A Creative Endeavor

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Mercy Jowi was raised as the first born in a family of five. As she was growing up, she gained some entrepreneurial experience as she worked in the family business, which was a bookshop.

However, before venturing into business as an adult, she first started as a teacher of ICT and Computer Studies. She spent 7 years as a teacher but realized that she wanted to pursue self-employment and she desired to pursue her love for graphic design. To put her dream into action, she started by enrolling in a design course and worked for a year as a Junior Graphic Designer in a design firm where she gained valuable experience.

Because of her past experience working in the family business Mercy shares, ‘”Getting into business almost came naturally for me. In 2014 I opened a stationery shop and did graphic design on the side. I used gratuity that I got from my job as a teacher. It was $1500 that I used as my capital.’

In her stationary shop, Mercy offers school, office, and personalized items. Since starting her business she has been able to diversify her products and has moved to a larger office space. She’s even added an MPESA as well, and Equity and Co-operative Bank Agency Banking.

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Within her sector, most of her items are in season year round, however, her sales are best during the school year, which accounts for 9 months out of the year.

In addition to her many gifts in business and design, Mercy is also a woman of many talents in her personal life. She is a gifted cook and likes to refer to herself as a “Chapati Specialist.” She also has a love for fashion and enjoys getting creative with thrifted, upcycled, and repurposed clothing. With each outfit, her goal is to have at least 5 different ways that she can style it.

Mercy describes how she chose her particular business idea as she says, ‘I chose selling stationery because the goods do not face the challenge of revision as textbooks which make one end with dead stock. Juices, milk and water was to meet the demand of customers who wanted alternative to sodas which are the popular soft drinks. The MPESA provided an ‘easy’ investment with capability to fit in the same premise without constrain in space. The costs I incur in running the business is rent, salary, watchman fees and electricity bills. This comes to Kshs. 19700 per month. Though there are also annual fees of licence and accountant fees.’

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With the money that she makes in her business, Mercy is able to continually reinvest in the business and also set a little aside for herself as she is currently working to build her own home!

Mercy has been with Zidisha for a little over 2 years and has been able to raise 7 loans from lenders ranging from $26 to $941. With her first 3 loans in 2017, Mercy was able to purchase whiteboard markers, exercise books, shorthand notebooks, and pens. She says, ‘The multiplier effect of reinvesting my profits will go a long way in growing my business.’

Since Mercy’s business is heavily influenced by the school cycle, by August 2017, she was in need of new inventory. As she received an $108 loan from Zidisha, this allowed her to stock up Oxford Mathematical sets. She shares, ‘This is a basic requirement for each candidate in class eight and form 4 who are going to sit for their examinations. The demand will be there and I would not want to be in a situation whereby I do not have enough sets in stock for my customers. On this loan I will add some little money so that I can get 2 cartons of the said sets. The profits I get in selling the sets will be used to stock more exercise books for the January 2018 school opening.’

As the end of 2017 rolled around, Mercy prepared to stock up on items for spring and also chose to start adding books to her product mix as well, using $658 from Zidisha lenders to help make it happen!

Mercy always likes to be well stocked and ahead of the competition as she says, ‘When I buy this early it means that when everyone will be buying at the last minute and finding much of the items out of stock, I shall already be having what I need. This means that my clients will find the items they require. ‘

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Most recently, Mercy successfully raised her largest loan to date, raising $941 in April, 2019. She explains, ‘My business has been growing and two banks approached me to offer their agency banking services. This is Equity Bank and Co-operative Bank. To be in a position to serve my clients well without disappointments of I do not have enough float or cash to honour their needs. I wish to apply for a loan to help in increasing my seed capital for the agency banking. With the introduction of the agency banking I will be able to make extra $120 per month in profits (commission). The profits (commission) will be ploughed back to the agency banks until I get to $1000 working capital.’

