Making the right business choices

Dorcas Wambui is a strategic businesswoman within her town in Kenya. Her business is situated in the Kiptangwanyi shopping centre, where her interests involve taking turns in selling either vegetables or clothing items. She shrewdly understands the risks underlying her business such as insufficient capital, and the high costs of living in her area. Such risks, that in turn reduced her consumer purchasing power, were typically induced by poor transportation and societal infrastructure. Yet, she continually strives to establish a dominant hand within her business activities and has attained success in a short space of time. Below is a recent update from her through our Client Relationship Manager in Kenya.

Hello Lenders,

My name is Vivien Barbier and Im a client relationship intern for Zidisha in Kenya. Wednesday, I visited Mrs Dorcas Wambui and her business in Kipatanganyi market. 


Mrs Wambui runs two different businesses, during the week she sells vegetable on the market place but on Saturday she transforms her stand in a second-hand clothes boutique. Saturday is the big market day in Kiptangwanyi, many traders and farmers come there to sells farm products. To avoid the tough competition with these others seller, she decided on this day to sells clothes instead of vegetables. This business is also much more profitable since she sometimes manages to make more profit on a single Saturday than during the whole week. 

Running to different business has also other advantages, since many villagers are also farmers they tend to grow they own vegetables. It create season, where Mrs Wambui vegetable business is not profitable. But during the same time, since farmers dont have to buy vegetables, they have more money to spend on other products like clothes. Using this combination of activity, Mrs Wambui manages to suppress the effect of these businesses cycles on her revenue and success in maintaining profit relatively stable over the year. 
After receiving her loan, she decided to invest half of the money in her clothes business and to send the other half of the money to her first-born son, who runs a similar shop in Nairobi. This way, she can reduce the risk of the investment and help her son at the same time. They both used the loan to increase their stock. 

Mrs Wambui has 8 children, two girls and six boys. Her two daughters are already married and have moved with her husbands in other part of Kenya. Her two older sons are now working in Nairobi, so she had to support her four other sons, two of whom are now students. 

Before joining Zidisha, she was a client of another organization that requested 24% interest. It was then very difficult for her business to be profitable enough to grow or to pay for her childrens education. She is very thankful to lenders to have helped her so much. She says that things are getting better for her now and that she hopes that Zidisha will help her to grow her business further. 

Mrs Wambui is a very likable women, she is smiling all the time. I always had the impression that she was about to tell me a joke. Since I visited her on Wednesday, she was not selling clothes but organized a role-play with her friends in the market so that I could take a picture of “customer” buying her clothes. 

Breaking gender stereotypes

Rosemary Kimani is an ambitious woman, who runs a hardware store within the Nakuru town centre. Opening up a hardware business is no easy feat, especially for a woman in Kenyadue to a lack of investment capital and male domination. Loans are greatly needed to thrive in this business in order to secure inventory, machines and for an overall expansion and diversification of the business itself. Through accumulating stocks and other fixed assets, Ms. Kimani had big plans for her business. Below is a recent update on the progress of her business. The interview was conducted by Zidisha’s Client Relationship Manager in Kenya, Vivien:

Hello Lenders,
My name is Vivien Barbier and I’m a client relationship interns for Zidisha in Kenya. Today, I visited Mrs Rosemary Kimani in her shop in Nakuru where I also add the chance to meet one of her daughter and grandson. 

Mrs. Kimani operates a small shop in the street that sells plumbers material and other hardware products. She is a wholesaler and do not sale on retail. Her job consists mainly of visiting the retail shop in the area to sell her products. Today, especially because of the meeting I had with her, she stayed on the shop and sent her employee on the field to sell and to collect payments. To stay competitive with other hardware suppliers, she often had to agree to be paid by her customers after a few days. She is doing only for customer that she knows well but this makes her business in need of a large working capital, which limits the growth of her business. 

Using the loan of Zidisha, she was able to buy materials before receiving the orders from her customers. It allows her business to be much more efficient and competitive. Due to her good knowledge of the market she is able to predict demands and to order quantities required. In the future, she will request a bigger loan to Zidisha, so that she can increase further the size of her stock. She also wants to grow even more her business by adding electrical supplies to her product portfolio. She already has a small inventory of electrical supplies but it is too limited to make her an important player in the local market. She also plans to open a new shop in a better location; a new shopping mall that is currently being built. She already made the request for the boutique and is waiting for the answer of the real-estate developer. 

