Paving the Way for the Next Generation

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Brenda Otieno is a native Kenyan who has had to work incredibly hard for everything that she has achieved. Growing up, the free primary school program was not yet available and with a pension of 40 dollars per month, her father struggled to support his eight children, meaning that she was in and out of school. However, she didn’t let this defeat her, instead, she developed the mindset and perspective that education was her key to make it in life. This led to her receiving a ‘best student’ award for her school and later on attending and graduating from Masinde Muliro University.

After graduating she says, ‘Employment in Kenya was not forthcoming, thus I followed my passion for entrepreneurship.’ Since then, she has run a variety of businesses. Her first was buying curtains from a secondhand market to resell. Then, she saved up for a motorbike and now her nephew is able to run her motorbike venture for her, securing profits for both of them. Because motorbikes are a popular means of transportation in Kenya, she knew this was a great market to enter into.

Zidisha lenders have stood by Brenda through 8 Zidisha funded loans, and with good reason, considering her repayment rate of 100%. Always persistent and determined she shares, ‘I would not like my children to experience the kind of life that I did. My first born would like to be a journalist when she grows up and I am determined to make her dreams valid. I purpose to sharpen my entrepreneurial skills and make their future better and brighter and make them financially independent, realizing their full potential through innovation and entrepreneurship hence solving problems. I wish this for women in general by initiating several groups (chama) for savings and investing.’

For her first of eight loans, she requested $50 in August 2015 to purchase an additional helmet for the motorbike passenger. This is essential as it is against the law in Kenya to ride on a motorbike without a helmet. The remainder of the loan was put towards a new side mirror for the bike as the current one was broken. Two months later, she requested her second loan of $100 and with this loan she purchased insurance for the bike.

In January of 2016, Brenda was in need of a personal loan, and of course, her loyal lenders were happy to help. She requested $199 to pay the school fees for her children. $145 went directly for the tuition fees and the rest was put towards other school materials that her children would need. At the time of this loan, she shared with lenders, ‘This will give me satisfaction as a parent as my children will be able to attend school comfortably without any problems and I will be able to have peace of mind and concentrate more on other income generating activities to make their future better. In the past they have been in and out of school due to lack of school fees hence this money if you lend me will assist in keeping them in school hence better performance in class.’

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In 2016, Brenda secured two Zidisha funded loans in April and August for $201 and $302. With the April loan she set to raise money in order to purchase a new set of wheels for the motorbike as well as brake pads. This loan also included the cost of labor for the mechanic. She explains, ‘This is a rainy season in Kenya and most of the roads are not tarmacked thus the worn out wheels will not be able to withstand the harsh conditions during this season as the friction of the wheels on the roads is reduced due to wetness. The brake pads will minimize the occurrence of accidents as the ones I currently have are overused.’ Then, for her August loan she bought a tracking device for her motorbike as well as a carrier for transporting goods and other small parts. She felt more confident knowing that the tracking device would help prevent theft.

Most recently, Brenda has requested two loans so far in 2017 in January and later on in October for $453 and $1,226. The first loan went towards school fees for her daughters. Her first born has just joined the upper class and her second born has just started class one in primary school. The October loan will be put towards her other business which is curtain and tent making. She has been using a manual sewing machine but she knows that upgrading to an electric machine would greatly improve her business. This will allow her to work at a faster rate and to increase her overall production and output.

On October 18, she recently shared, ‘I am very pleased by the faith you have shown in me and financing my loan. May the our good Lord increase you beyond your expectation as you help us to grow here in Africa. My dream of owning a sewing machine has come to pass, thank you for coming to my rescue in this entrepreneurial journey.’

It is clear that everything that Brenda has done and achieved has been to pave the way for her girls and the next generation. She appropriately sums it up by explaining, ‘I would like to invest in my children’s future because they are the leaders of tomorrow and I wish to see them prosper and have a better life than I managed to have myself so that they may be able to assist others in their generation and make a difference in people’s lives.’

Would you also like to make a difference in the next generation? Head on over to our Lend page to read about other parents working to create a better world for their children.

Building His Way to the Top

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Senaya Edem Kwasi is a Ghanaian man with a vision. He was brought up in the Ho village until he was about 12 years old and then his father took him to the city to be educated. When he had reached stage 5, his father asked him to stop school to learn fitting (as a mechanic). At this point, Edem was faced with two options. The first option was to become an apprentice mechanic while the second was to continue his education, but by doing so, he would be on his own and forced out of his father’s house. Edem knew that he wanted to continue his education and he found himself on the streets and working menial jobs to make a little money.

After a lot of hard work and saving, he enrolled in a private school to finish his primary education. Afterwards, he continued by enrolling in a Junior High School for the following three years. This was by no means an easy season of life for him and he says, ‘The only way to work my way through is to be working whilst going to school and studies became very difficult because I am always tired at the end of the day. Luckily for me, I had a penpal from Canada who decided to sponsor my education and I had to study hard.’

He was then able to sit for his final exams where he finished as the second best student in his class! As a result of his impressive scores, he was admitted to Mawuli Senior High School. For Edem, the next step was university. He carried his strong work ethic with him to secondary school and was later admitted to Kwame Mkrumah University of Science and Technology where he chose to study Civil Engineering.

