Juhudi, plain and simple.

Juhudi means “encouraging” or “working hard” in Swahili. It’s no surprise, then, that Julius Mburu–a self-made craftsman and Zidisha borrower–chose this word for a venture he launched in 1995. Juhudi Welders furnishes gates, doors, and roof repair services for a loyal customer base cultivated in Rongai village, 35km outside of Nakuru, Kenya.  For this nimble, high-quality operation, Mr. Mburu’s foothold in the local economy is a rightful reward. Looking to expand, he tapped into Zidisha two years ago to fund a critical capital investment. While the new machinery represents a step forward for Juhadi Welders, Mr. Mburu shows no signs of stopping.

In the past, Julius depended on battery-charged machinery to sidestep a faulty power grid. Today, electricity flows through his neighborhood with more regularity. To some, fewer disruptions spelled greater comfort. To Julius, however, a door had just opened: with reliable power, he could invest in a battery charger to serve surrounding businesses, including cars and motorbikes. In March, our Client Relationship Manager caught up with Julius to talk business.  Ever conscious of shifting circumstances, Mr. Mrubu will leverage improved infrastructure to “generate extra income” to support his wife and five children, notes Achintya Rai. As I write, Julius has repaid 64% of his first loan and continues to soar. Assuming the upward trend persists, he will return to Zidisha for his next endeavor.

Juhadi Welders paints a picture of tenacity and innovation coupled with time-honed talent. Julius’ knack for welding, along with the commercial success that’s followed, is typical of what countless Zidisha borrowers have already accomplished. Each day, hundreds of bustling business owners invest time and energy into an undertaking that bears their name. Proud ownership breeds a bona fide sense of responsibility, but this shouldn’t be news to anyone: When we have a stake in our goals, we commit to excellence and chase it relentlessly. Zidisha aims to act on this truth by linking individuals driven to create value with the means to transform ambition into prosperity. In my view, our generous lending community instills optimism about the potential yet to be unlocked in far away places.

From Ouagadougou to Nairobi, stories like Julius’ restore confidence in an economic arrangement that transcends national borders–one that cuts across income levels and resource constraints–to craft a decent society. In short, an arrangement that rewards hard work and a good heart.

Read more about opportunities to empower small business owners here.

Aging Well in Kenya

David and his mother

Meet David Kamau, a Zidisha borrower from the Nakuru region of Kenya. David has several ways he earns a living. Besides working at a local school, David also has several animals that he rears. David used his Zidisha loan to purchase several dairy goats and build a structure to house his animals. David, and his mother, recently met with Achintya Rai. Read about their encounter in Achintya’s own words below:


My name is Achintya Rai and I am the new Kenya Client Relationship Manager for Zidisha.

I visited David Kamau on the 31st of Jan. Baba Joshua (as he is popularly known) is obviously one of the most popular Zidisha clients. If one were to believe his stories, he is quite ancient. But he doesn’t look a day older than 40. I asked around and the general opinion is that he is 70. I was thinking what I wouldn’t give to be as fit as him when I’m 70. Then I met his mother, who is 99. She was not only quite active (I once saw her doing the 7 km uphill trek from Mitimingi to Mugaa, from my perch behind a bike taxi) but had perfect hearing and sight.

Baba Joshua explained the science of cow-rearing to me- at what age they should be bought, at what they should be sold, how many generations further can they be interbred etc. He also explained to me how he invested his Zidisha loan and later bought a cow. His job at the Mugaa Secondary School not only gives him a stable salary, but also gives him special privileges like access to the school grounds for grazing his cows. He doesn’t have to take his cows to long distances for grazing unlike other farmers and that saves him a lot of time to look after his other animals. 

With his next loan he wants to buy maze from farmers in the crop season and store it to sell it later when the prices go up and traders from the town come looking for more produce.

His present income appears quite sufficient to pay back his loans. He has indigenous as well as German goats (which, I feel, aren’t quite as pretty as the local ones, but he was so proud of them I had to click a few pictures), chickens and now 3 cows. Like very many other Zidisha clients I have met, Baba Joshua also feels a sense of ownership for the company and also a sense of pride to be associated with Zidisha. And quite thankful to Zidisha too. 

Being the change I wish to see..

Over the last several years, the methodologies of microfinance institutions have enabled the provision of financial services to those living in extreme hardship and poverty. Having been a resident of Bangladesh for the first 18 years of my life, I remember reading and watching the news about Dr. Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and how his vision that small loans could make a substantial change in the lives of the rural poor had changed my country’s social and activist makeup. In this day and age, free market enterprise might not create opportunities for one to attain a high standard of living, given the exponentially high population growth in most developing countries. Due to myriad of reasons, I became drawn to the concept of microfinance from my high school years, especially in its core mission to elevate poor people.
I joined Zidisha to nurture this passion of mine, alongside my economic development and film production interests. Being a communications associate has allowed me to correspond directly with clients from Senegal and Kenya, in order to help them discuss the benefits they have been reaping from their loans. I firmly believe that Zidisha’s free-flowing commentary modes between lender and borrower will escalate microfinance’s reach across international borders. Technology and social media has seeped into our everyday codes of conduct and performances, and microfinance industries’ exploitations of these mediums will surely lead to more improved and transparent methods of communication between lenders and borrowers. I have had a fulfilling experience so far in being a part of Zidisha’s team while balancing my heavy coursework at college. I hope to see Zidisha grow and become a beacon of light in the field of microfinance. 

"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! 

