in his town in Kenya, but always had his eyes set towards the future as well. With a passion for environmental conservation, his mission has been to start an affordable solar water heater project and indigenous tree nursery.

He is also raising three boys and is teaching them to dream big as well. His first born dreams of becoming a pilot and his second son would like to join the military someday.

With his shoe business, Peter is able to generate about 800 shillings in income per day. He shares that he purchases the shoes in Nairobi and then sells in Nanyuki town. He also has a second side hustle doing taxi work, which allows him to maintain his income when shoe sales are down. And, just when you were wondering how Peter possibly manages it all, he also grows most of his own food on his own farm and sells the extra to make some additional income. On average, this adds about 500 shillings to his daily profit.

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Since becoming a member of the Zidisha community in 2017, Peter has successfully raised 8 loans. With his first 3 loans in September and October 2017, he was able to pay school fees for his boys and also grow his shoe business by purchasing 80 additional pairs of shoes. Generally, he is able to sell each pair for $2.80 and he makes a profit of $.80 cents per pair.

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By January 2018, Peter was ready to get started with his dreams of building a homemade solar water heater, and his Zidisha lenders were behind him to help make this happen. With a mere $75 from lenders, he set to work. He purchased 4 PVC pipes, two iron sheets, 20 connectors, a heated water storage tank, insulation, and plywood. He predicted that the total starting cost would amount to $90. The good news was that he also estimated that he would be able to sell it for $170 making a profit of $80 for himself.

He explains, “This is a very affordable water solar heater compared to a factory one which the cheapest one cost about 800 dollars. My dream is to continue making cheap solar water like this and enable as many people as possible to buy it and save trees and electricity bills. It is also a good idea to take advantage of the sunshine in Kenya.”

On Jan 28, 2018, Peter proudly took to his discussion page and shared with lenders this update, “My homemade solar water is now working. It is all passive.Today after two hours and half of sunshine, the water was very hot such that cold water had to be mixed for any to shower. My next goal is working on retaining the heat so the water can stay hot/warm for at least 10 hours after the sun has set.Thank for your support.”

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In an effort to make his product as close to perfect as possible, Peter set out for his next loan of $90 in April 2018 to make a few changes and improvements to his model. He shares his thought process as he says, “I will use the new loan to improve my solar water heater so that it will be as perfect as possible by the time it goes out to customers. First, I will raise the water heater 8 feet high so that it gets the sunshine earlier in the morning and very late in the afternoon. I will also use the loan to advance the insulation around the storage tank.”

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Soon after this loan, Peter was prepared to share his progress, “Thank you so much for the loan you gave me. It made me have a big step forward as far as my Home Solar Water heater is concerned. I bought four pvc pipes each 20 meters long, 50 connectors and two iron sheets each 1 meter by 2 meters. I really appreciate your help which has made the whole project to have a very good start. Very soon a lot of people will be able to use free heat from the Sun to heat water at an affordable price and save our trees.”

A few months later, in June 2018, Peter found himself in need of an additional loan from lenders. With this next loan of $189, Peter purchased a 2,000 liter water storage tank to feed the heated water tank. He noted the importance of this tank as he explains, “This tank will help me to ensure that I have enough water supply even during dry season to feed my solar water heater. This will also help the community understand how the whole solar water heater system works and thereby will give me more customers in the near future. I would like to take this time to thank all my lenders.Without your help, this project won’t progress.”

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His next project began in July 2018 as he started constructing two water solar heaters for a boarding school. After purchasing materials and building the heaters, he was able to receive a nice profit of $110.

Most recently, Peter was able to raise $384 from lenders in September to purchase additional materials such as, iron sheets, black paint, pvc pipes, connectors, uv protected plastic sheets, tanks, and glue. These materials would allow him to build three additional tanks.

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With a little innovation and iteration, Peter has found a business that he truly loves and is also bringing substantial environmental change to his community.

Would you like to make a difference in the life of an entrepreneur like Peter? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to see other amazing projects like Peter’s solar water heater.

Feeding her Community

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Jackline Kemunto happily wears many titles as a native Kenyan, wife, mother, and business owner. As a student, she was forced to discontinue her education due to a lack of funds. However, this also proved to be a stepping stone for her as it set her on a new entrepreneurial trajectory. She opened a small grocery business in her home and continued running the business until she bet and married her husband.

Currently Jackline runs a retail shop and grocery at the Gesonso market. Her products include: maize, wheat flour, drinks, sanitizes, cooking fats, oils, rice, sugar, bread, milk, sweets, airtime cards of all Kenyan mobile subscribers and many others.

She’s found that selling common household foods and goods are excellent for business as these are items that her customers purchase on a regular basis, compared to novelty items. She shares, “My customers also like my services because I make sure I have a stock and I operate in six days a week Sunday to Friday as Worship on Saturday so I do not operate my business on this day and my customers are always aware.”

