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.

atik-2

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.

 

 

Versatility is the key to success

Here is the latest update from our Client Relationship Manager 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.
Today I met with Josephine in Kahuo, a small village 25 kilometers north of Nakuru. Kahuo is a small agricultural village and is also Josephine’s birthplace. She now lives in Nakuru where she is a primary school teacher, teaching English, Swahili, and mathematics. However, she still is very interested in business and maintains a poultry business in Kahuo.
Josephine used to raise a breed of chickens that are locally referred to as “broilers.” She found that it was too costly to maintain them and purchase the type of feeds they require. To rectify this problem, she decided to use a portion of her loan from Zidisha to invest in 150 chickens that are of a breed that is indigenous to Kenya.
 
From the 150 chickens, Josephine was able to get around two trays of eggs per day. There are thirty eggs per tray, this is the method in which eggs are sold in the local markets here. Josephine sells each tray for 450 Kenyan Schillings. An income of 900 schillings today is very good in this region of Kenya, especially considering that Josephine is also employed as a teacher.
Unfortunately, Josephine suffered a setback when nearly two thirds of her chickens died due to Newcastle disease. This is an all too common problem among poultry farms in Kenya. Josephine was able to replace the chickens she had lost and has had the new chicks vaccinated against Newcastle disease. Her business is now once again operating at its previous strength. She also occasionally sells her chickens to local butchers where she makes 800 schillings per rooster and 600 schillings per hen.
In addition to purchasing chickens with her loan, Josephine also purchased four sheep. Once each sheep has given birth to a lamb, she will sell each adult sheep for a profit of 1,500 schillings per sheep. She will then raise the lambs until they older enough to give birth, and repeat the process.
Finally, Josephine also maintains a one acre farm where she grows maize. This is also where her chicken and sheep are located. She employs one local farmhand to take care of the day-to-day maintenance. With her next loan, Josephine plans to invest in the expansion of her poultry and sheep business as well as her farm.

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

Comfort Food in Ongata Rongai

Hi lenders! Here is a great update from Traci in Kenya. She recently had a chance to meet with Jane Njoroge, a resteraunt owner who is looking to expand her business. Read about Traci’s visit below, and don’t forget to check out her blog! 


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

The up-and-coming town of Ongata Rongai, home to many Zidisha borrowers, is a mini Nairobi, with its numerous supermarkets, sprawl of modern flats, and lining every street sit local restaurants and fast food chains. Just around the corner of the city center, away from the hawkers and fast-moving traffic, you’ll come across Liz’s Kitchen. Potted plants hug the exterior of this charming hotel (a hotel in Kenya often times refers to restaurant), while the inside is bathed in sunlight. Several rounded tea tables cover the floor of Liz’s Kitchen, giving off a European café vibe. The minute I step into Jane Njoroge’s hotel, I know I will be a returning customer.
Named after her sister, Jane started Liz’s Kitchen in 2010. Although she does not have formal training in the restaurant business, her prior profession as an educator has well equipped her in culinary arts. When still teaching, Jane took a six-month course specializing in nutrition and food preparation, as the skills acquired were needed at the nursery school. Jane decided to leave her job at the school when she had her youngest child, Wanjiru, who is now three years old. Although Jane is no longer a teacher, her passion for education never left her side, for her dream is to open a school in Ongata Rongai. With the help of her hotel business, she would like to buy land, build a school, and provide transportation for the students. 
Being new to Zidisha, Jane heard about the organization through her son, borrower John Njoroge. With her first loan, Jane would like to employ one more person at Liz’s Kitchen. Adding another employee would help Jane and her staff of two with the arduous task of morning food preparations. With extra hands, the cutting of vegetables; making of snacks such as chapati, samosas, and mandazis; and the labor intensive task of using charcoal will be much more manageable. Jane also hopes to find a reasonably priced machine to make chips (french fries). Being a popular snack for both adults and children alike, Jane finds herself turning away eager customers in want of this delectable treat. With the help of Zidisha, Jane hopes to soon add one more item to her already mouthwatering menu.
Before I could leave and it being time for lunch, I had to try my first meal at Liz’s Kitchen. A little bit of meat, a small serving of vegetables, a light soup on the side, and a whole lot of rice pilaf; the fact that my plate was empty in just a few minutes is a true testament to the quality of Liz’s Kitchen. Making frequent trips to Ongata Rongai and always struggling to find somewhere satisfactory for a quick bite, I know I have now found my haven. Jane, I wish you all the best with your loan and hope to enjoy some chips at Liz’s soon. 


To view more pictures of Jane, go to talkstory.posterous.com 

From the Ground Up




Here is a quick update from Traci in Kenya! She had the chance to check in with Rose Karanja the other week and was able to post some great pictures. You can view more of the pictures by going to Traci’s blog, the link is at the bottom of her post.