Would you like to be a part of helping an entrepreneur like Mercy along on their entrepreneurial journey? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to read dozens of stories of inspiring Zidisha business owners.

I Salute You All

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

As a child, Peter Wainaina grew up as the third child in a family of 6 and attended the local primary and secondary schools. Upon completing form 4, be began working in the teabushes as a “plucker” where he saved up enough money to attend the Kenya College of Commerce and Hospitality. As a student, he studied Computer Repair and Maintenance, and after receiving his diploma, he returned home and began farming.

Today Peter is able to operate both a livestock farming business and he also grows and sells avocados to exporters. Since he started with Zidisha in October, 2018, Peter has successfully raised 7 Zidisha funded loans which have allowed him to pay school fees, buy feed for his livestock, fund transportation costs, and also purchase additional equipment.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know when and how to take risks or transition to something new. Many of our seasoned Zidisha at entrepreneurs will start one business and over time will move into a different business or even expand to run multiple businesses at once.

And this is exactly what Peter did, as he started in the livestock business and later on was able to add avocado farming to his business portfolio.

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Between October and November 2018, Peter was able to raise 4 loans ranging from $1 to $45, allowing him to pay school fees and also purchase feed for his livestock.

Then, as the new year rolled around, Peter reached out to lenders for a $65 loan, he shared, ‘Due to the high demand of milk in my local area, am hoping to raise my dairy farming. Am hoping to use this loan to purchase hay for my cows in order to be able to feed them well even in the dry period when there is scarcity of grass. Am also planning to deworm them after this period of high rain to keep production at a high level.’

The following month, in February, 2018, Peter went to the Zidisha community and requested a $285 loan to purchase a chaffcutter for his business for chopping the grass for his cows. He explained that currently he used a panga to cut grass, and unfortunately it can be cumbersome, wastes grass, and requires a lot of time and energy.  He knew that the chaffcutter would make his work much easier for him to prepare the grass for his cows and that it would also help him make silage, which would increase his overall milk production.

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For Peter, he is truly appreciative of the support and encouragement of his lenders and the Zidisha community. He shares, ‘I am very grateful for your presence. You really do a great job of assistance to those who are seriously in need of help. For me, were it not for you I doubt whether I could have managed to achieve my goals and also setting others. I thank you all for being there when I needed you most. God bless you.’

Most recently, in May, 2019, Peter shared that he’d received a big order for 15,000 avocados. With an additional loan, of $370 he would be able to increase his number of deliveries per week.

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On May 13, 2019, Peter went to his discussion page and expressed his sincere gratitude for having his loan funded as he said, ‘Am humbled by your generosity my lenders. Thank you so much for funding my loan.This amount of money will help me to supply my exporters with an additional of 5000 pieces of avocados per week. This supply in estimate will give me a profit of above 3kshs per piece of avocado supplied per week. Eagerly waiting disbursement. Thank you so much.’

For Peter, his next goal is to eventually purchase his own method of transportation to be able to transport his avocados on his own. He says to lenders, ‘I salute you all for this far you have made me go.’

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Would you like to support an inspiring entrepreneur like Peter? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read story after story of perseverance!











Shining a Light

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Patricia Soudi lives in Accra, Ghana and is a nurse, having just completed Nursing Training at the Mon Reve Nursing Institute. As she waits to be enrolled by the government, she also maintains a side hustle working with PEG Solar as their Direct Sales Representative (DSR) and working with Star Time alongside as their marketer.

As a single mother, she works hard to support herself and her son. Growing up, Patricia did not have an easy life. When her father lost his job, her mother was thrust into the sole of sole breadwinner for the family. But, rather than discouraging her, this was simply motivation for Patricia as she shares, ‘That did not even stop me from going forward. At age 12, I started working and taking and supporting my siblings. It is through that hard effort that I can call myself a nurse today.’

Within her large family of 7, Patricia says that they all love and support each other to go after their dreams. As a mother of a grade school son, she hopes to instill in him a belief that anything is possible and she will do her best to support him in his education.

