Weaving Promise

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by Rebecca Wolfe

Promise Badu loves his work and loves to share it. Operator of Dogbeda Vormawu Kente Training Center in the Volta region of Ghana, the twenty-seven-year-old has a passion for teaching others.

“The aspect I do enjoy most about my work is telling people (tourists) the history of the art/fabric, and teaching it.” Giving a portion of his tour speech, Promise elaborated. “Kente weaving is an ancient indigenous method in which thread (any colour) is set on a loom and woven into strips that are later sewn together into larger tapestries. These cloths are used for ceremonial events in Ghana. It can also be used as wall hangings, table cloths and the like. This ancient art has gained international recognition and tourists come from around the world to see how it’s made.”

Promise has, in some ways, followed in the family footsteps. Raised in a single parent household, he lived with and learned from his father, a master kente weaver and founder of the kente center that Promise now operates. All throughout his formal education, Promise was also receiving instruction in kente weaving. “As a kid,” he says, “I use to stay with [my father] and watch him do it, and helped him after school and on vacations.” His father had little taste for academics and so struck a bargain with his son: he would pay for his school fees until he came of age if Promise worked with him in the kente center on school vacations. Even with assistance from his father, Promise sometimes found it difficult to gather the funds to pay for his fees and textbooks, and often went to school without money for lunch. Promise fought to finish his education, and succeeded, graduating from Agortime Senior High School.

Soon after graduation Promise was hired by the president of Trinity Yard School, a fee-free vocational-secondary school on the west coast of Ghana. Working as the school’s kente instructor four years, Promise “learnt from the kids (students) and also made friends with visiting groups and volunteers from the US and other parts of the globe.” While there, Promise trained a young man named James Awotwe Niffio. Promise described him as “a smart, hardworking guy,” who struggled in formal lessons, but thrived in kente class. A 2012 graduate of Trinity Yard School, James has recently stepped into Promise’s shoes as the school’s official kente instructor. Furthering his own kente education, James is also “undergoing an intensive internship training at the center.”

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Graduation at Trinity Yard School

In the course of his time at Trinity Yard School, Promise came to strongly identify with the school’s mission to “educate and empower the youth… to honor the potential of young Ghanaians.” This is a vision which Promise now applies to his own community in the east of Ghana. “My dream is to raise the less privileged in my community with the help of my business,” he says. “Creating a business avenue to help them get a vocation on their own.” Most of the young people in his community, he says, “have limited access to formal education due to high levels of penury.” This is a struggle which Promise understands. “I have also gone through the same plight,” he says with great empathy. “I know the zeal embedded in these youths, but due to limited resources, they can’t realize their potential.” Lack of opportunities and resources is a condition which Promise hopes to change. He wants to provide “jobs to the jobless, training and educating the youths.” He praises Trinity Yard School, and its founder Rory Jackson, as a “LIGHT in the lives of many.” His time there, he says, “has motivated me to replicate his ideas… turning the center into a light in my community as well, because kids here need same thing.”

Promise long held a dream to empower the youth of his community, but without access to capital, struggled to see how it might come to fruition. After finishing up his time at Trinity Yard School and passing the baton of kente instruction on to his former pupil James, Promise returned to his hometown and began to develop a plan for growing the family kente center to accommodate such an effort. In April of 2015, Promise applied for his first Zidisha loan, one of the first major steps in his new and ambitious project.

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Strips of Kente Cloth

This first loan, for the small sum of $46.75, allowed Promise to repair several broken looms. Faithfully and efficiently repaying this loan, Promise established financial credibility with lenders. With his second loan, $93.50 funded in June of 2015 by three Zidisha lenders, Promise purchased colorful skeins of yarn. These first two loans helped Promise put “stuff in place” in the kente shop, developing capital and resources, building toward Promise’s long term goal of youth empowerment. Six months after this second loan, having repaid his lenders and spent the summer and fall building infrastructure and laying groundwork for a youth engagement and occupational training program, Promise again applied to Zidisha. This loan, a credit of $262 disbursed in January 2016, covered the start-up cost of employing three young members of Promise’s Ghanaian community.

In the ten months since this second loan was received, Promise has fully repaid his lenders and his training program has grown considerably. An August 2016 loan of $348, the most recent sum to date, enabled the purchase of yarns, shuttles, bobbins, and other materials for weaving, as well as supplied the funds to hire two additional young employees. “These loans helped greatly in laying the foundation of the dream,” Promise says.

At this time, the Dogbeda Vormawu Kente Training Center employs nine people. Three work on a full-time basis, two are in training, and four operate on contract. “Work normally starts at 7 AM,” Promise says, describing a typical day at Dogbeda. “You have everyone busy in their various looms, except those training may be assigned to other things.” Weavers take breaks as needed throughout the day, closing up shop around 5 PM, though sometimes special projects will keep them there until 8.

