Transcending Kenya’s borders

Happiness is a word that can best characterize Pst. Joseph Ndungu who is married and is the proud father of 10 children. He makes canvas bags for school children alongside traveling bags and he also makes seat covers for motorbikes. His reasoning and motivation behind developing canvas bags is that children are being born daily and there is a high demand for canvas bags once they become enrolled in school. His business strategy behind motorbike seat cover creation is that motorbikes are being bought on a constant basis and they are prone to damage due to depreciation in value and plainly due to the environment itself.  I managed to interview Mr. Ndungu via email and asked him some questions about the current state of his prosperous business:
1. How is the competition looking in the business of making seat covers for bikes and canvas bags for school children? You mentioned there was low competition, but how is it looking now and how is it affecting your business currently?
I am in Nakuru county about 35km away from Nakuru town. Rongai is the divisional headquarter surrounded by big lands.
I have been in this town since 1990 when I started involving myself in the business area.
When I was looking for the business that I would start I considered some things because I was ministering a church by that time and I could not leave and so I decided to start the unique work that was not in the town. I started binding books mostly Bibles. To expand my business, I thought of making school bags for there was no one dealing with it. I went and bought a bag plus materials and I made a canvas bag. It looked good than the one I bought. I started making school bags from that day onwards.
When the Boda-boda came I looked at the motorbikes and I decided to expand my business again through making seat covers, which is paying me more than other things. I do serve people from 20 square km away.
2. What inspired you to make canvas bags in the first place? Please share any personal anecdotes if you can, it would be greatly appreciated!
I introduced canvas schoolbags and I have been selling them and I do give a guarantee of 2 years just to give surety that what I am making is of high quality. I have been selling in retail and my bags have gone as far as Mombasa and Kitale.
Up to now there is no competition in this business.
3. Where do you see yourself and your business in the next few years? Any plans for expansion?
I am planning to expand my business even to reach other countries. I visited Uganda and I can get market there. Also I am planning to visit Southern Sudan to find out whether I can also get a market there.
4. Further comments?

Through Zidisha, I have achieved a lot because I have managed to purchase my materials, which are very expensive. If only I can be given larger amount like Kshs 100,000 I would be in a position to reach my goals.

What I get as profit, I decide to share it with an orphan whom I have supported him in his education. It’s my prayer that one day I will be in a position of lending to others than being a borrower.
Thanks to Zidisha family for what they are doing.
Apart from the above activities in my business, I do involve in making Fishing Flies as Mr. Achintya Rai quoted in my profile after vising my workshop, which I do sell them in U.S.A and U.K. countries. I do humbly request if in Zidisha family there is someone who do the business to kindly email me.

Dakar’s Apple Store

Monsieur Pouye

Meet Zidisha borrower Djibril Pouye. Dijibril is from Dakar, Senegal, and is in the electronics business. He sells everything from mobile telephones to laptops (even iPads!). However, because his stock is costly, he needed some additional capital to purchase stock. That is when the Zidisha lenders gave Djibril a loan that helped him reach his goals!

Our very own Madeline met with Djibril in Dakar this past week. Check out her impression of Djibril and his shop in her own words below:

Hi Lenders, 

I was able to visit Djibril (Djiby) last week at his electronics business. He and his brother own a small shop located in a bustling indoor electronics market. They sell cell phones, but also secondhand laptops, iPads, and other specialty electronics. With many other vendors surrounding them, Djiby’s business differentiates itself from competition by selling higher-end electronics. Currently, Djiby says the iPhone is their best seller. 

They are currently paying back their first loan and are eager to finish the payments quickly in order to take out a second, bigger loan to support their growing business.

The Best Laid Plans….

Mr. Mwathi in his barbershop

Meet John Mwathi from Nairobi, Kenya. John started his transportation business in order to provide for his family. Because of the rough terrain in John’s area, donkey carts are one of the only viable methods of transportation. John accredits his businesses success to his affordable prices, efficiently, and speed. John planned to use his Zidisha loan to purchase a motor bike, with some additional money from his personal savings. This would allow John to offer faster service to his customers. However, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.

The sausage kiosk

Mr. Mwathi met with our Client Relationship Manager recently. Learn what our own Achintya Rai had to say about meeting Mr. Mwathi below:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s current Kenya Client Relationship Intern. On 24th March I met John Mwathi at his shop in Utawala, Nairobi.

John used to live in Nakuru earlier. He took his loan to purchase a bike, which he intended to use as a taxi (boda-boda). The bike did not give him the returns he expected so he sold it and moved to Nairobi. Now he has a small barbershop. He uses the front of his shop to sell shoes and also has a small kiosk to sell steamed sausages and boiled eggs. 

John is just 23 and he has already experimented with a number of jobs. After finishing school he did a small course in IT. He then did a course in driving a lorry. He started work by buying a donkey and a cart, which he used to supply water. He also did manual labor to supplement his income. Later John bought his bike.

