The Clack of Keyboards

by Rebecca Wolfe, Entrepreneur Story Writing Intern

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The clack of keyboards is a constant sound in Elijah Mwenja’s life. The sounds of a computer mouse sliding across a mousepad and a customer’s laughter as she jokes with her friend seated at the computer station next to her are likely also very common occurrences in his busy cybercafé in Githuri, an area of Narobi, Kenya.

Elijah is an amazing example of a self-starter. Entering the workforce in the construction industry, he saved what he could and eventually stored up enough to start his own poultry business in 2008. Entering the realm of entrepreneurship through this endeavor, Elijah grew his business to a capital of more than ten times the funds that he began with. Three years down the road, he was ready for a change. Having a long-standing interest in computers and networking, Elijah, his wife, and his son, started up the cybercafé in 2012. The café is a gift to local residents, enabling them to access information, communicate with distant friends and family, and type up and print their personal, business, and academic documents.

In January of 2015 the booming business began to take its toll on Elijah’s supplies. His café’s printer had worn-out nozzles and was no longer printing as it should. Around that same time Francis Kamau – a neighbor, friend, Zidisha microloan recipient, and owner of a Nairobi hair salon – invited Elijah to join Zidisha. With a small, $100 loan funded by nineteen different lenders from Europe and North America, Elijah was able to buy replacement parts and have the printer professionally repaired. The printer was soon up and running again, shooting jets of black ink onto smooth white pages. Six months later, having faithfully and efficiently repaid his previous loan, Elijah posted another proposal to Zidisha. This loan of $187, funded in June 2015 by a single lender, allowed Elijah to expand his cybercafé business to include a new computer, reducing customer wait time and increasing profit. In later updates, Elijah stated that this new unit was “one of the computers that [his] clients prefer using.”

As Elijah and his family continued to prosper, Elijah’s wife began to see her long-held dream of continuing her formal education as a financial possibility. Possessing a “gift and passion for business,” and boasting a strong track record of successful business development, Elijah’s wife hoped to pursue a degree in business. In December 2015, that hope came to fruition. Elijah applied for a Zidisha loan of $366, a sum which covered the cost of the first installment of tuition fees at Kenya’s Zetech University. Elijah’s wife enrolled in the program, and is now beginning the first semester of her second year, becoming one of an increasing number of women in higher education in Kenya. Making swift use of her education, Elijah’s wife has taken over the management of the family’s cybercafé business.

With his wife managing the cybercafé, Elijah has begun work as a local business consultant. Inspired by his community and other entrepreneurs in his area, Elijah wishes to “utilize [his] professional skills to help other businesses.” He now shares his expertise in business, bookkeeping, and credit management, and his work has helped neighboring business to keep better track of their fiscal performance. Currently, with the help of a $564 Zidisha microloan, Elijah is entering into a master’s degree program. He says that “most businesses in Kenya are struggling with strategy management and practitioners in this sector are few.” With the knowledge he will gain through his master’s, Elijah will be better equipped to handle “complex assignments in strategy management” and “be of benefit to the community at large because they would no longer be entering into businesses without a projected growth plan.”

Elijah and his family have been able to repay all loans which they have taken out, in full and on time. They have grown their business and improved their standard of living. Throughout the loan process, Elijah has provided regular updates to his lenders, expressing profound gratitude, sharing his joy about his thriving businesses.

The clack of a keyboard is, for Elijah Mwenja, quite likely the sound of hope, education, and a successful entrepreneurial endeavor. It is a sound that has been made possible in Elijah’s life through the loans of Zidisha lenders. Now, by sharing his business expertise, Elijah is able to help other entrepreneurs thrive. Just as he and his family are now sharing their success with their community, many other people in Kenya will soon be able to do the same. One thriving business fosters another. One generous neighbor creates another.

If you’d like to be a generous neighbor, clack out a number and contribute to the success of one the other self-starters profiled on our loans page.

 

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.

"Zidisha is one of the greatest things…"



Dear Lenders, 


Zidisha is one of the greatest things that has happened to me in my entire life. Through Zidisha, I have comfortably bought two cows of my dreams at a total cost of over Ksh 100,000. This has been made possible due to the low interest rates and very flexible repayment periods offered. 
Zidisha borrower, James, posted this comment to his profile page today. We are elated to hear that James is happy with his loan, and was able to purchase his cows. As always, none of this is possible without our generous lenders!