In her free time, Patricia shares, ‘I enjoy reading, singing and cooking. I belong to the Assemblies of God musical group where I demonstrate my gift and talent in singing. People love it when I sing at church.’

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In her work as a Direct Sales Representative for PEG solar, Patricia goes from home to home in the surrounding villages and cities. She explains that, ‘In Ghana, most people are not privileged to have light in their homes and therefore PEG Solar is doing everything possible to help the less privileged Ghanaians so that everybody can have access to light. Light is among the basic necessities of life; therefore, it is very important to help everybody to have one. With Star Times, we make decoders very affordable to the people as compared to the ones in the market.’

Because she’s paid on commission, her payment is based on how many sales she’s been able to make by the end of the month. She believes that there is truly a high demand for solar as in many areas people do not have electricity.

Working on commission, Patricia has to think like an entrepreneur and have a strong drive to hustle. While it wasn’t easy at first, Patricia quickly realized that being successful would require some start up investments in herself and her business. Fortunately, as she discovered Zidisha, her loyal tribe of lenders helped her reach her goals.

With her first Zidisha funded loan of $196 in August 2016, Patricia was able to use the funds for transportation costs as her work required lots of travel to different villages and cities. With her profits, she hoped to pay her wards fees and also help establish her business.

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A few months later, by November 2017, Patricia decided that it was time set up her own shop for her sales work with Star Time. With a $477 loan from Zidisha lenders, she purchased inventory to sell decoders in her town. She also predicted that having a fixed location would allow her customers to start coming to her, and would require less transportation on her part.

As the new year rolled around, Patricia shared with lenders, ‘The sale of solar lanterns in Ghana is a lucrative business. Most remote places in Ghana do not have electricity, so I leverage on that to make solar light available in all villages in Ghana. I kindly need your support to stock solar kit for resale. The revenue gain will be used to cater for my son’s school fees and for our upkeep. I am doubly sure I could double my profit in this venture. Light is a necessity. ‘ With this, she gained $597 in financial support from the Zidisha community as she continued to work hard and make sales.

Now that Patricia is more established, Zidisha lenders have been a big support in enabling her to continue purchasing large quantities of inventory, that she wouldn’t necessarily be able to purchase on her own. Between October 2018 through March 2019, Patricia has raised 4 additional Zidisha funded loans ranging from $376 to $457.

Each solar kit that she purchases costs $260 and includes 3 bulbs, a solar panel, one torch light, and one solar radio.

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A home at night with light!

Through both of her businesses, Patricia is able to support herself, her son, and give him the education that did not come as easily to her.

Would you like to invest in the dreams of a business owner like Patricia? Feel free to head on over to Browse Projects Page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs at Zidisha.





A Style All His Own

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Simon Njenga was born and raised in the village of Githunguchu in Kenya. He worked his way through both primary and secondary school but shares that he certainly had a rough childhood. Fortunately, that was just the beginning of his story, with a future full of promise ahead of him. After finishing school, his older brother gave him $10 to start a business. With that $10 investment, he has now been able to keep his business going for the past 10 years.

Simon shares that his relationship with his customers is a big key to his success in business. By building long-term relationships, he has been able to build mutual trust. Through his business he is able to pay his children’s school fees and continue to re-invest in his business by continually adding more stock. In addition, he has also been able to improve his home and he shares, ‘most importantly,’ by providing shoes and clothing for a nearby children’s home.

Since Simon runs a shoes and clothing business, having enough stock on hand to meet the needs of his customers is a key ingredient of success. Since partnering with Zidisha in 2017, Simon has successfully raised 7 Zidisha funded loans!

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With his first loan of $100 in September 2017, Simon was able to receive his loan just in time for the back to school demand, which is huge for him, being in the retail clothing business. During this time of year, he generally has an abundance of clothing orders from customers, which is great, but also requires additional up front capital.