Starting university was difficult, as the financial burden was heavy. Fortunately, he was awarded a full scholarship by Educational Pathways International, which eased the financial aspect. However, he knew that it was essential that he maintain top scores in order to keep his scholarship. He proudly shares, ‘By God’s grace, I graduated from the University with a second class upper honors degree in Civil Engineering. I graduated from the university at the age of 28 years! I did the compulsory national service and have gotten a job with a Chinese company where I worked for about four months.’

Now that he has completed his studies, Edem has a new goal in mind. He adds, ‘It has been my desire to make life a little easier and create opportunities for people around me. So with this in mind, coupled with the high unemployment rate in Ghana, I have decided to form my own construction company. It has been duly registered and I have obtained license for operation last year. The name of my company is Conciv Engineering Services. Conciv is currently in operation but on a sub contract basis.’

Here is what Edem has to share about the business, ‘Conciv Engineering Services (CES) is a construction company formed in the year 2015. The main idea behind the formation of this firm is to provide employment to the many unemployed youth in Ghana and also bring relief to others by providing them with quality services at an affordable prices.The mission statement of CES is : To become the number one construction and infrastructure development company in Ghana, a national player who safely, profitably and sustainably delivers best-in-class integrated services, products and solutions to meet our client’s needs. The vision statement of CES is: Bridging the infrastructural development gap between the rural and urban centers.’

For Edem, education is close to his heart because of the many personal struggles that he went through to receive a good education. He hopes that his new business will be able to provide the much needed infrastructure and support to rural children who struggle to keep up with their classmates living in cities. For children living in rural areas, they often have to walk long distances just to get to school in the morning. Edem is optimistic that he can use his company as a vehicle to create better opportunities throughout Ghana.

Edem is excited and optimistic about his continuing partnership with the Zidisha community. So far, he has had four Zidisha funded loans. He requested his first loan of $10 in August 2016 to purchase a printer. He knew that a printer would allow him to print reports and proposals when meeting with firms or individuals for his business. In addition, as a new business owner, he also predicted that he would need to print flyers and business cards, which his new printer would make possible. By using his own printer, he could create these materials for a fraction of the cost.

A few months later, Edem sought out his second Zidisha funded loan in December of 2016 and for this loan he requested $19. With this loan, he was ready to purchase some equipment. He continues, ‘I am currently working on sub contracts but with limited tools and other constructional equipment. To pursue the CES agenda of bridging the infrastructural development gap between the rural and the urban centres, CES needs fund with which to start so we are currently working on contracts in order to gather enough funds for that.’

For his third loan, in January 2017, he once again requested $19 to promote and implement a water closet toilet design that he developed for his community. As he says, ‘The existing structure is in a dilapidated condition and is a death trap.’

Most recently, Edem secured his fourth loan in March 2017 for $471. His largest loan yet, he is excited to make progress on this new project. For this loan, he is using the money to pre-finance a construction project. The money will be used for labor costs. While this is a huge project that he is taking on, it’s clear that he is ready and willing for a new challenge.

In his words, ‘I am a determined person and always pursue my dreams till the finish line.’

Do you have a heart for education like Edem? If so, head on over to our Lend page to find other hard working students that need your support.

Changing his own life now…to someday change the world

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Bismark Mawuse Bissi is a twenty three year old student living in Takoradi, Ghana. His parents, Ernest Bissi and Rebecca Arkon are both subsistence farmers and have fifteen children. Bismark is their youngest. Out of the fifteen, Bismark is one of three, who was able to further his education. As a younger student, he was able to do some basic trading with his mother and aunties to pay for his basic needs.

After completing his secondary education, because of financial struggles in his hometown of Juapong, he moved to Takoradi to find a job and to continue his education. The economic struggles in his home city were due the collapse of the only textile company in the city. His new city of Takoradi is the oil and harbor city of Ghana. Upon moving, he was able to secure a job with a security company as a night security guard. His new life keeps him pretty busy as during the day he is a level two hundred student at I.P.M.C Training College pursuing a diploma in Computer Systems Engineering.

He found himself struggling to pay his expensive school fees and was unable to get a loan. Fortunately, a friend of his introduced him to Zidisha. Through Zidisha, he has been able to receive three loans to pay his tuition and school fees. He continues to use his monthly salary as a security guard to help repay his loans. Bismark is excited to finish his diploma and in the future he hopes to be able to employ many of the unemployed youth throughout his country.

He shares, ‘My ambition is that one day, I will also marry and have kids where I will be much more responsible for giving them quality education, and also supporting my community in the areas of education, sport, good health, etc.’

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While it’s hard to imagine that he has much free time between his intensive studies and a night job, he enjoys reading, researching, football, and boxing.

Once he finishes school he hopes to go into the repair and servicing of computers for companies and selling of computers and computer hardware parts. In life, a big indicator of success and happiness is simply surrounding yourself with the right people and choosing a good environment. His new city of Takoradi is the third biggest commercial town in Ghana with a harbor and an abundance of shipping and clearing companies. There is also some oil exploration in the deep sea leading to a lot of economic activity.

