Fashioning a Better Life

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Alice Wachira was the first born child who, at age 5, was handed over to her father’s twin brother, as his wife could not bear him any children. Life was pretty good for her until her uncle decided to remarry six years later. After that, life became very difficult for Alice. During this time, she often went to school hungry, slept hungry, and as a result, her grades suffered, and she eventually had to withdraw. Fortunately, she was still able to sit for her KCPE and she scored a high enough grade to proceed to secondary school and then to college.

While some people allow negative experiences to hold them captive, this was not the case for Alice. For Alice, these experiences changed the trajectory of her life in a positive way. She notes that, ‘this experience gave me a sense of independence. Today, together with two other friends, we have embarked on assisting kids with special needs in my home village primary school. I feel this is one way of giving back to the community.’

She now has a beautiful family of her own with a husband and as the mother of two children. Her daughter is sixteen and aspires to be a marine pilot in the future. She also has a son who is seven years old and while he is not exactly sure what he wants to do, he certainly has a liking for the work that his father does in the construction industry. It is clear that Alice will do whatever she can to assist her children in achieving their dreams.

Before jumping into entrepreneurship, Alice worked in a welding workshop. However, she found that not having prior experience combined with the male dominated environment made it a challenging place for her to work. Knowing that welding was not an ideal fit for her, she made the decision to open her own boutique.

When Alice discovered Zidisha, she had been operating her boutique for five years. She primarily sells ladies and children’s clothing. She has found that children’s clothing is a good market because children quickly outgrow their clothing and need new clothing often. The primary costs in her business include: stock, rent, licenses, electricity, and transport. Fortunately, through her sales she is able to pay her expenses, keep her stock replenished, and keep some money in her savings.

Alice decided to seek her first Zidisha funded loan in August 2015 and asked for $150 to add more stock to her business. At this time, she was preparing for the busiest time of the season and she wanted to make sure that she had a wide selection for her customers. One aspect that is so impressive about Alice is that she cares deeply about giving back to her community.

A few months later, she returned to Zidisha lenders to request a second loan of $298 in December. She looked forward to obtaining this loan to buy a desktop computer for her business records. In addition, she hoped to expand her stock of kids clothes as well. As she was approaching another busy season for retail, she knew this would be crucial.

As noted previously, Alice also uses her business profits as a way to give back to the local primary school. She and two other friends have a joint project where they buy school uniforms for the children. In January, she hoped to buy 13 new uniforms for the children. On January 7, 2016, Alice reported on her discussion page regarding her recent loan, ‘This led to increased profits of 40%. With this I will increase my stock and contribute to partial payment of my son’s school fees. This assures me of continued business as well as family matters running smoothly. Thanks you lenders.’

In May 2016, Alice sought her next Zidisha funded loan of $472 to add more children’s clothing to her stock. She believed that this would help boost her sales and would in turn make a profit of $100 per week. She was also motivated by the fact that with her increase in profits she would be able to pay for an accounting course for her daughter as she prepared to attend university. She also determined that a printer for her computer ($140) and a photocopier ($150) would also be smart additions to her business to help with documentation.

Alice's Daughter, Stephanie

Alice’s Daughter, Stephanie

Unfortunately, Alice’s father became very ill, so rather than purchasing her photocopier as she had hoped, she used part of her loan to pay for her father’s medical bills while he was in the hospital. As of July, 2016 he is out of the hospital.

Her most recent loan of $704 in March 2017 was her largest yet. With this loan she hoped to diversify her stock by adding more children’s clothing, as well as adding women’s handbags and ladies clothing. Because of the medical expenses that she incurred, she had not been able to buy the copier machine as she had intended with her last loan. The new copier would be purchased with this loan.

A few months later, Alice was proud to announce that she had enrolled her daughter in the Bsc Industrial Mathematics course at the university. While life hasn’t always been easy for Alice she notes that, ‘I am sincerely grateful to Zidisha because even in the toughest of times they stand with us. God bless you and your family.’

Most recently, she updated lenders with this heartfelt news, ‘Below is Njoroge a man I met years back. He is physically challenged. In my small way I managed to purchase food stuff to last at least 2 months. Thank you Zidisha. You taught me to trust and to share.’