With his following loan, of $198 in October 2017, he was set to add some specific items to his product mix, including converse shoes and mens jeans and shirts.

As the new year rolled around in January 2018, it was time for a surge in stock, as the local schools would be heading back into session, after the holidays. With a $344 loan from Zidisha lenders, Simon purchased a variety of black shoes as well as socks, as this is an item that most students need for school. He predicted that he would be able to make a profit of $2.50 on each pair of shoes sold.

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A few months later, with a loan of $413 from Zidisha lenders, Simon was able to add some additional clothing and shoes to his business stock. He focused on shoes, sports shoes, and baby shoes. After being in business for almost a decade, Simon had the advantage of knowing his business, customers, and what to have in stock for different seasons of the year.

While 2018 came to a close, Simon was ready for one of the busiest business seasons of the year. He was able to raise $455 in September and $323 in December, allowing him to add more goods of shoes and trousers to his stock.

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Most recently, in March 2019, Simon once again successfully raised $296 from lenders, putting him in a good financial position to add more mens and women’s shoes to his stock.

While Simon is a wonderful businessman on his own, it’s amazing the impact that he’s been able to make in his community since joining Zidisha. On May 5, 2019, he took to his discussion page and shared with lenders, ‘Good afternoon. It’s a good Sunday that I’m writing to thanks you for your support in my business. My business has been good since you started support in me. Thanks in advance.’

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Simon with his children

Not only has business been good for Simon, but he’s also been able to make an incredible impact by supporting the local children’s home and providing them with shoes!

Would you like to help an entrepreneur like Simon impact his or her own community? Make sure to head on over to the Browse Projects page to read about our other incredible business owners around the world!



The Sky Is the Limit

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Moffat Utwere is a Kenyan entrepreneur, an overcomer and also a gifted writer. Here’s his story:

“I am a native Kenyan citizen, born and raised in a third world country, face to face with all the shortcomings of it: Poverty, Poor Infrastructure, Hunger, Political instabilities, Under Development, Diseases, Corruption, Civil Wars just to mention a few. Born to two peasants who were casual labourers by then doing small casual jobs, they struggled to raise me together with two of my siblings and they have been through thick and thin to see us through school. I studied from elementary to tertiary thanks to government funds, NGO sponsorships and well wishers yet still it was not a walk in the park.

My desire is to own and run a stable business, I have a small one that is up and running but as they say the sky is the limit and I am not even at the clouds yet, but nothing comes on a silver plate. I have to work for it, and I am not keen with being employed due to limited opportunities despite having well deserving certificates, also I do not opt for employment due to its “enslaving” nature. A friend of mine categorically testified to me how Zidisha enabled him to grow and realize his goals and objectives and for sure it caught my attention and I said to myself, why not?

I want to eradicate poverty off my shoulders and also save my family along and am quite optimistic Zidisha will be a part of this magnificent transformation. I want to grow bit by bit using this platform building a mutual relationship that at the end will bring up something beautiful, something to go down in the history books.”

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While Moffat has overcome and persevered though so much in his life, he’s truly just getting started. Today he runs an Mpesa shop selling a variety of items including: credit, accessories, sweets, and other consumer goods. He is working hard to build up his capital base and maintain a strong foundation as he competes in a competitive market.

Through his partnership with Zidisha, he has been able to purchase consumer goods in bulk, which would not have been a possibility on his own. Items such as cooking oil, rice, and cooking flour tend to sell well because they are staple goods used in almost every household. Even during a financial crisis, these are items that continue to be in demand.

In addition, by also offering to deliver his items directly to his customers, he’s providing an additional service to put him above the competition. As he continues to grow the business, he hopes to employ additional members of his community.

Even though Moffat has only been part of the Zidisha community since early 2019, he’s already making up for lost time with 6 Zidisha funded loans!

