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.

Falling down yesterday, standing up today

A man of great perseverance, Mr. Francis Kiiru was unable to finish his primary education due to financial difficulties. However, the lack of a higher education did not prevent him from accomplishing great feats, especially in supporting his wife and eight children. Below is a recent update on Mr. Kiiru from our Client Relationship Manager, Traci:

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

Francis in his shop
It is said that a person’s true character is revealed when confronted with challenge and controversy. Week after week, I speak with those who have encountered many adversities in life, misfortunes and hardships that test the strongest of minds. And week after week, as I sit and chat with Zidisha borrowers across Kenya, I am never met with self-pity or deprecation, but rather an unwavering determination to succeed. Last week, I was greeted in Dandora, a slum in eastern Nairobi, by a charismatic mzee (respected elder), beaming from ear to ear. This man was Francis Kiiru.

Francis grew up in the Rift Valley, situated approximately three hours from Nairobi. In the year 2000, without notice or pay, Francis was let go of his job with the Ministry of Lands. Being the sole provider of his family of nine, he decided to move to Dandora and start a general shop. Due to the high costs of living in Nairobi and lack of security in Dandora, Francis’s eight children and wife remain in Nakuru. Dandora being prone to rampant crime and Francis having experienced theft in the past, it is not often that he can leave his shop to visit his family. But despite the distance, Francis manages to take care of his loved ones, sending money to his wife through M-PESA everyday.


Francis and fellow Zidisha borrower
Although they have a small farm in Nakuru, the produce is not plentiful enough to generate any income or put food on the table. Francis also bought his wife a sewing machine to begin her own tailoring business, but due to their location, it did not take off. His general store being his family’s only source of income, Francis is able to pay for six of his children to attend school, along with all their basic necessities, such as food and housing. With the help of Zidisha and his lenders, Francis used his loan to buy stock, such as sugar, flour, salt, toilet paper, and soap. Although his first priority is providing for his family, Francis would like to rent a bigger space for his shop, hoping that future Zidisha loans can assist in this endeavor.

Despite the sacrifices Francis has had to make, his attitude remains resilient. The smile you see in my photos is not for the camera’s sake, but a true representation of a man that believes he has and will continue to succeed. Being only one of two Zidisha borrowers in Dandora, Francis would like to see his friends benefit from the organization as he has. I have a strong feeling, and I must admit, a bit of hope, that I will be back soon. Thank you for a nice visit Francis and good luck with your business over the holidays! 

Secondhand clothing- a route out of poverty

Here is a great update from Dan in Kenya!
Hello, my name is Dan Cembrola, one of Zidishas Kenya Client Relationship Managers. I am currently visiting Zidisha borrowers in Nakuru and its outskirts.
Today I visited with Keziah at her store in the center of Nakuru. This store is one of her two businesses. In Nakuru, you will find many stalls lining the streets selling secondhand clothing. There are a few upscale stores that sell clothes for formal occasions and many local tailors who make custom made clothing, mostly for women and children. Outside of these two clothing options, most people purchase clothing from the street vendors. Keziah supplies these vendors.
Keziah, or her business partner and hopefully future Zidisha borrower Elizabeth, regularly travel to Nairobi to purchase bales of clothing. These bales are about three and a half feet wide and two feet in height, tightly packed with clothing. Keziah is not able to open the bales and inspect the clothing, they are sold as is. Similarly, after Keziah transports the bales back to Nakuru she sells them to the local vendors as is. Each bale costs about $75-$100 for Keziah to buy in Nairobi and she is able to resell them for $175-$220 in Nakuru. It only costs $2 to transport a bale from Nairobi to Nakuru, so Keziah is able to make a tidy profit on each one.
When walking the streets of Nakuru, it is not uncommon to see people walking around wearing American football jerseys from the 1990’s, tee shirts promoting small town American restaurants, and obscure US politicians. Obviously, these items of clothing were donated to various NGOs in America by people intending for their donations to be given free of charge to people in the developing world. In actuality, these items of clothing are shipped to Mombasa, they are then purchased by wholesalers in Nairobi, sold to people like Keziah in the clothing business, who then sells them to local vendors, finally the local vendors sell them to the townspeople who were initially intended to receive them for free.
The secondhand clothing business in Kenya is immense. Prior to my meeting with Keziah, she was completely unaware that the clothing she was selling was actually intended to be donated to people in need. The vast majority of clothing vendors are equally unaware. Regardless of the fact that these clothes were intended to be donated, it is probably best that this secondhand clothing business exists. It provides an income for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people.
In addition to her clothing business, Keziah’s second business, which she describes as her main focus and passion, is cosmetics. For the past three years, Keziah has been selling cosmetic items, including every type of make up imaginable as well as weaves and human hair wigs. All of these items are very popular among women in the urban center of Nakuru. Because of this, it is difficult to find a street that does not have a salon or cosmetics store.
Due to the high level of competition in Nakuru, Keziah travels to the surrounding villages to sell her wares. She has developed a loyal customer base in the areas surrounding Nakuru. With her first loan, Keziah increased her supply of cosmetics and human hair wigs, which is a highly profitable item. Keziah is also adept at applying make up, weaves, and wigs.
In the future, she envisions using her next loan and the profits of her two businesses to purchase a cosmetics store in Nakuru. Though competition is high in town, Keziah has many loyal customers from the surrounding villages and towns. Currently, her customers outside of Nakuru are only able to purchase her products when she is visiting their village. Since Keziah is often traveling, she wishes to have a permanent store in Nakuru where she would employ someone full time. Keziah believes, correctly, that this will allow her to travel and continue to expand her customer base while allowing her current customers to purchase cosmetics at their lesiure from her store.
Keziah is a very motivated young woman and has a sharp mind for business and her future is bright.

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.