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We can all learn from Alice’s example that regardless of the size of our bank account, we all have the ability to help those around us.

Did Alice’s story resonate with you? If so, check out our lend page to impact another family and community.


Don’t Keep All Your Eggs in One Basket


By Betsy Ramser Jaime

John Thiaro entered the world of entrepreneurship out of necessity. After working for a few companies that closed due to the recession, he knew that he needed to look for a new path.

His entrepreneurial journey began as a poultry farmer. He determined that poultry was a good starting point because free-range chickens do not require much and are resistant to most diseases. He has a loving family comprised of his wife Mercy and two daughters named Kathy and Emmy. His firstborn, Kathy, is seven years old and would like to be a pilot someday, and his younger daughter, Emmy, is five years old and hopes to be a doctor when she grows up. Some of John’s favorite activities include traveling and nature expeditions. He especially loves ornithology, bird watching.

In May of 2015 John raised his first Zidisha-funded loan of $100 which he used to buy 100 chicks, chicken feed, vaccinations, and materials to build a small building for his chicks. Right now John has about 800 chickens but started with less than 200 when he joined Zidisha. He says, ‘through the loans that I acquired from Zidisha, I have been able to expand my business progressively.’ His Zidisha=funded loans have allowed him to make this his full-time job, even employing another person to assist him in the business.

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Bn September 2015, he was ready for a second loan of $200 to expand his business. With this loan he purchased a manual feed mixing machine, weighing scale, and raw materials. He thoroughly researched the best chicken feed formulation to ensure that he could cut the cost of production by 70-75%. The raw materials were comprised of cotton seed cake, sunflower, maize germ, wheat bran, premix, D.C.P., salt, and sorghum. He anticipated that with this loan he could expect to earn $30-40 weekly from the sale of feeds, and a similar amount from the sale of eggs from his chickens.

In March of 2016, John procured his third Zidisha loan of $383 which he used to buy a water tank. He knew this would be a good investment for a few reasons. First, before this loan, he had to buy water located 3 km away and haul it to his farm, which meant that he spent a significant amount of time traveling back and forth. In addition, he could use the money that he had been spending on water to put towards buying cows in the future. Finally, he knew that the water tank would be a much needed asset in the future as he added cows to his farming portfolio. With a water tank he is now able to collect water for both domestic consumption and in his poultry business.

After this third loan, John was happy to share an update with his lenders, ‘The project has not only made me be able to put food on the table, it has enabled me to take my young girls to school.’ He also was pleased to mention that his profits have been steadily increasing and his wife, Mercy, has also been able to start her own clothing shop in their neighborhood.

As John prepared for his fourth Zidisha loan in August of 2016, he provided lenders with this update: ‘The water tank has been of tremendous benefit for me and my family as this enabled us to collect safe drinking water at an arm’s length. This obviously reduced the waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera. The second and most important was that my poultry business improved because at no time did my chicken lack water. This in turn increased the number of eggs/birds and the growth rate was very fast and I was able to make more profits. I had projected that I wanted to have about 300 chickens by the end of 2016 but, I would like to report that by June 2016 I had 420 mature chickens and lots of chicks. I therefore collect approximately 8 trays (240 eggs) of fertilized eggs on a daily basis.’

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On January 24, 2017 John shared an inspiring and heartfelt message of how Zidisha has impacted him. He mentioned, ‘The Zidisha concept is a stand-alone for me and a lot of families and individuals especially in countries like ours in Africa. Our youth and the general population are enabled academically but the opportunities are very few compared to the number of needy people. Zidisha organization through the administration and the good and trustworthy lenders have made our lives valid and purposeful.Thank you so much and honestly, my personal life and that of my family has completely changed for the better.’

For this fourth loan he requested $827 to purchase an Automatic Egg Incubator which would enable him to operate a one-stop shop for poultry. As John says, ‘Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.’ This new incubator would allow him to adjust the humidity, temperature, turn the eggs, and produce chicks on a weekly basis.