Jackline has an impressive track record with Zidisha, with 12 successful loans so far. She also sets a high standard for her fellow borrowers by maintaining a 98% repayment rate. A seasoned Zidisha member, she’s been borrowing from Zidisha lenders since 2014. What started as a $150 loan in April 2014 to replenish her supplies, has grown into a relationship with lenders where she now receives $1,000 or more per loan.

By the end of December in 2016, Jackline was proud to share this update on her discussion page, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank my lenders and the entire Zidisha management for giving me the chance to be the borrower and indeed my life has been changed so far since I became a borrower and now I enjoy and hope to expand more entrepreneurship so that I become a future great investor.”

With a business like Jackline has, maintaining a wide variety of stock is essential in allowing her to keep her customers happy. In this way, Zidisha has been a great opportunity for her as it has allowed her to continuously borrow and keep her stock updated. With these loans, she has continued to maintain her supply of goods such as, ‘milk, bread, rice, eggs, apples, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, charcoal, grains, cabbage, and sugar.’

With her most recent Zidisha funded loan for $1,120 in August, 2018, Jackline shared that, “Life in Kenya is changing drastically as the living economic is becoming very expansive and the price of commodities have gone high and therefore makes the living cost expensive to Kenyans.” However, amidst these changes, Jackline has still been able to support and grow her business as she explains, “I am very much thankful for the opportunity you have give this far. My business growth has tremendously improved by almost 20% since I joined Zidisha and I hope through your lending am going to go far and maybe become a lenders to help young Enterprise.”

Through her thriving business and strong work ethic, Jackline is setting a great example for her children, family, and community on what it means to overcome obstacles and to push forward. Even when she wasn’t afforded the opportunity to go to college, she continued to turn a challenge into an opportunity by starting a business and gaining her own experience.

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Would you like to empower an entrepreneur like Jackline? Make sure to check out our Browse Projects page to read about all of our other inspiring business owners around the world.

Zidisha has a new look

By Julia Kurnia, director

Nine years ago we disbursed our first loan in the Masai Mara region of Kenya, to a cattle herder living in a settlement too remote to be served cost-effectively by local microfinance organizations.  His village was not connected to electricity and the nearest bank branch was almost a day’s journey away by dirt road.  But using the new mobile phone payment technology that was emerging in Africa, we were able to transfer funds from the US directly to his cell phone.

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When Zidisha was founded in 2009, the idea of connecting individual lenders directly to borrowers in developing countries without any intermediaries seemed far-fetched.  Though the internet was beginning to make possible direct communication with individuals living in the world’s most impoverished places, it was not generally believed that loans could be entrusted to people in low-income communities without the physical presence of a loan officer.  Since the cost of sending loan officers to visit communities is high relative to the small size of microloans, the world’s poorest entrepreneurs were paying the world’s highest cost for business loans.  This made it hard for them to access the capital they needed to create value and employment in their communities.

Zidisha was founded on a radical premise: that disadvantaged entrepreneurs in developing countries can participate responsibly in a direct online person-to-person lending community. Unlike other microlending programs, we do not maintain a network of branch offices and loan officers.  And unlike other charitable microlending websites, we do not outsource relationships with borrowers to local banks.  Instead, we offer a technology platform that allows our lenders and borrowers to interact directly.  This allows us to reduce the administrative cost of the loans dramatically, so that profits from Zidisha loans can be reinvested in the entrepreneurs’ communities instead of paying for organizational overhead.

Our entrepreneurs have proven time and again that our trust in them is well-founded, not only repaying their loans but also giving back to the community by serving as Volunteer Mentors to coach fellow borrowers in their countries.  One heroic Volunteer Mentor, Sammy Kanja, sold the dairy cow and donkey carts that were his family’s source of livelihood in order to obtain life-saving medical care for one of his Zidisha mentees.  Such inspiring stories are not uncommon in our community.


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We remain a volunteer-driven organization, with most of our day-to-day operations performed by generous individuals all over the world who contribute their time and energy to help borrowers interact with our platform, process loan payments and produce financial reports.  Our Burkina Faso lending program became large and successful thanks to the work of Mien de Graeve, who left a comfortable job in Belgium to spend a year trekking through desert villages, showing local entrepreneurs how to raise business loans via our website.  Many of our volunteers have worked with us for years, helping connect thousands of people all over the world to the resources needed to improve their lives.


The new house Zidisha member Siaka Toure built for his family in Banfora, Burkina Faso, using profits from a cassava-processing business made possible with a Zidisha loan.