As Promise’s business grows, so do his dreams. “I have been using the funds I get from the sales of these beautiful kente clothes as a source of income to enlarge, renew, and purchase more working materials for my center.” He is delighted at the success of the program, grateful for the opportunity to employ young people in his community. Ultimately, he wants to see the center expand to locations all across Africa. “I want to be a source of motivation and inspiration,” he says. “I always count myself fortunate to have gotten to this level of my business in which I can give a helping hand to few people in my community. My dream is to see more of them not only inspired and motivated but make available resources and jobs for them.”

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Promise’s Training Center

“I would like to say a big thank you to the Zidisha team, lenders, and to all that are making this program work effectively to help young entrepreneurs raise and expand their business,” he said on his loan profile. “I believe with the help of this platform and the support of the best lenders, together we can achieve the targeted goals, that is making a difference by providing jobs and positioning the youths for the future in my community.”

With a name like Promise it is likely that this young man knows better than most the potential for ingenuity, for bright and productive futures, that young Ghanaians hold. He himself is an example of this promise; promise coming to fruition. Thanks to Promise’s effort and dreams, and financial support from Zidisha lenders, more young people will have the opportunity to fulfill their promise and see their communities grow and thrive.

If you would like to assist another entrepreneur of promise, head over to our loans page and contribute to one of the loan applications posted there. Help a community thrive and a business grow.

 

Needle and Thread

atik

by Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

The whirr of a sewing machine fills the little room, the gentle noise softening the edges of the day. Aat Atikah sits at her table, using both hands to guide a strip of fabric beneath the needle as it bobs. She settles into the familiar, soothing rhythm of sewing. She blinks, her eyes keeping up with flash of thread through a pattern of flowers. This is going to be a beautiful dress.

Aat Atikah, called Atik by her friends, family, and lenders, is a wife, mother, and designer in Bogor, Indonesia. Age 38, Atik has three children. The oldest, a son, is 21 years old and lives elsewhere in their island nation. The two younger daughters, ages 15 and 1, live at home with their mother and father. Since the birth of her first child, Atik has been a stay-at-home mother, leaving her eight-year job as a tailor in a garment factory upon confirmation of her pregnancy.

As a young woman, Atik says, “I had a lot of dreams that I wanted to achieve.” She had big plans to build a clothing empire. “I wanted to be a woman entrepreneur who has a large industrial garment factory,” she said. She wanted to “Provide jobs for the needy… Help my beloved family’s economic welfare.” When Atik became a mother, however, she put that dream on hold.

Spending her days in the role of what Atik terms a “normal housewife,” Atik has provided for the needs of her family physically, emotionally, and mentally. As her children grew older, Atik began to have some free time. With her entrepreneurial spirit firmly intact, she took up sewing for neighbors and relatives. As word of her excellent tailoring work spread, Atik began to receive requests from people she did not even know. Atik had, inadvertently, launched a small tailoring service. This business grew, and allowed her to provide a supplemental income to increase her family’s economic welfare.

Presently, Atik is able to accept and fill one order a day. She alters pants, makes shirts, and designs dresses. You name it, she sews it. With customers paying an average of $2 to $10, depending on the complexity of the order, Atik brings in $14 to $70 per week. As her husband is the family’s primary breadwinner, Atik is able to contribute to the family’s funds while also putting some money away for future investments. Currently, Atik says, “I have only one dream. I just want to be happy with my lovely family.” Familial happiness and entrepreneurship need not be mutually exclusive, though, and this is something she well knows.

With her skills and expertise lying in the realm of fashion, Atik is well prepared for a venture into clothing and textiles. The dreams of her youth are coming back to life, coming off hold. “I really want to have a bigger, industrial clothing production and employ many employees,” she said in her January 2016 application for a $50 loan. “But I know it cannot be achieved easily, cannot be instant. There must be a process that I go through to achieve success. Therefore, at this time, I would like to start from zero.” Her zero is what she calls her “little tailor shop,” the table in her home where she slides her seams beneath the whirring needle of the sewing machine. With her first loan, Atik purchased a stock of fabric, and that fabric turned into profit.

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Atik is working, “slowly but surely,” toward her long term goal of a clothing empire. Six months after her first loan, she returned to Zidisha. “I am very happy I know this site and all of you,” she said. “This program has much helped my business grow up.” With her second loan, a larger sum of $200, Atik plans to buy a new sewing machine. “Yipiiee hehe,” she exclaimed in a discussion post. “I will buy a machine to make my production better. Hope all lenders… know and trust me and can help me again.”