Mrs Kimani and her family have not always lived in Nakuru; they had a house in Kiptangwanyi but were forced to abandon it during the post election violence in 2007. They started a new life in Nakuru and pray that next year general election will be peaceful. I’m very happy to see that she has been able to put her life back on track after such tragic events. 

Even if she is a successful entrepreneur, Mrs Kimani doesn’t know how to use a computer or to speak English. Alice, her daughter will help her to interact with Zidisha. She is very thankful to all Zidisha lenders for their support. She told me several times, when I was in her shop, that what I was seeing had been made possible by Zidisha. 

The Meat Vendor of Karunga Village

Another update from Vivien in Kenya!

Hello Lenders,

My name is Vivien Barbier and I’m a client relationship interns for Zidisha in Kenya. I spend last week visiting Zidisha clients in Karunga village in the middle of the east-African rift valley. John welcomed me in the village and introduced me to many actual or future borrowers. He is really tanksful to Zidisha and he try to make the organization known by the other villagers. With the help of his friend Robert Ndungu, he organized me a meeting with the many villagers interested by becoming Zidisha members. 

John is not only a social super-connecter he is also a businessman. He is known is the whole village has a butcher and he employs a cooker to cuisine and to sell soups. He mainly sells sheep meat. He buys sheep from local farmers and has also his own small herd. The butchery business is one of the good businesses to be in Kenya, Kenyans love to eat meat, so John manage to sell about 10 to 15 sheep per month. The price of the meat is decided during a meeting with all the butcher of the area. This allow butcher to reduce the variability of their income and maintain a fair price. However, the situation in the area is not ideal for the moment. The economy of the rift valley is mainly base on agriculture, and thus, follows the cycle of the seasons. The harvest season start only in October and so farmers didn’t yet get the profit of their last six months of work. John, as many other shop owners, is waiting for October to see the revenue of his butchery reach the regular level. 

As he does not want to put all his eggs in the same basket, he also invested some of the money of the loan in his 6-hectares maize fields. He use the other part of the loan to by a milk cow, which produces now about 20 litters of milk per day that he sells in his butchery for an additional daily revenue of 800 Shillings ($9). 

Two of his three children told him that they wanted to become pilot and doctors, so he know that he will need to work hard to be able to pay all the schools fees to come. When I see the number of business run by John, I believe that there is a good chance that he manages to assume his children’s ambitions. 

15th August 2012
Nakuru, Kenya 

A Little Caution Never Hurts

Leah Wanjiku Muniu is a married woman with three sons. She is a diligent worker within her farming business where the bulk of her income is derived from products such as milk and cereals like maize and wheat. Over the next few years, she intends to cultivate her farming skills so as to maximize her yield; she intends to do this by adding two more dairy cows. A week ago, our Client Relationship Intern for Kenya, Vivien, visited Mrs. Muniu to inquire about her progress and the benefits she is acquiring from her Zidisha loan. The encounter is described below:

Hello Lenders,

My name is Vivien Barbier and I’m a client relationship interns for Zidisha in Kenya. Today, I had a meeting with Mrs Leah Muniu and she showed me the path to her maize and wheat fields.

I meet Mrs Muniu in Karunga village during a meeting organized by current Zidisha borrowers to present the organization to future members. I’m very grateful to her for coming to the meeting. She agreed to share her experience with Zidisha with others. I think that she made a better job than I did to convince others of the advantages of Zidisha. It was wonderful to see how much enthusiastic she was about Zidisha. She explained me that people like her never go to bank because of the high interests rates but also because of the collaterals that are required. She even told me: “I prefer to stay poor than to go to these banks”. She is also grateful to Zidisha because it has been for her an “eye opener” on the rest of the world. It pushes her to learn how to use computers and interact with people outside her community. 

Mrs Muniu has inherited 5 hectares of lands for her parents and she is renting 3 hectares from another villager. In February, after having paid the school fees of her three children, she didn’t have money anymore to buy seeds for her fields. She was planning to rent her fields to other farms in order to earn at least a small profit.. But then, in March, she has received Zidisha’s loan and things changed. She was able to buy maize and wheat seeds for her 8 hectares. As you can see on the pictures, the crops have grown well since then. The harvest season should start in October and we calculated that her profit should be approximately 45 000 Shilling ($535) in only six month. This profit almost equals the amount of the loan she took. It shows that microcredit loans can be the nudges to start a sustainable activity that will then be able to finance itself. This is very encouraging for the future of Mrs Muniu business. 