None of this would have been possible without the boldness and generosity of our lenders, who every day reach out across immense barriers of geography, socioeconomic status and culture to connect directly with our entrepreneurs and join them on their journeys to achieve their goals.  Our lenders come from all over the world and all walks of life.  They all share the Zidisha community’s belief that all people, regardless of geographic location, deserve the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

We are so incredibly honored and humbled to serve this amazing community.  We are a technology organization, and we strive to support our community by providing the best technology platform possible and improving it constantly.

In recent years, lenders and borrowers have begun to tell us that the Zidisha website was beginning to look dated.  We knew that a more modern, professional design was important in making joining our community easy and inviting.  So six months ago, we embarked on an ambitious project to improve the visual design of our website.  We are excited to present the new design to you now.

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The photo in the lenders’ homepage is of Ndeye Bineta Sarr, one of our members in Senegal whom I had the pleasure of visiting several years ago.  Bineta used Zidisha loans to acquire the sewing machines and materials she needed to turn her part-time dressmaking activity into a tailoring studio that provides employment to others and enough income to send the children in her family to university.  Her story has always been inspiring to us and illustrates the impact that we are always striving to make possible.

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The photo in the borrower homepage represents people coming together and supporting each other to achieve their goals.  We chose an image that was not specific to any particular nationality, gender, race or culture, in order to reinforce the message that at Zidisha, all responsible, high-achieving entrepreneurs are equally welcome.

The new design features a brigher, more varied color palette, reflecting the beauty and diversity of our community.  It showcases more photos of our entrepreneurs, and makes more use of modern web design features that facilitate access from smaller devices.  This is intended to make our website easier to use for both lenders and borrowers, who increasingly access Zidisha with tablets or smartphones.


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Zidisha has changed a lot since our founding nine years ago.  Innovation is at the heart of our culture, and we will continue to improve our technology platform as we learn and grow.  But our commitment to bridging barriers and connecting people has remained constant from day one.  Our new design is intended to embody ever more faithfully our vision of a world where people everywhere reach out and connect with each other, and where geography is no longer an insurmountable barrier to achieving one’s dreams.

A Budding Bead Maker

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Gloria Agbadi is a 19 year old college student from Ghana, currently in her second year of studies for Biomedical Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Ghana. Before college, she received her primary and junior level education at St. Mary’s International School and Better Best Academy. Then, she continued to high school at Achimota Senior High School.

When she’s not studying engineering, she has a creative side with a passion for fashion and colors. This led to her side business of jewelry making. She shares that, “Bead making is an indigenous activity in Ghana and beaded accessories are an irreplaceable item in our cultural dressing. Growing up in a country like mine where graduate unemployment is on the rise, I decided to turn my interest in bead making into an employment opportunity for myself and others.”

Through her business, Gloria is able to promote African fashion, especially jewelry and accessories. Over time, she hopes to expand her business worldwide to become a top beaded accessory production company.

So far, Gloria has successfully raised four Zidisha funded loans, which is impressive considering that she has only been a part of the Zidisha community since January 2018. With her first loan of $67 she was able to purchase a variety of beads, bead making tools, and other equipment.

A few short months later, Gloria was able to raise a second loan in March 2018 for $108 and used this loan for additional raw materials. With the remainder of the loan she started advertising to widen her market. With the additional materials, she predicted that she would be able to produce up to 150% of what she had currently been producing at the time.

On May 9, Gloria proudly shared an update on her discussion page, “I am very grateful for your support through my endeavour. I have been able to establish my business on social media with the previous loan offered. By this, I have expanded my customer base by 200% and increased profit by 300%. Production has also increased by 300%. God richly bless you for your contribution to this achievement! I am very surprised at the numbers that are willing to help support my business and dream..thanks for being a part of it.”

While the personal benefit is important to Gloria, she also sees her budding business as a way to contribute and hopefully employ her fellow community members as she explains, “This loan will help me create a job opportunity for myself and my community to help towards alleviating unemployment in my community. I hope to employ another to join in the production process creating employment opportunities in the end.”

With the help of her first two Zidisha funded loans, Gloria was able to gain additional publicity and also worked to expand her social media presence. For her, mobile is a big part of her business as she says, “Most of my customers make purchases on social platforms and my mobile phone is the main tool for interacting… However I have lost touch with most customers since my phone has developed a fault… I need this loan to buy a new phone to interact with customers.” This problem led to her third Zidisha loan in June 2018 where she raised, $145.

Most recently, in August 2018, she successfully raised $138 from Zidisha lenders to purchase additional equipment including: drilling, cutting, and filling machines. She also felt that these additional tools would allow her to better customize her products for her customers as many of them love custom products.

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If you would like to follow Gloria or see more of her work, she has a Facebook page for her business called, “Des-Afric.” Or, if you’d like to support another student entrepreneur like Gloria, head on over to our Lend Page to read more about our other inspiring business owners.