As Atik has said, there is much hard work ahead of her. With help, however, from Zidisha lenders, she has come several steps closer to reaching her goals. Hard work and determination can take a person far, and with a little help from friends around the world, anything is possible.

If you would like to make something possible for an entrepreneur, head over to our loans page and contribute to the project of another self-starter like Atik.

 

 

A Little Caution Never Hurts

Leah Wanjiku Muniu is a married woman with three sons. She is a diligent worker within her farming business where the bulk of her income is derived from products such as milk and cereals like maize and wheat. Over the next few years, she intends to cultivate her farming skills so as to maximize her yield; she intends to do this by adding two more dairy cows. A week ago, our Client Relationship Intern for Kenya, Vivien, visited Mrs. Muniu to inquire about her progress and the benefits she is acquiring from her Zidisha loan. The encounter is described below:


Hello Lenders,

My name is Vivien Barbier and I’m a client relationship interns for Zidisha in Kenya. Today, I had a meeting with Mrs Leah Muniu and she showed me the path to her maize and wheat fields.

I meet Mrs Muniu in Karunga village during a meeting organized by current Zidisha borrowers to present the organization to future members. I’m very grateful to her for coming to the meeting. She agreed to share her experience with Zidisha with others. I think that she made a better job than I did to convince others of the advantages of Zidisha. It was wonderful to see how much enthusiastic she was about Zidisha. She explained me that people like her never go to bank because of the high interests rates but also because of the collaterals that are required. She even told me: “I prefer to stay poor than to go to these banks”. She is also grateful to Zidisha because it has been for her an “eye opener” on the rest of the world. It pushes her to learn how to use computers and interact with people outside her community. 

Mrs Muniu has inherited 5 hectares of lands for her parents and she is renting 3 hectares from another villager. In February, after having paid the school fees of her three children, she didn’t have money anymore to buy seeds for her fields. She was planning to rent her fields to other farms in order to earn at least a small profit.. But then, in March, she has received Zidisha’s loan and things changed. She was able to buy maize and wheat seeds for her 8 hectares. As you can see on the pictures, the crops have grown well since then. The harvest season should start in October and we calculated that her profit should be approximately 45 000 Shilling ($535) in only six month. This profit almost equals the amount of the loan she took. It shows that microcredit loans can be the nudges to start a sustainable activity that will then be able to finance itself. This is very encouraging for the future of Mrs Muniu business. 

Regarding the future, Mrs Muniu hopes that she will be able to buy enough fertilizer for all her fields. This year she didn’t have the money to buy enough of it, so the yield of her fields is not optimal. 

It was a real pleasure to spend a few hours in her company; she is a very smiling and lively person. She made me meet many other villagers and taught me a lot about Kenya. At the end of the meeting, she offered me a delicious Kenyan tea prepared with fresh milk from her own cow and fresh tea leafs.

 

Lessons we can Learn from Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was born 94 years ago today in the small village of Mvezo, South Africa. As we reflect on the world’s most renowned freedom fighter and peacemaker on his birthday, we should also reflect on the lessons that he has taught us.
Leadership

When confronted with the challenge of changing the status quo of an entire nation Nelson Mandela showed unshakable leadership. When the decision was made to move from peaceful demonstrations to armed confrontation he knew that he should be the one to lead the armed wing of the ANC, known as the Spear of the Nation (Umkhonto we Sizwe). It was only the trust of his people that allowed Mandela to successfully convince the ANC leadership that the move was right. By putting himself in a highly visible position he inspired his people, and altered the course of history.
Forgiveness

When Nelson Mandela won the presidential election in 1994 white people across the nation were concerned about the policies that he might enact. Instead of punishing his enemy, he made them his friend, and thus earned their respect and devotion. It is a special man that can forgive the people and regime that imprisoned him for the better part of three decades. If a man who lost so much can forgive, than the rest of the nation could certainly find a way to forgive, as well.
Accountability

Mandela’s actions involving the armed wing of the ANC ultimately led to his long imprisonment. During the Rivonia trial it was apparent that the Apartheid regime was going to try to have Mandela executed on the basis of terrorism charges. Facing death, Mandela did not refute what he was being condemned for, quite the contrary in fact. Nelson used the trial as a pulpit to talk about the Apartheid regime’s actions against his people. He took pride in his decision, and explained that Apartheid had pushed the ANC into a corner where peaceful demonstrators across the nation were coming under fire. He argued that the ANC could only fight successfully by employing the use of equal force. Mandela’s life was ultimately spared, and he was sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island.