Noticed Improvements

Sammy and one of his donkey carts
Our Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai recently met with two time Zidisha borrower Sammy Kanja in Nakuru, Kenya. Sammy runs a donkey cart transportation business in Kenya. Since receiving his first loan, Achintya has noted that he can see a real difference in Sammy’s quality of life. Check out what he said about meeting Sammy in his own words below:
Hello Lenders,

My name is Achintya RAI. I paid a visit to Sammy Kanja Nganga in Rongai area of Nakuru (Kenya) on the 28th of March 2012.

Sammy has donkeys and donkey carts which people rent from him to transport water and material. Sammy is repaying his second Zidisha loan right now. He used the first loan to buy new tyres for his cart and to repair it. With the second loan he bought another cart and donkeys. Now he has six donkeys and two carts. The names of the donkeys are- Toto, Jimmy, Tony, Kilo, John and Sammy. 
Kilo, John and Sammy are the new ones he bought with his second Zidisha loan. When I asked him if Sammy the donkey’s name was spelled the same as his, he said “like me” and added, “I do love it” as explanation. Sammy has four children (whose names I didn’t ask).

Sammy has a small shamba (farm) as well. His wife looks after it while he takes care of the donkey-cart business. He also now employs two persons to assist him in his business. He said that his life had improved because of Zidisha loans. This is something I have noticed in many cases. Second Zidisha loan onwards you start seeing a very noticeable and perhaps measurable difference in most people’s incomes, spending and lifestyles.

Sammy’s wife has studied till form-4 (secondary school) while Sammy himself has just finished primary school (Standard-8). With his enhanced income, Sammy now aspires to educate himself. He told me that he first wants to finish his form-4 and then go on to do a course in accounting so that he could take better care of finances for his business and possibly get a job in the field.

I met Sammy near the Railway Station of Rongai where he grazes his donkeys and parks his carts. I noticed that there were only three donkeys around. When I asked him he told me that the others must have got free and gone home. Apparently, whenever Sammy’s donkeys get free they go home. They reminded me of Homing Pigeons, only cuter. 

While Sammy’s Sammy was finding his way back on his own, I had to take a ride on Sammy’s bike to find mine. I wish Sammy and his family the best for their future.

14th May 2012 

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

11th May 2012 

Computer Services in Kenya

Mr. Chege
Andrew Chege is a Zidisha borrower from Kiptangwanyi, Kenya. Andrew supports his family by running a computer services business. He is able to provide his clients with photocopying, typesetting, printing, lamination, and scanning services. While business is good, Andrew’s area is still plagued by energy rationing (even though the electricity is expensive!). Andrew originally wanted to purchase a new camera and printer with his Zidisha loan. The additional equipment, he hoped, would allow him to keep up with the increasing demand for his services. 
Check out what Client Relationship Manager Achintya Rai had to say about meeting Andrew below: 
Mr. Chege’s work station
Hello lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai

Yesterday I visited the business premises of Andrew Chege Mbugua.
Andrew runs the business of instant pictures. He has a desktop computer, a digital camera, a printer and also a small photocopying machine. Most of his clients come to him to get instant passport sized photographs, which they had to get from Nakuru earlier. Andrew’s printer cannot print beyond small sized photographs and he feels that there is a potential demand in Kiptangwanyi and nearby areas for larger photographs (family photographs for example)

He wants to invest the loan money in either buying a bigger printer, or replacing the old one before it breaks down (last time it broke down, it was three months before he could get a new one). He also wants to buy what he calls a “state of the art” camera. This would cost him 20,000 to 25,000 shillings. Always a businessman, Andrew offered to exchange his camera with mine (which has lesser megapixels than his, but is green and sits in a red cover which perhaps made him think it was better than his). I said “sure, as soon as you get your state of the art camera”. There was general laughter at this (there were many people who had collected to watch the discussion/interview)

Of all the people I have met here, Andrew is the first one who has been to college (even though I must add that the general level of education in rural Kenya is exceptionally good). His wife is a teacher. He wants his kids to study even further than him and do well in their lives. 

As a last note I’d like to add that it is hard to believe that Andrew is 35 and has 2 kids. He doesn’t look a day beyond 25 (when I told him this, he was quite delighted-I guess a little vanity finds us all some time or the other)


Going to the Movies

Meet Peter Kamwaro from Kiptangwanyi, Kenya. Peter supports his family of three children by buying and selling cereals such as corn, beans, wheat, and rice. Because Mr. Kamwaro’s goods are in high demand, they usually sell quickly. However, shoppers especially prefer his cereals because of their freshness and quality.

Mr. Kamwaro recently started a new business venture, thanks to his Zidisha loan. Learn more about his new venture below:

Hello Lenders,

My name is Achintya Rai 

Yesterday I visited Peter Kamwaro at his business premises in Kiptangwanyi. Peter runs a “Video Room” which he opens everyday, including the weekends. He has a beautiful business model- he buys CDs (for 50 shillings each) and DVDs (for 100 shillings each) from Nakuru (the town nearby) and shows them in his video room where he charges 10 shillings per head. He shows 5 (different) movies each day, and more on weekends. And once he has used a CD, he sells it for 60 shillings and he sells his used DVDs for 150 shillings each. So, he makes money from his video room (on week days he get 30-40 viewers per day), and he also makes a small profit out of the CDs/DVDs he purchases. That’s like buying sugarcane and taking out the juice to make sugar to sell, while also selling the remaining husk at price higher than that of sugarcane.

Peter used his first Zidisha loan of 40,000 shillings to buy this plot with a video room where he runs his business. Earlier he used to rent the premises where he ran his business. He paid a rent of 5000 shillings a month, and his installment for the Zidisha loan is around 4300 shillings. Understandably, he is very happy with Zidisha.

Peter has 3 children, 2 of whom are in school. His wife runs a small boutique from the premises.