Look Good to Feel Good

Here is a great update from Traci in Kenya!

Traci and Judy


December 19, 2012


Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.

Look good to feel good, a universal approach to life amongst women everywhere in the world, Kenya being no different. Salons and boutiques ubiquitously line the streets of every town, big or small. Heaps of secondhand clothing can be found on the busy downtown sidewalks of Nairobi, women picking through the piles to find that special piece to add to their wardrobe. And formal dress is not only set aside for Sunday’s best, but every day men and women, the rich and poor, can be seen sporting the latest fashion trends. With clothes being an easy, affordable, and high-demand commodity, many women, including Zidisha borrower Judy Mburu, decide to venture into the clothing business. 

After leaving her job with EPZ, Judy began her new career as a hawker, selling shoes around the town of Githunguri. Proving to be a success, she soon earned enough money to rent a space constructed out of iron sheets along the side of the main road, neighboring produce stands and similar boutiques (see profile picture). Progressing even further, Judy introduced secondhand clothes, called mitumba, to her stock. For two years her business grew, allowing Judy to put food on the table for her family (two young boys), pay rent, employ a woman to upkeep her home during her long 13-hour workdays, and chip in for a security guard to watch over the shops in the evening. 



Always looking to expand, Judy became a Zidisha member in November, receiving her loan shortly after. Thanks to Judy’s astute business skills and the help of Zidisha, she no longer has an iron sheet shop, but now rents a permanent room. Furthermore, with her Zidisha loan, Judy was able to become an M-PESA agent, dedicating half of her shop to M-PESA matters. A similar approach to strategically placing knick-knacks along checkout counters, Judy’s M-PESA customers will inevitably browse her clothing shop. No longer selling mitumba, due to an increase in import taxes, she now offers new clothes for all ages. Obviously not a one trick pony, Judy also sells popcorn outside her shop, though due to the day’s downpour, her machine could not be set up. Wanting to pay back her loan earlier than expected, Judy would like to use her second loan to buy more clothes and add hair accessories. She would also like to move to a larger space, preferably back to the main road, which draws a lot of foot traffic. 

After only two years, it is hard to imagine that this all started with a portable shoe business. But after meeting Judy and witnessing her conviction to succeed, it all makes perfect sense. Being in Githunguri often, I look forward to greeting Judy at her future shop along the main road. Asante sana Judy, kwa tembelea mzuri! 

View more pictures of my visit with Judy at www.talkingstory.posterous.com/pages/snapshots 

Achieving Literacy Through Technology in Africa

An update from one of our interns on the ground in Kenya:

Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.

The town of Salgaa, located 30 kilometers west of Nakuru, would not be described as a technological hub. In fact, many of the homes here do not have access to electricity. Considering this, it is not hard to imagine that many residents of Salgaa are not overly familiar with the use of computers. Boaz aims to change this. 

Boaz opened his current store in July of this year but has been teaching computer literacy classes since 2010. He was previously conducting classes in his home. However, the genesis of Boaz’s passion and appreciation for computers dates back to 2008. Boaz was in the town center of Nakuru four years ago where he saw a young Kenyan student being instructed on how to use a computer by an older Indian gentleman. Boaz remembers thinking, “If this young boy can use a computer, why can’t I?” He promptly enrolled in a two month computer training course. 

Currently, Boaz has 20 students who attend his daily 2 hour classes. The students are taught to use Microsoft Office and various other computer programs. Upon completion of the course, each student receives a certificate verifying that they have a competent computer literacy. This certificate is now mandatory for many government jobs. Boaz says the course he offers would cost students 5,000 Kenyan Schillings in an urban center like Nakuru or Nairobi, but he is offering his course at 2,500 Kenyan Schillings to entice the technology wary citizens of Salgaa. 

With his first Zidisha loan, Boaz plans to buy a printer, scanner, and photocopier. In the longer term, he plans on expanding his current business which currently includes six computers. He envisions starting Salgaa’s first cyber café. He also wants to start working with some of the local schools to incorporate computer science into their curriculum. Boaz is passionate about helping members of his community enhance their level of computer literacy as he believes it is of the utmost importance when trying to secure a job in today’s economy. With the help of his loan from Zidisha, Boaz is spearheading the movement to educate his community. 

Family Portraits in Salgaa

Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.