Tailoring in Munanda

Stephen in front of Irungu Modern Tailoring


Stephen in his shop

Stephen Irungu is one of our Kenyan borrowers living in the town of Munanda. At 25 years of age Stephen is quite busy running a tailoring business to support his young family. Stephen designs pants, shirts, skirts, and alters them as needed. For all of his hard work Stephen earns a profit of about $2.38 per day. While Stephen is a tailor by trade, he also farms to make money on the side (like many other Kenyans do). If his loan is funded (this will be his second) then Stephen will be able to stock his store with clothing during the upcoming harvest season. One of our Client Relationship Interns was able to visit Stephen last week. You can read about their meeting below in her own words:


Thursday, July 4, 2012

Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. 

I was welcomed into the town of Munanda today by Stephen Irungu, the proud owner of Irungu Modern Tailoring. It’s hard to miss his quaint shop, even amongst the many businesses blooming in the Munanda, for hanging on his door is a brown all-leather suit created by Stephen himself. 

In 2005, Stephen started Irungu Modern Tailoring with only one sewing machine. With this flourishing business, he now has three sewing machines, an iron, and also employs three people. It is also a family business, for his wife often times assists with the ironing.

This is his second Zidisha loan and he plans on creating a boutique for the people of his village, the first of its kind in Munanda. With the funds, he hopes to buy clothes from Nakuru and sell it in shop. His passion for fashion is evident, as he describes his store not merely as a job, but a hobby and his happiness.

After my visit to his shop, Stephen kindly took me around his village, showing me various shops and introducing me to friends. He even assisted me in finding some much needed supplies that cannot be found in Mugaa, the village I am residing in. 

Best of luck with your loan Stephen. It was a pleasure meeting you. 






A little help can take you a long way

Massamba Diouf used to run a stationary shop for a living, the profits of which would go to support his wife and two children. During a turbulent time, when he was facing strong competition, he came to Zidisha for help. His ultimate ambition was to use the proceeds of the Zidisha loan to start up a t-shirt and sports shirt business. However, he would need the clothing equipment first to make such an aspiration a reality. Sam Gant, our Client Relationship Manager in Senegal, managed to interview Mr. Diouf on the current state of his affairs:
I’m a Client Relationship Volunteer in Dakar and I visited Massamba the other day in his shop. There were basic office and printing supplies in his shop which he shares with several business partners. What he was most intent on talking about, however, was the t-shrt press that he purchased with his loan and now uses to put prints on t-shirts and baseball caps.
He showed an example of his progress with mastering the press as well as a very nice Zidisha shirt he recently designed with a Client Relationship Manager. He seemed to be doing well with his new business and mentioned that advertisement of his business was spreading slowly but surely, mostly by word of mouth. He seems most hopeful of making shirts for sporting events like football and wrestling as well as various festivals and campaigns.
Massamba lives behind the shop with his wife and two young children. He uses the profits from the store and his new shirt-printing business to support his family. He hopes to be able to save up enough with the new profits to buy certain supplies like expensive printing paper in bulk to cut costs. He also expressed interest in another loan upon the successful completion of this loan for buying in bulk for both his t-shirt press business and the boutique.

Catching Up with Djibril at Senegal’s Premier Retail Shop

The last time we meet up with Djibril Pouye he was selling various electronic devices in his shop. Now, in addition to selling iPads, laptops, and cellphones, Djibril has added chic perfumes to his stock for resale! Djibril’s high-end products allows him to differentiate himself from stiff competition. Even though he sells fancy products, Djibril still only earns about $9.66 per day. While he isn’t earning much money, Djibril can still afford to continue paying for his brother’s schooling. Check out what Sam Gant, one of our Client Relationship Interns in Senegal, had to say about meeting up with Djibril recently:

Dear Lenders,

My name is Sam Gant and I’m currently one of the Client Relationship Managers working here in Dakar, Senegal. Today I got to meet with Djiby, an extremely enterprising young man who took time out of his hectic workday in Dakar’s bustling Alize market to meet with me at his home in Parcelles. Djiby has recently expanded the products of his mobile business to include different perfumes, such as Lacoste, Black XS, and Allure, which e buys in bulk at Sandaga market for 1000 CFA per bottle and sells to his customers for a 50% markup. Often clients will request specific products that he will find for them, but following his partnership with Zidisha Djiby is able to do more business by having a wider range of stock on hand.

Djiby lives on thin margins, paying an average of 3000 CFA per day on food and transport, in addition to the 25,000 per month he pays for housing– meanwhile, he earns 5000 CFA on the average day. He is very committed to his family, and turns over part of his money to them to help his brother continue his education. He thanks you for your patience and confidence in him, and hopes to apply for another loan once he has repaid this one.