In March 2017 John provided lenders with an inspiring update, ‘Through incubation alone, I was able to increase my profits by more than 50%.’ At this point, he was faced with the problem of transportation. He knew he could rely on Zidisha lenders when he requested his largest loan yet of $1,463 to purchase a motorcycle. He had been spending $100 a month towards transportation costs, and knew that with his own transportation he could transport his feed, eggs, chicks, and chickens as well as using it to take his two girls to and from school.

In March of this year, John shared what he has learned through his experience with Zidisha, ‘To be honest, I never knew such an opportunity might occur in my life, to be able to get loans and repay without the hassles that are associated with the banking industry. Zidisha has taught me the discipline of borrowing and repaying and doing projects as a business – with profits being the driving force; opening opportunities and being able to live by means and at the same times honoring my debt obligations!’

If you were inspired by John’s story make sure to head on over to our loans page and help make a difference in the life of another entrepreneur.

A House of His Own

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Raya Theofilo was born to build. Born in 1976, he was the seventh child of the late Joseph Raya and Rachel Umazi. He attended Mazeras Primary School from 1983 to 1990 but realized after completing his KCPE exam that his father did not have the money to send him to high school. Out of necessity, Raya first dipped his toes into the entrepreneurial pool by selling fish. As is often the case for a first time entrepreneur, it did not do well and he ended up pursuing courses in Electronics from 1993-1994. Afterwards, he went to Mombasa and worked in motor rewinding and electrical installation. Later on he transitioned to a new job at Ashton Apparel where he did electrical maintenance. At this point, the main struggle that he experienced was that he was earning a very low salary of KSh 3,500 per month.

Raya knew that his best option was to open his own workshop, and looking back he knows that he made the right decision because his business is doing well. In his business he repairs electronics and electrical appliances such as: TV’s, DVD players, radios, iron boxes, fans, etc. He also sells these items secondhand and does some house electrical installation work as well.

Raya has succeeded in his business venture for a few reasons. First, he found a need in his local community. He knew that his customers wanted to purchase electronics but required an affordable price. The answer turned out to be selling secondhand electronics rather than brand new electronics. Another reason behind his success is that he chose a business that did not require a large amount of starting capital, making the barriers to entry fairly low for him. Finally, his income potential has skyrocketed compared to his previous jobs. With his current business, Raya is able to make a minimum profit of KSh 30,000 and a maximum profit of KSh 60,000 per month compared to the KSh 3,500 that he earned in his earlier job.

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Through the success of his business he has been able to use his profits for food, medicine, school fees for his children as well as money to increase his stock for his business. His business has afforded him the opportunity to pay for his children’s education in a way that he did not have himself as a child.

When he’s not busy at work, Raya is an involved family man and loves taking part in family activities and tending to their coconut trees. His first born child dreams of being a journalist and his second child would like to be a pilot someday. Raya also enjoys listening to Congo music and spending time in the kitchen where he helps his wife with the cooking and teaches his children how to cook delicious food.

While Raya found himself with a wonderful family and thriving business, he dreamed of moving out of his father’s home and having a home to call his own. So far, he has received three Zidisha funded loans to put towards his home construction, his first being in May of 2016 for $200. This first loan was used to purchase building materials to construct his new home. He bought 4 lorries of building stone for $55 each.

A few months later in September 2016 he was able to keep building with a loan of $498 to buy more supplies. He purchased 6 lorries of building stone for $45 each, 3 lorries of building sand at $35 each, 1 lorry of chips for $140, as well as 20 bags of cement. Shortly thereafter, on September 30, he posted on his discussion page, ‘My family is now happy because they have started seeing their dream house. Thank you lenders for the loan.’

Most recently, in March 2017 Raya received a Zidisha funded loan of $1,078 where he paid $400 for the contractor to create the foundation for his home. He also purchased 20 more bags of cement ($6.50 each) for the foundation and 20 bags of cement for building the house. In addition, he added 40 pieces of iron sheets costing $10 each and 5 windows for $3.50 each. Finally, he also purchased wood for his roof costing $100.

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In his most recent update on April 30, 2017, Raya was excited to share some photos with his lenders and noted, ‘As you can see, the house is supposed to be big but I decided to build just part of it and build the other parts after receiving the next loan. We all say long live ZIDISHA. With zidisha my dream becomes true. Thank you very much.’