Today I visited Melchzedeck at his business in the town of Salgaa, 30 kilometers west of Nakuru. Three years ago Melchzedeck was working on one of the many flower farms around Salgaa. He grew unsatisfied with his job at the time and its future prospects. Melchzedeck always had an interest in photography, so, in 2009, he retired from the flower farm and purchased a camera for 4,500 Kenyan Schillings. He had decided to go into business for himself.
Three years later, he now owns his own shop selling photographs as well as cell phones, phone cases, phone chargers and other accessories. The shop has a small studio in the back of the shop where Melchzedeck is able to take portraits and family photos. He also operates a kinyozi (barbershop) within his shop in case anyone wants to have a last minute haircut before being photographed. 
In addition to photographing individuals and families who come into his shop, Melchzedeck also travels to weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and various other gatherings to document the memories as he says. He is one of only two photographers in the village of Salgaa so his services are in high demand. 
With his next loan, Melchzedeck plans to buy printing machine. Currently, he has to travel to Nakuru to print out the photographs that he takes. Though traveling to Nakuru takes a little over an hour round trip, it is an unnecessary burden as Melchzedeck wants to be able to photograph his customers and instantly present them the photograph. Melchzedeck is optimistic about the future of his business; he rightly views the growth of the population in Salgaa as an opportunity for more weddings, graduations, and every other celebration to be photographed. 

"The Popcorn Lady"

Hi Lenders,

Here is a brand new update from one of our client relationship interns in Kenya! Be sure to check out the borrower’s profile for more information and leave any questions that you may have in the comments below!

Hello, my name is Andrew Weber and I am currently a Client Relationship Manager visiting Zidisha borrowers all over Kenya. It is quite common in Kenya to see people selling small bags of popcorn or peanuts. These ubiquitous little treats are sold by everyone from shop owners to wandering food merchants tapping on your window as you wait for your bus to depart. While the roaming vendors hawking various products are often ignored by weary Kenyans as they wait at the bus station, I’ve seen locals perk up many times to purchase a snack from a popcorn and peanut seller. Irene understands Kenyans’ craving for salty snacks, and has in turn made herself into the Popcorn Lady of Naivasha

Irene’s popcorn and peanut empire covers more than 100 vendors and shops in the region. She has the largest network of customers in the area. Rather than join the hordes of snack retailers in the area, Irene opted to enter the distribution business in 2003. She procures large sacs of popcorn and peanuts directly from a food wholesaler in Nairobi. The massive bulk of her individual purchases speak to the volume of snacks she pushes through the area: 90 kg (200lbs.) sacs of peanuts and multiple 10kg (22lbs.) sacs of popcorn. She then cooks the products herself before having them bagged and then selling them near and far. Customers include traders who come to her to bring snacks back to their more rural villages, and also shops all over the region. “Shops buy from me because I know how to cook”, says Irene. She cooks the peanuts in salt and water with no oil. 
With her loan Irene has increased her supply greatly, and moving the greater bulk has not been a problem at all for her. Wedding season is coming up so she hopes to continue moving an increased supply. The increased profits help support her six children, a couple of which are studying at universities. She is also still hoping to use part of the loan to buy a large popcorn machine, which will enable more quickly churn out her product so she can continue to grow her business. The machines are quite pricey though, so that purchase might have to wait until Zidisha loan number two. Once she has a large popcorn machine, her snack empire may begin to reach all corners of the nation. 

Traveling out of poverty

John Maina hails from a family of four, where his college education was not able to guarantee him a job (similar to an American undergraduate’s journey these days). However, his love for travel and exploring new venues propelled him to start a tourism company, which transports visitors to and from airports, and to events. His business has now reached a stage where international bookings are being generated and this brings into play the very idea of expanding his business and improving the breadth of professionalism within the workplace. Mr. Maina’s ultimate ambition is to penetrate international markets while exploring the tourism industry from a grassroots level. Below is a recent update from one of our client relationship managers:
Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.
“Life in Kenya is hard.” I hear this statement often, though never as a complaint, but merely said with matter-of-factness. And although this is true for many, it is hardly a deterrence to persevere. But while the entrepreneurial spirit soars in Kenya, this unbridled enthusiasm comes with many challenges. Families struggle due to lack of business know-how and financial management skills and risk of unavoidable circumstances are high. To be a successful entrepreneur anywhere in the world takes not only passion, but also careful planning. Today I met a true entrepreneur in every sense of the word, Zidisha borrower John Maina, who turned a life that presented many obstacles into something of a success story.
Despite being orphaned at the age of three, losing his sponsor during his first year of high school, and having the responsibility of supporting his siblings with wages made from a janitorial position, John became the founder of the rapidly growing tour company, Topman Safaris and Travel. Although only operating for four months, Topman Safaris has already accomplished so much. Through diligent web marketing, John has spread the word about Topman, receiving clients from all over the world, including places like Turkey, Oman, India, and Spain. He has even partnered with several tour companies in Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Seychelles, expanding his tours beyond Kenya. Never tiring of visiting the picturesque sites of Kenya, John has already made over twenty trips to the Maasai Mara. Proven to be a profitable business thus far, John has been able to start a salon for his wife and also purchase a plot of land.
Like any good businessman, John is constantly searching for innovative ways to expand his company. Growing up amongst the exotic flora and fauna of Mount Kenya, he witnessed the destruction of wildlife on a daily basis, at the time not understanding the importance of ecological conservation. It is because of this exposure that John would like to turn Topman Safaris and Travel into an ecotourism operator. Coming December he will do just that. In addition to becoming an eco-friendly company, John became a Zidisha member. With his loan, he would like to continue to renovate his office, making it more aesthetically pleasing and professional for his clients. Currently having to rent a vehicle for safari excursions, John would also like to purchase his own van, allowing him to save thousands of shillings each month. With a bit of savings, he is also planning on attending the ITB Berlin in March, the world’s largest travel and tourism trade fair.
Seeking opportunities every which way, John is an inspiration to those wanting to improve their lives through entrepreneurship. I am happy to see that Zidisha is one mechanism that can assist him with his endeavors. Planning a trip to Kenya? Visit John’s website at http://topmansafaris.com.