I found John to be a very pleasant person. And even though he seemed a little shy in my presence, he was constantly smiling. He told me the economics of the sausage and eggs business. John’s future plan is to open a snack shop where he can sell hamburgers, cakes, biscuits and chips. 

After hearing John talk about hamburgers and cakes I was obviously hungry so I decided to buy a sausage. John asked his friend, who was manning the cart at that moment, to move and prepared the sausage for me himself by slitting it and filing it with a salsa like preparation called kachumbari and sprinkling it with salt. It was delicious. 

John was having trouble making his Zidisha payments because of shifting to Nairobi and starting a whole new business. I helped him reschedule his loan. Having talked to him I feel sure he will be now able to meet his loan commitments.


1st April 2012 

Looks good!

Fashion in Senegal

Astou Diop is a borrower from Dakar, Senegal. While studying, Madame Diop learned how to sew. A few years later she started her very own sewing and tailoring business! This young mother uses her business to support her family. Madame Diop wants to use her Zidisha loan to open a traditional boutique to sell her goods and increase her profits.

Our in country Client Relationship Manager Stephen met with Madame Diop recently. Here is what Stephen wrote on their encounter:

Hello lenders,

Yesterday, I met with Madame Astou Diop who lives in the Cambarene neighborhood close to the beach. She is married and has one daughter. She lives with her father, mother, three brothers and one sister. She and her brothers are the main providers for the family. One brother lives in Spain, one is a doctor and the other works in commerce. They split the expenses of the household. 

She talked a lot about her tailoring and sewing business. She buys her fabric from Sandaga and makes boobas, scarves and shoes. She sometimes makes other items depending upon the demand. She is very content with her progress and mainly works in her neighborhood selling her products to her friends.Unfortunately, her funds are only enough to repay her loan because she doesn’t have much surplus.

Once Madame Diop pays off this loan she hopes to take out another one and find a space for a small boutique. She hopes to display her clothing possibly at one of the large markets around Dakar for more exposure.

Client Relationship Mana

Some of Madame Diop’s goods.

Future Plans…

Ouréye Faye is an entrepreneurial mother from Dakar, Senegal. She not only supports her three daughters and her son, but also the families of her brothers and sisters. Being the oldest member of her family carries many responsibilities! Mrs. Faye studied dressmaking, knitting, and embroidery, she earned degrees for each. After receiving her degrees she started her own sewing company making boubous (see picture).

Our in-country Client Relationship Manager, Stephen, recently wrote about his meeting with Mrs. Faye. Read about their encounter below:

Hello Lenders,

Friday, I had a wonderful experience with Oureye Faye. She apologized for not finishing her last payment sooner but wants to thank the lenders from the bottom of her heart for everything that she has been able to accomplish with this loan. 

From the 400,000cfas loan that she received with the help of Zidisha, Madame Faye was able to buy a new sewing machine which she uses for her booba making business that is a very popular industry in Dakar. She buys her fabric from Mali because it’s the best quality and she makes boobas and sells the rest of the fabric in Senegal. She now has three sewing machines

Madame Faye has also used her money to invest in education. In Senegal, the public education system has a reputation for not being the most efficient in terms of quality and outcome. With the funds Madame Faye has earned, she has been able to put her 4 children through private school. Even though Madame Faye is married, she is the main provider of her household. She explained to me that every morning she wakes up at 5 a.m. and works until 9 p.m. The majority of her earnings are for her children, her main priority. However, she also pays for the gas bill. Even though Madame Faye is married she is obligated to work like most women in Senegal because consistent salaries are not guaranteed. One works today and possibly tomorrow.

Future Plans 
For a future project, Madame Faye explained that she would to love buy a glass door and some furnishings to organize her shop and display her work. This will also enable her to work very close to home. She has big plans for this project and is ready to take her business to the next level. 

Client Relationship Manager Intern

From the Ground Up

Rose Karanja

Rose Karanja is from Ongata Rongai, Kenya. Rose has had a difficult life. But when times got hard, Rose blossomed. Being a single women raising two younger siblings is no easy feat by any means. Consider the fact that Rose then decided to enter the male dominated construction industry, and you can start to get an idea of Ms. Karanja’s tenacity and work ethic.

Our in-country Client Relationship Manager, Achintya Rai, recently met with Ms. Karanja. Read about his encounter with Rose below:

Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai and I am Zidisha’s Kenya Client Relationship Manager. This Friday (9th March 2012) I visited Rose Karanja at one of her building sites in Ongata Rongai near Nairobi.

Rose is a beautiful young woman whose is a fascinating story of grit and entrepreneurial spirit. Rose’s mother died when she was young and she was brought up by her grandmother. When Rose was in from four (the last year of secondary school) her grand mother also passed away. She has been working since then to take care of her two siblings.