Initially, Moffat was able to quickly secure two small $1 loans in March, which he immediately paid off to increase his credit. Shortly thereafter, he was able to raise $16 from lenders in April which allowed him to increase his stock of cooking oil.

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Following those first three loans, he raised $26 in April and added new shelving to his shop so that he would be able to hold more goods. In addition, he also purchased additional lighting, hoping to make the shop more appealing to potential customers.

After successfully raising four small loans, Moffat was ready for a larger loan, as he raised, $113 from Zidisha lenders, putting the funds towards fast moving inventory such as, ‘eggs, credit, and sweets.’

Most recently, in May, Moffat was able to raise $341, his largest loan yet! He shares, “Hello lenders, I am hereby applying for this loan to add more stock to my existing one, thanks to the Zidisha platform I was able to begin my small business with a few fast moving goods, as per now after borrowing just 4 times it has drastically expanded my business, from small home supplies now am investing in maize and wheat flour which am personally supplying to my consumers. I have day to day orders from nearby hotels that use these products on a daily basis. This is a sure market who prefer my products because I not only sell to them but also supply to them at a wholesale price which is comparatively cheaper than other retail shops and on rare occasions give them on credit. Then I collect the balances at the end of the day. With a steady supply and a growing market, I can firmly assure the business will grow to an extraordinary length.”

Would you like to impact the life of an entrepreneur like Moffat? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to read about Zidisha entrepreneurs all over the world!

The Mushroom Man

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Living in Accra Ghana, Joseph Shelter is a millennial man, with a passion for mushroom farming. He completed his high school studies and afterwards he started his work in the mushroom farming industry. He describes his work as his “dream job” as he says, ‘It is my belief that I will strive successfully in this industry so as to be able to support myself and children in the future.’

Getting started with his business, Joseph used his personal savings as well as support from friends and family. As he continued to pursue mushroom farming, he saw the demand continue to increase as he received calls for orders from hotels, restaurants, and individuals. Along the way, a friend introduced him to Zidisha.

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Since his introduction to Zidisha in 2017, Joseph has been able to raise 8 Zidisha funded loans. By dipping his toes in with a $61 loan from lenders, Joseph was able to build more shelving for his business and he also bought materials as well. At this point, Joseph shared that he dreamed of one day being able to employ other people to assist him in his business.

A few months later, Joseph was ready to construct a new building to house his mushrooms. To make this happen, he used $153 from Zidisha lenders in October and $254 from lenders in December to purchase wood, bamboo, nails, and rice ban and saw dust for the bags. In addition, with his busiest season approaching, he used the remainder of the funds to employ a man from his village to assist him in the business, making one of his big goals a reality.

As 2018 rolled around, having enough room to house the growing demand for his mushrooms continued to be a priority. To accommodate this, Joseph set his sights on expanding his existing structure and building additional huts. With loans of $372 in March, $503 in May, $727 in August, and $860 in December Jospeh was able to purchase the materials he needed including: bamboo, roofing sheets, thatch, boards, nails, as well as preparing the ground.

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He knew that this would be a length process and that it would take a lot of time, money, and work to build the structures. However, the sheer size of the project did not deter him.

In fact, on October 5, 2018, Joseph proudly shared this good news with lenders, ‘Good morning lenders I hope you are all doing well. Thank you once again for your support in my business. My business is sailing very well and I am thinking of entering into other business line. Once again God richly bless you all.’

Currently, as of 2019, Joseph is continuing to work on his structures and most recently, he was able to raise $1,111 in April to keep the project moving forward. He says, ‘Thank you all very much lenders. Your loan has really been a blessing to me.’

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The New Structure

While the process has been long, Joseph has been patient, taking everything one step at a time. Without outside funding from Zidisha lenders, it’s possible that Joseph would not have been able to expand his building and create new huts as he dreamed. However long it takes, Joseph will continue to work hard towards his dream.