Regarding the future, Mrs Muniu hopes that she will be able to buy enough fertilizer for all her fields. This year she didn’t have the money to buy enough of it, so the yield of her fields is not optimal. 

It was a real pleasure to spend a few hours in her company; she is a very smiling and lively person. She made me meet many other villagers and taught me a lot about Kenya. At the end of the meeting, she offered me a delicious Kenyan tea prepared with fresh milk from her own cow and fresh tea leafs.


Suits for sale!

Meet Ann Wangui, a shopkeeper from the Rift Valley city of Nakuru, Kenya. Her second-hand suit business enjoys healthy margins thanks to low operating costs and high demand. From her kiosk at the heart of Nakuru’s municipal market, Ann sells at least 80 suits per month and diligently saves a portion of each sale for future investments in her business and family. As noted below, Zidisha has helped grow Ms. Wangui’s store and support her young children as they climb the ranks of secondary education. Last week, Vivien Barbier, Zidisha client relationship intern in Kenya, paid a visit to Ms. Wangui in downtown Nakuru. Take a look!

Hello lenders,

My name is Vivien Barbier and I’m a client relationship interns for Zidisha in Kenya. Today I visited Mrs Ann Wangui and her husband in their boutique. 

Mrs Wangui is running a shop in Nakuru’s market that sells second hand men suits. Every suit is in a very good state so it is hard to see that there are second hand. Before joining Zidisha, Mrs Wangui was client of other organizations that provided loans, but the interest rates were to high for her to make enough profit to grow the business. In addition to repay the debt, Mrs Wangui has to pay for the schools fees of her three children. Two of them are in high school and her youngest son is still at primary school. She told me that thanks to Zidisha and the low interest rate loan, the business is now much more profitable. Mrs Wangui also expects that her older son will be accepted to the university. In this case, the government will pay for his education. Mrs Wangui and her husband are putting a lot of effort to ensure the success of their children.

The last few months have been a rough time for their family, Mrs Wangui sister get very sick. Mrs Wangui had to pay for the important medical fees; this prevented her to pay back the loan during a few months. Fortunately, things are better now, her sister is doing well and Mrs Wangui can focus again on running her business. She also explained me that during the last month, the business was not great in the whole region. July and August are usually bad months for business and things improve in September. This is not the first time I hear that in the area; the other day, a farmer explained me that this was because the harvest period that only starts in September. 

Mrs Wangui plans for the future is to buy at least one new full suit to expend her product line. With second hand suits it is impossible to have a pants and a jacket from the same fabric and color. New suits can be sold for 30 000 KES ($350) so the profit that she can expect will be much bigger than for second hand suits. 

I lost the count of the number of time she said “Thank you” to the Zidisha community for having helped her when she needed it. She also told me that I should come back next year to visit her shop again and that I will be amazed by the change that I will see then. 

8th August 2012
Nakuru, Kenya

Learn more about Ann Wangui’s story here!

An Update from Madame Sarr

Dear Lenders,

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Mme Sarr at her house in the neighborhood of Parcelles Assainies, about an hour away from Central Dakar. Mme Sarr lives with her mother, her two sons and her daughter, as well as two brothers and their respective wifes and children.

Mme Sarr is very proud to be one of the first Zidisha borrowers in Senegal. Since her workshop was demolished she has been working from home. Mme Sarr employs a tailor, Mr. Maguette Olle Ndoye, who does most of the sowing. Mr. Ndoye is pictured smiling next to Mme Sarr’s new sowing machine.

Mme Sarr used part of her most recent loan to buy her new Singer 2OU33 sowing machine, which she uses to produce traditional Senegalese dresses, or boubous, using a technique called ‘Pakistani embroidery’, which yields higher quality products. Clients now come to her house to admire her boubous and place orders. Two of her nieces were very eager to be photographed wearing them; their pictures are included below.