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If you would like to make a difference in another family like Raya’s, head on over to our loans page to support another project.

Typing Up a Better Future


By Betsy Ramser Jaime

For Kenneth Buyeka, it all began with one computer and a very small photo printer. He was raised in a large family in Kenya with his parents, John and Bilha and 2 brothers and 5 sisters, 4 still living. When the time came for him to attend college, he chose Weaver College where he enrolled in their Computer Application Packages program. After graduating, he got a job at a small cyber cafe which turned out to be a difficult learning experience. While Kenneth worked as hard as he could, he was badly mistreated at work but through it all he remained patient and saved as much money as he could. He finally decided to quit his job at the cyber cafe and found a position working as a secretary at St. Lwanga primary school. While his salary was small it didn’t deter him from continuing to save and save.

One day he approached his parents with the idea of starting his own computer services business. They encouraged him and even agreed to provide him with a small financial investment. With the help of his parents and his own savings he was able to purchase a computer and printer, beginning his entrepreneurial journey. He was also then able to purchase a laminator as well. Kenneth is very family oriented and his family is the motivation behind everything he does. He says, ‘I did all this to help my family and support the living of my parents who are growing old. The small interest [profit] I get from my business I use it to support my brothers who are in college and also to cater for my living going forward.’

To date, Kenneth has received six Zidisha-funded loans and has a perfect repayment record of 100%. He obtained his first loan in January 2014 with a modest investment of $49. With this loan he was able to purchase photocopy papers, lamination papers, and ink for his printer. He chose these materials because photocopying and laminating seemed to be the busiest segments of his business.

With his second loan of $145 in July 2014, he purchased a desktop computer to meet the needs of his growing business. At the time, he just had the one computer that he had started with. He knew that with a second computer he could hire an employee to do some printing and typing work for him. Shortly thereafter, he found another need to fill in his business. While the two desktop computers were great for his business, he knew that having a laptop computer would allow him to get additional work done in the evenings at home.

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In April 2015, Kenneth noted that his business was growing at a rapid pace and that his community of Nakuru Bahati was developing as well. As new organizations and institutions emerged, the need for typing and photocopying services skyrocketed.  He mentioned that many students are given research projects where their submitted work must be typed, making his typing service a high demand amenity. With his next loan of $417 he was able to purchase an additional copier and also added another employee to his payroll.

By late July he was happy to share with his lenders that, ‘my family parents have now moved from a temporary residence [a makeshift shack made from metal sheeting] to a permanent residence [a solid home made from concrete], this is just from the support I have achieved from your loans. I am grateful to you lenders.’ When asked why he likes his particular business he is happy to say, ‘I like my business because it makes me a lot of profit, especially the photocopy and lamination section. The profit is good and I am very happy to see that since I am able to cater for my bills and expenses.’

As September rolled around, Kenneth had a great update to share on his discussion page: ‘Hi lenders, thank you very much. My business is doing well and the earnings have increased by 30%.’ As business remained high, Kenneth received his most recently repaid Zidisha loan of $566 in November 2015. Through the help of this loan he was able to buy two additional desktop computers for his business. He found that he had a large number of customers, particularly college students who needed to browse the internet and the additional computers would serve this need.

This month, Kenneth raised a new loan of $923.  This time, his plans are even more ambitious: he will use the loan to purchase enough computers to start a computer training center – a service that up until now his community has lacked.  Thanks to Kenneth and his lenders, young adults in Kenneth’s neighborhood will have the chance to learn the IT skills that can help them qualify for well-paid jobs or self-employment.

Zidisha has clearly had a significant impact upon both Kenneth and his family, as he mentions, ‘the profit I have attained from what Zidisha has done in my business has made my life better. I have also managed to improve the community through hiring some youths. I have also been able to invite new members to join Zidisha and they have also improved the living standards of their families at large.’

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In addition to his success as a businessman, Kenneth is proud that through his business he is now able to pay for his sister’s school fees to attend high school and he says, ‘thank you Zidisha members. At this moment, I lack nothing in my business, I have enough goods and services to cater for my customers hence more profit generation. I salute you Zidisha lenders.’ Going forward, he imagines that in the next year he will be moving to a larger office space and continuing to purchase more equipment as needed.