Would you like to support another entrepreneur like Joseph? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read story after story of business owners who are innovating in their communities.


One Candle Does Not Go Off By Lighting Another

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Anne Muriu has a lot to be proud of! With a thriving business, she’s accomplished a great deal in her life.

However, like everyone, things haven’t been perfect. She shares, ‘There was an instance when my school life was hard. I did not have lots of money. Sometimes, when my friends would go for lunch in a high-end hotel, I would look for a nearby kiosk. Despite that hardship, I was able to finish school without peer pressure. This helped me to see life in a different fashion and to always use the little that I had well.’

She currently operates a business where she trains people in her community to do online jobs. Most of her customers have young children and this allows them to continue working while also raising their kids. She initially started this business after noticing a clear gap in the market and after discovering that there would be few startup costs.

Fortunately for Anne, she has a supportive family that has provided her with the assistance that she needs to get her business up and running. In addition, her family also believes in the importance of acquiring her skills, which has been an encouragement to her in her entrepreneurial journey.

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Anne explains, ‘Another reason why I ventured into online training is that, after my sporting extra curriculum activities, I had to fill in the gap of my active sports life. Online work and training was that challenge I needed. I do volunteer, especially in children’s rights activities. I have also learned in my forums that one candle does not go off by lighting another.’

Right now in her business she is focused on training a few people how to write articles and transcribe. And in addition to training others, she is also witnessing growth in herself as she polishes her own skills.

In terms of costs associated with her business, she has the costs of the data management and software that she uses. She is also excited to use a portion of her profits to continue investing in new training courses and resources. She hopes to continue growing and to increase the number of people she is able to train.

Anne shares, ‘In this group, we will certainly be better in life as a skilled workforce. When a group of people come together, life becomes easier. People are able to earn as a group and accommodate each others weakness. There are those who are good with time management, others are a think tank, others in pushing others to work and others in meeting deadlines.’

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A few years ago, Anne was first introduced to Zidisha through her mentors, who had already been with Zidisha for many years. Since her introduction to Zidisha in 2015, she has successfully raised 4 loans, beginning with a $50 loan in February 2015. At the time, Anne was in need of a new computer hard drive, a phone charger, and repairs for her cannon camera.

Because Anne runs an online business, these tech gadgets are essential to her business. She shares, ‘I have realized the importance of functional gadgets, they can save time and money. For me, they will make a difference in my online service delivery and income.’

On Oct 18, 2015, Anne shared this inspirational update with Zidisha lenders, ‘Wow! It has been a while. I would like to thank you for assisting me. I was doing an analysis of the impact and its mind blowing. I am one step ahead on computers. I did not waste any time, thanks to you Harriet and Space-thyme and Team Zidisha. In July – September, I was able to take some adults through introduction to computers. There is a big gap in the market of adults who want to learn computers. Many adults are looking for places to belong. They fear going to college with young people. Others look for sponsor related programs. I have been studying a lot as well. I am doing courses at Udemy and PhilanthropyU.’

Two years later, in April 2017, Anne was ready for a second loan, of $67. This would allow her to expand her web presence, paying for hosting and security for her website and also to create a website.

She also came up with the idea to sell handmade products on her website, made by members of her local community. She would promote the products for a small fee, hoping to make between $50 and $150 per month.

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By November 2017, she was ready to increase the sales and marketing efforts for her website, with the help of a $101 Zidisha funded loan. Anne explains, ‘Online presence communication is important. The above activities should drive sales from my website for social good.’

Most recently, Anne was able to raise, $108 in April 2019. With these funds, she was able to help with her online training resources. Right now, she has 7 interested customers paying $25 each for her training.

Through her business, Anne has truly tapped into a new market, allowing young parents to make an income for themselves, while also raising their children at home.

Would you like to help an entrepreneur like Anne reach a new market in their communities? Feel free to head on over to our Browse Projects Page to read about our other inspiring Zidisha business owners.