She started by supplying food to people working on construction sites. That is how she learnt about the construction business, traditionally considered a forte of men. She saw an opportunity and started a construction material supply business. Rose is a very confident and pleasant person and I can visualize her as a great networker. She made contacts that helped her get business. She got a contract to supply ballast (small pieces of stone), which she fulfilled by buying stones and then hiring labor to break them into small pieces. With the proceeds she bought sand and supplied in small quantities. Later she started sourcing sand directly from the rivers and her business grew. 

Her Zidisha loan was used to buy sand, ballast and other supplies. 

Recently, because of her contacts and good work, she also got contracts to build two houses on a plot of ½ acres. Rose seemed delighted with this development and is going to focus on the construction business as a priority. This new contract will entail hiring an engineer (which could cost 100,000 to 150,000 shillings a year), buying material, hiring labor and overseeing the construction work. 

With her next Zidisha loan, Rose wants to buy a vibrator machine, which is used to mix concrete. In the future, when she has sufficient funds, she wants to go back to school and get a degree in Civil Engineering (she has shortlisted a University in Uganda) and then start her own construction company.

I see in Rose the making of a great businesswoman and armed with her networking skills, business acumen and glittering smile, she is sure to be an entrepreneur to be reckoned with. And she is just 28.

11th March 2012
Nairobi, Kenya 

Old Friends

Ndeye Bineta Sarr is a wife and mother of three children from Dakar, Senegal. We have many borrowers from Senegal. However, Ndeye has the unique distinction of being the very first borrower to have her loan financed through Zidisha! Madame Sarr used her loan to buy a sewing machine that is able to embroider using larger types of thread. Allowing her to craft the beautiful boubous (See picture to the right) that many women in Senegal wear everyday. With her loan, Madame Sarr was also able to hire an assistant, and plans to produce mens’ boubous in the future. Our Director, and Founder, Julia Kurnia met with Ndeye just yesterday. Despite being robbed, dealing with power outages, and having her building demolished, Madame Sarr is striving! Read about Julia’s meeting with Ndeye below:

Dear lenders,

I’m Julia, director of Zidisha. I was fortunate to be in Dakar, today, and took advantage of the occasion to visit our first client in Senegal, Madame Ndeye Bineta Sarr. 

Madame Sarr met me at the edge of the paved road, and even though it was the first time we met she greeted me as affectionately as an old friend. As we wound our way through the dusty dirt paths of her neighborhood, she introduced me to various local households who had benefited indirectly from her business: a cloth dealer in the nearby market, a little boutique stacked high with reels of yarn in every imaginable color, and a small sewing shop to which she sometimes outsources less specialized aspects of clothing manufacture. 

West Africa is famous for its vibrant traditional clothing, and many women in Dakar make a living from sewing traditional dresses. Yet in this competitive market, Madame Sarr has carved out a niche for herself thanks to sheer artistic genius. Her creations never fail to turn heads: multicolored skirts sparkling with embroidered stars, hand-knitted lace, and overlapping layers of transparent gauze, imposing folded headdresses with brightly dyed cloth tied in the shape of flowers, necklines in every imaginable geographic shape. Clients fortunate enough to own one of her outfits guard it for special occasions, and when they put it on appear to float above the rest of us in this world, suddenly immune to the billowing clouds of red dust and car exhaust that choke the air. If she had been born in another time and place, Madame Sarr could have easily handled the royal wardrobe of the court of Versailles.

Madame Sarr’s house is constructed in the typical Dakar style: three brightly painted bedrooms alongside a small open courtyard, a separate shed for a kitchen and another for the restroom, corrugated metal roof, and a little faucet in the courtyard which provides the household’s only running water. The whole place was irreproachably clean and Madame Sarr’s artistic touch could be seen in the potted flowers and colored tiles decorating the courtyard. In all some thirty people – including Madame Sarr’s mother, siblings, nieces and nephews, and her own three children – live together in that house.

Madame Sarr used capital raised from Zidisha to buy an electric sewing machine, rent a boutique workshop, hire an employee, and establish a working capital fund that allows her to fill up to a dozen client orders at a time (up from one or two at a time before her first loan). This has allowed her to increase her income dramatically, making her the main breadwinner for her household and allowing the family to invest in public school education up to the university level for Madame Sarr’s children, nieces and nephews. 

Madame Sarr suffered a setback earlier this year when the building housing her workshop was demolished. She adapted by lending the sewing machine to her employee who uses it to assemble outfits that are cut and embroidered by hand by Madame Sarr in her home. Madame Sarr intends to open a new workshop soon. She certainly has no shortage of clients. When asked how she advertises, she laughs and says she simply dresses herself and her children in her creations and waits for people to inquire where in Dakar they can go to buy such extraordinary outfits.