If you are inspired by Kenneth’s story, head on over to our loans page to support another incredible entrepreneur.

Dressing the Part

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Morcher Michael says that as a young boy he was always, ‘brilliant and interested in studying’ growing up in Enchiladas in the Western part of Ghana. As he progressed in his studies he decided to further his education at a Teacher Training College. He knew that he was interested in teaching so he studied at the University of Education, Winneba where he graduated as a professional teacher. He is now a mathematics tutor at Dormaa Ahenkro Senior High School.

He also has a lovely wife named Angela and together they have three children. His eldest child is a girl named Alice, and his middle and youngest children are boys named Ransford and Godfred. While he loved his work as a teacher, he found that the salary was not sufficient to  meet the needs of his family. Therefore, discovering Zidisha was the perfect opportunity to supplement his teaching income. He was introduced to Zidisha by a fellow teacher. At first, he was afraid that it was a scam because of bad experiences in the past. However, he quickly found that was not the case and has had such a positive experience with Zidisha that now he serves as a strong advocate and Zidisha mentor.

He decided upon a clothing business because he saw a clear hole in the market. His town, Dormaa Ahenkro is a commercial town comprised of a variety of people. There are a plethora of government workers and Morcher found that they had to travel quite far to buy their clothing.

Morcher notes that, “every Tuesday is market day. Farmers and other people near Dormaa Ahenkro troop in to buy and sell. Once the farmers come to sell their foodstuffs, they in turn buy other things of which new shoes and shirts form a major part of the items they buy.” Each week he is able to make a profit of about Ghc300 and is able to use that money towards school fees for his children, for food and clothing for his family, and also to reinvest into his business.

He started with some of his own savings and also utilized a Zidisha funded loan of $19 in August 2016. For Morcher, this first loan was really integral in helping him buy the initial stock that he needed to jumpstart his business. He began with a variety of clothing items such as, shoes and sandals, shirts, and underwear. At this time, he was able to generate a profit of $2 on a shoe, $0.5 on a cup, $0.5 for trousers, and $0.5 for underwear. While making a profit is certainly important, it’s important to him that his items are still affordable for his customers. Regarding Zidisha repayments, he mentioned “One thing I like about Zidisha loan is its repayments. You can reschedule to any minimum amount that you can pay and still increase the next loan amount you want.”

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A few months later, he was ready to invest in his business again with a second Zidisha loan of $19 in October 2016. With this loan he was able to buy additional inventory in a similar manner to his first loan. With the profits he hoped to pay his school fees and also have money to reinvest back into the business. While the first two loans were important, it was the third Zidisha loan in November of 2016 for $89 that really created the momentum that the business needed. This third loan was also used for inventory including: shirts, underwear, shoes, and belts.

In late November, Morcher took to his discussion page and gave an ardent thanks to the Zidisha community. He notes, “Thanks to my lenders and the Zidisha team for making it possible in my life because looking for a loan in Africa, especially, is a hell matter because you have to stretch yourself to pay high interest rates. I was impressed with the first loan amount that enabled me to purchase some items into my shop. It made my shop looked attractive and appealing, so I encountered new customers. I cannot describe the profit I made after my first purchase. It was marvelous. I will forever remain with Zidisha and I will forever remain faithful in my loan repayments. I hope that future loans would make me see a very great change in my life.”

From there, the momentum continued during the holiday season as his shop was always busy with customers. In fact, his sales even doubled! As the year came to a close, he updated lenders with this great news, “Thanks to my lenders for progressively improving my life.  I think I have a future for my children. My home is now a happy home.”

Morcher’s most recent loan in February 2017 was also his largest yet of $258, however, with a repayment rate of 96% it is clear that he will continue to pay it back in a timely manner. Through this loan he was once again able to increase his volume of stock to meet the demands of his thriving customer base. In March he announced to lenders that through this loan he was able to acquire a second shop. In addition, he was even able to employ two girls to manage his shop who have recently completed high school.

He is excited by the prospect of possibly opening more shops in the future and of being able to employ the youth of his community.

If you would like to help another entrepreneur transform their community, head on over to our loans page to make a difference.