Mme Sarr has also started to make ‘ecosacs’ for a local NGO which is planning to commercialize them. Ecosacs are devices made of polyester and tissue that are used to save gaz. A pot with boiling water and rice can be taken out of the fire and put inside the ecosac where the food will continue to cook until it’s done. When the ecosac is closed tightly around the pot, it keeps the heat in. Mme Sarr is provided the materials, and earns 8,000 FCFA (16$) for each completed ecosac. She’s made some 70 of them over the past two months and she is hoping for bigger orders.

In the future, Mme Sarr hopes to be able to buy the equipment necessary to produce using more techniques, including ‘petit fil’ and ‘gros fil’. She would like a big workshop downtown, with many employees, from which to produce and market her attractive boubous. 

Client Relationship Manager

One Door Shuts and Another Opens

Another great update from Taci in Kenya!:

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

A brother in Nakuru has a friend in Nairobi who has a relative in the Maasai Mara. That is how the word of Zidisha has traveled throughout Kenya. The power of the word of mouth has proved its worth, for Zidisha borrowers can be found in the most unlikely places. Veronicah Munga, a lone borrower in the ghost-like town of Rironi, heard about Zidisha through a brother living in Mugaa and then again from a friend living in a neighboring village. With a little skepticism, Veronicah applied for Zidisha and is now a failthful member. 

Not long ago, Veronicah ran a hotel in the shopping center of Rironi, but due to a recent renovation project run by the Municipal Council of Limuru, Veronicah had to close her business. But as many know, some downfalls can be blessings in disguise, for Veronicah has now opened Velrojack. 

Velrojack, a combination of her and her youngest child’s name, is a small boutique selling clothes and shoes purchased in Nairobi. Through her first loan, Veronicah was able to stock her shop with such items. Boutiques are common in all of Kenya, but what sets her apart from most is Veronicah’s beautifully designed bracelets. Having five years of experience making jewelry, Veronicah creates these beaded bracelets in the evening hours, completing one per night. 

In addition to jewelry making, Veronicah has delved head first into a new venture. She quickly closes her shop and takes me to her home where her project awaits. When we arrive, Veronicah proudly shows me a table spread of bags, intricately beaded and in various sizes. These bags will be the newest item in Velrojack. Veronicah also spreads her talent throughout the community, instructing others on the art of beading. Hoping to take out a second loan soon, Veronicah anticipates buying more beads to make her jewelry and bags. 

Much like her teachings in jewelry making, Veronicah would like to share the benefits of Zidisha with others in Rironi. She comments on how technology has made the Zidisha process easily accessible and hopes to encourage others to join. 

Fixing up a Quality Taxi

Check out this great update from Vivien: 

 Hello Lenders,

My name is Vivien Barbier and I’m a client relationship interns for Zidisha in Kenya. Today, I visited Mr David Kiburi in Ongata Rongai and I had the privilege to get inside his car.

When his shoe shop had to be closed three years ago because a brand new shopping mal was about to be constructed at the same place, David had to adapt and find a new way to sustain his family. He sold all his inventory took a bank loan and bought a car to become a taxi driver. During the first two years of his taxi driver life, he kept the car and the loans that came with it. The business was working well at the time but it was difficult to reimburse the loan and to pay the interests while making enough profit. David decided then to sell the car, reimburse his debt and buy a second-hand car using his savings. The car was not in a very good state and needed some improvements. David explained me that in the taxi business, it is very important to have a nice car. Customer always prefers to have a clean and confortable taxi, so David’s taxi business was not working so well at that time. David used Zidisha’s loan to perform these improvements; he painted the car in blue and installed brand new dampers. When I was visiting David, he was in a garage putting the final touch at the car. 

Even if these improvements are really recent, less than 3 weeks, the results can already be seen. Daily revenue went from around 1500 KES (18$) to around 2000 KES (24$). 

During the week, David works between 7am to 6pm but during the weekend, since many people uses taxis to go out and to come back at night, David works during the night. When he is not driving the car, he has an employee who drives it for him. Then they split the revenue in 3 equal parts: one for the driver, one for David and one in a fund reserved to pay for the maintenance of the car. 

David is a family man and is very proud of his family; he has two children who are 4 and 12 years old. He is sending them to private school because the quality is better than in public school. He explained me that in public school there are 50 children per teacher while in private school there is 1 teacher for 15 children. It cost him 42 000 shillings (535$) per years to send his two kids to private school but he wants his children to have a good start in life. 

1st August 2012
Nairobi, Kenya