August 29, 2012

Hello, my name is Traci Yoshiyama, Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in and around Nairobi.
A few days ago I had the pleasure of finally meeting the much talked about Rose Karanja. Featured in many Zidisha posts and appearing in various forms of news media worldwide, I felt as if I already knew this truly inspirational individual. The epitome of a woman, Rose exudes a confidence that has surely been the driving force of her success thus far. The pictures highlighted in Alex Villec’s article show the foundation of a house being built. Look at the transformation now! 
To view more pictures of Rose, visit my blog: talkingstory.posterous.com 


Sipping Tea in Nakuru

Our Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai recently met with another one of our borrowers from Nakuru, Kenya. Margaret Wanjiku runs a food kiosk in Nakuru where she proudly serves the best tea the area! Check out what Achintya had to say about their encounter below:

Hello Lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai. I paid a visit to Margaret Wanjiku Kara on 28th March 2012 in the Rongai area of Nakuru (Kenya)

Margaret owns a small teashop in Rongai. Margaret took the Zidisha loan to buy stock for her shop and to pay the school fee of her daughter who’s in standard 6. She bought things like milk, charcoal, flour etc. with the help of her Zidisha loan and was able to increase her customer base. So much so that now she is planning to open another teashop nearby. The new shop will be looked after by her daughter (Margaret has three daughters and the name of her shop is “Mama Judy”, which literally means- mother of Judy, Judy being one of her daughters).

When I visited Margaret, she was very busy and there was a constant stream of customers at her shop to drink her tea or buy mandazi- a type of snack made by deep-frying leavened dough. I asker her for tea and speaking very frankly, the tea was the best I’ve had in Kenya- and I had a lot of tea in Kenya. Margaret’s tea was richer and had stronger flavors. Though Margaret was quite busy, she graciously answered all my questions. It was a little tricky talking to her because even though she could understand me and I could understand her, many people in the shop volunteered to translate both of us. Margaret was constantly smiling in all this commotion and came across to me as a very pleasant person. She was shy when I took out my camera but I think that’s the reason why her picture came out so well.

Margaret stays on her small shamba (farm), which is a few kilometers away from her shop. She has a few goats, chickens and cows on her shamba. With the next loan she wants to buy a plot in Rongai center and later on build on it.

My one regret is that I could not finish the tea that day. Kenyans serve tea in these huge half-liter mugs and that day I was on a tight schedule. Margaret also later refused to let me pay for the tea, but I explained to her that Zidisha’s aim was to see her business flourish and do well and there was no way I was going to take away from her revenue so she finally allowed me to pay.

I wish Margaret the best for her future

Achintya
11th May 2012 

Meeting a Visionary


Wanjira Ngure is a Zidisha borrower from Kianjoya, Kenya. Wanjira is married to a teacher, together they have one child, Gladys. Mrs. Ngure used to work for a HIV/AIDS group were she analyzed data. Since 2010, Wanjira has been running a small show near a shopping center.

Mrs. Ngure used her Zidisha loan to purchase an irrigation system to help her grow produce on her family’s 2.5 acres of land to put up for sale at her shop. Mrs. Ngure recognized the need for fresh produce as a good business opportunity because most of the areas produce are shipped in from far away, and not usually fresh by the time of arrival!

Our in-country Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai recently met with Mrs. Ngure and her family. Read about his visit below:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s new Kenya Client Relationship Manager.
This Sunday (5th Feb 2012), I went to the village of Kianjoya to visit Rahab Wanjira. Rahab’s husband James Ngure is a teacher in Mugaa Secondary School, where I am putting up. When I visited their home I met James in his work clothes, tending to his farm. He was the one who explained the business and its functioning to me.

If I were to use one word to describe James, I’d call him no less than a ‘visionary’. There are certain people who have that spark that employment advertisements profess to look for. I feel very strongly that James has that spark of brilliance. The things he is doing with the resources he has at this remote location are remarkable.

James has been working in the school for around 8 years. 4 years ago he decided to settle near here and bought this piece of land in Kianjoya. He did not know what else to do with the land so he and Rahab farmed it like everyone else to grow crops typical to here. Rahab also bought a shop in Mitimingi, which she used to take care of. They took their first Zidisha loan to stock this shop.

A year ago, James and Rahab attended a seminar in Naivasha. That is where they got the idea of constructing a green house and using drip farming to irrigate the crops. A green house kit being sold at the seminar cost around 210,000 Kenyan Shillings. James investigated further after returning and was able to construct his first green house (15m x 8m) in around 50,000 shillings. They sold their shop in Mitimingi to arrange for this money. 

The returns from the first green house were so tremendous (James claims that a tomato crop inside the green house gives FIFTY TIMES more returns than a tomato crop the same size outside the green house) that they have now decided to gradually bring their whole farm under a green house. They used their second Zidisha loan to increase the acreage under greenhouse and to buy a drip irrigation kit. Now they have three green houses, all using drip irrigation and all made from local materials (polythene/plastic sheeting and local wood logs).

James has dug two tanks in the farm to collect rainwater. He directs water flowing on the road into his farm to collect it into these tanks, which he uses to drip-irrigate his crops for the whole year.

His future plans include lining his tanks with ‘dam liner’, which is a plastic sheet that prevents water from being absorbed by the soil.

When one is in the presence of wisdom, one tends to test his own (perhaps not everyone, just men)- so I asked him that why didn’t he try keeping fish in his tanks to supplement his income. He nodded solemnly and said it was a good idea (I am sure he was smiling in his heart, but is too big a man to smile on my face). 

I also met Rahab and James’ little daughter Gladys, who didn’t smile at me till the very end, when I pulled her cheeks.

Achintya
Mugaa Village, Kenya
7th Feb 2012