The Young and the Restless

Even with a primary level education, Benard Njoroge still manages to use the investments in his education to build a sustainable life for himself and his family. His occupation as an electrician did not detract him from seeking out a Zidisha loan to engage in farming and the purchase of livestock. His wife is also a farmer and together, they make a power team. Below is a recent account of the duo family business run by Mr. Njoroge and his wife:
Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Kenya.
The youths of Kenya have had the advantage of growing up in the ubiquitous world of technology. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, many young entrepreneurs dive head first into the business of digital entertainment. What many believe only to exist in developed countries is easily accessible in the most unlikely places.
Twenty-six year old, Benard Njoroge, resides in the sleepy village of Waka, Rongai. A single dirt road stretches for miles, and the only sounds are those of nature and the occasional comings and goings of motorbikes. Unbeknownst to a newcomer, one would never guess Bernard’s cinema and electronic shop operate alongside the lone road leading to Waka. Made out of thatched mud and pillars of wood, the interior of Mr. Njoroge’s shop is well stocked with cell phone covers, chargers, earpieces, and multiple tools for electronic repairs. Trained by a friend, Benard opened his shop three years ago. Behind the shop lies his cinema. Tiered wooden benches cover it’s floor, while a few lucky viewers can enjoy some added comfort on recycled car seats. Arriving too early, I unfortunately cannot catch a glimpse of today’s feature presentation of Moon Monster, a Chinese kung fu film. At 10 bob a viewing, Chinese flicks are of the most popular showings, for who can resist those classic Jackie Chan fight scenes.
 
Referred to Zidisha by fellow borrower, Sammy Kanja, Benard received his first loan in August. With the loan and income of his two businesses, Benard is now the proud owner of a plot of land. Currently living with his father, Benard hopes that a second Zidisha loan will assist him in building a home for his family. In lieu of a house, Benard’s wife planted maize and beans on their newly acquired shamba, which she tends to while he manages his electronics shop and cinema.
Having only a couple of hours in Waka and more Zidisha borrowers to visit, my time with Benard was brief. Although short-lived, the impact of Zidisha on Benard and borrowers of a younger generation provides strong insight into the future of Kenya, for when given the opportunity to strive for something greater, there are no shortcomings of hard work, dedication, and innovation.

This is the link to the borrower’s Zidisha profile

Change through safety

Coming from a humble background, Anthony Gitambe made a conscious decision to bring about change within his locality in Bahati, which was infused with problems of poverty and drug addiction. He did this through creating a chicken broiler project, which in turn, would generate employment for the youth population of that area. In order to bring about this transformation, Mr. Gitambe came to Zidisha for a loan to start up his business. Below is a recent account of the progress of his business:


Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.
Zidisha borrower Anthony Gatembe resides in Maili Kumi, a small town 18 kilometers north of Nakuru. It is at his new home here where he is starting his next business venture. His previous endeavor, a poultry farm ran into a harrowing obstacle when 80% of his chickens contracted Newcastle disease. Fortunately, due to Anthony’s earnings at his second job as a driver between Nairobi and Nakuru in addition to the funds he saved from his Zidisha backed poultry business, Anthony was able to purchase a piece of land in Maili Kumi. He plans to repay his current loan in the following week and refocus his efforts.
Anthony has been practicing farming and agriculture since he was a child. On his new property, he is currently growing maize and other assorted vegetables to be sold to the rapidly expanding customer base in Nakuru. His long term goal is even more ambitious. By November, he plans to purchase a cow and begin a dairy farm on his new property. In addition to Anthony’s lifelong knowledge of rearing livestock, he has researched the local market and is well versed on what he can expect to receive in return for his investment.
He calculates that a cow could produce 40 liters of milk each day. With the local price hovering between 30-40 Kenyan Schillings per liter, Anthony expects to make between 800-1,000 Kenyan Schillings after production costs. In addition to strictly selling milk, Anthony also plans to take courses to learn how to produce yogurt and cheese from the milk, both of these products would increase his profit margin.
Losing 80% of his chickens could have been debilitating financially to Anthony, but because of his ambitious and ingenious use of his Zidisha loan, he is now embarking on a business venture that he believes will be both more safe and profitable.