Bismark shares with lenders, ‘I believed it’s a right place for me to use my skills, creativity, innovation and marketing, so as to liberate myself and my family from the shackles of poverty, and then make a meaningful living. It’s also my plan to expand to other nearby towns and cities. Computer literacy is still low in most of the basic and second cycle schools. It’s my hope that if my loan is successful with Zidisha and I am able to complete my course, I would make computer literacy in rural communities a priority. Computer Information Technology (I.C.T.) can be a useful tool in fighting world poverty and that is one reason why I am joining this rightful course.’

In the future, he is also interested in the buying and selling of security gadgets like CCTV cameras to enhance security situations in cities. He believes that this would allow citizens to feel a deep sense of security as they go about their daily business and lives. In addition, as he plans for his business post graduation, he is prepared to make reinvestment into the business a main priority for the first three years. He is also looking forward to being able to provide financial assistance to his family members and neighbors. Furthermore, he believes that he will be able to employ at least 4 people to assist him in his business.

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So far, Bismark has successfully secured 3 Zidisha funded loans. He requested his first loan of $174 in July 2016 and he put this loan towards his school fees. He also used part of the loan to purchase a used laptop computer.

A few months later, he secured his second loan in December 2016 of $354. He was able to use this loan to pay his semester school fees and to buy books for his academic work. He notes that he really appreciates the Zidisha support as having this loan allows him to pay his fees on time avoiding the harassment and embarrassment that students often receive from school authorities when they don’t pay on time.

His most recent loan was acquired in June of 2017 when he requested $535. Similar to the others, this loan was put towards his school fees as he prepared to start his 300 level coursework. He thankfully shares with lenders, ‘Counting on the good lenders on the Zidisha platform for your kindness and generosity. Thank you all in advance, and God bless you all.’

Would you like to make an impact in the life of a student or entrepreneur? Head on over to our lend page to read about other incredible Zidisha borrowers.

Searching for Beautiful Ornaments

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Bernard Mwangi may have passed through some hardships throughout his life, but he has always been able to overcome them. As a high school student, he lived in Nairobi and attended, Muhuri Muchiri High School where he did his K.C.S.E. in 2014. Afterwards, he joined Skylink Flight Services where is currently pursuing a course in aeronautical engineering. His strong work ethic has allowed him to excel in difficult work environments such as working in construction sites and other difficult labor jobs. While difficult, it was through these tough jobs that he was able to save the money to start his business.

Being observant, Bernard discovered that his city had a definite competitive advantage, the high volume of tourists. He found that tourists were always searching for beautiful ornaments, beaded sandals, Massai Kikoli’s and African Art. Because he is a business minded man, he set out to make a move and delve into this industry. When he is not working on his business or busy studying, he loves visiting new places and observing people from other cultures. He also really enjoys watching documentaries in the little free time that he has.

In his business, Bernard provides Maasai beaded sandals, Maasai vikoi’s, and beaded wristbands and necklaces. He notes that his goods are really in demand both locally and internationally because of the genuine quality of the leather. Bernard sought out this particular business because he found it to be rewarding and there has always been a ready market of customers. He has even been working to implement the use of social media as a new way to market his goods.

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With his business profits he is able to pay for his school fees, food, life insurance, and has even been able to expand his business.

Bernard set out to obtain his first Zidisha funded loan in October 2016. With this loan, he was excited to buy new materials such as, ‘beads, refined leather, sewing wool, scissors, leather glue, and rubber sandal shoe soles. He also intended to use some of his own savings and hoped to produce 3 pairs of leather beaded sandals, 4 leather beaded wristbands, and at least 8 necklaces.

Selling these items alone would be enough to pay his bills and put some money away in savings to expand his business in the future. He says, ‘From my business, I will be able to add employees who I will manage to pay them well and also come up with an affiliate program which will do the sales and marketing process all over the world.’

He also hopes that by starting his own business, he will inspire other members of his community to start businesses of their own and to dream big and come up with new ideas.

In January of 2017, he set out to obtain his second loan of $19 for new materials. He predicted that the beads would cost around $10 and the remaining $9 would be put towards leather material. With this loan, he continued to increase in his confidence in himself and his business. He excitedly shared ‘I will gain more profit which will enable me to expand my business hence to others I will help them understand that self employment is great and profitable more so this will be to the young people.’

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His most recent Zidisha funded loan was in May 2017, when he requested $74. Similar to his previous loans, he used the funds to purchase leather material, rubber soles, beads, sewing string, and cobbler’s glue. With additional materials, he will be able to increase his production and by doing so, increase his profits as well. He is able to sell each pair of sandals for $30.

On May 1, 2017, Bernard shared on his discussion page, ‘I am thankful to all my lenders and wanna wish them a happy new month and God bless them for their hand in helping the new, young, promising entrepreneurs. Merci beaucoup!’

He was excited that with the profits of this loan he would be able to repay his loan, save for the future, invest, and even set a little money aside for personal development. In addition, he views his business as a way to positively impact his entire community. He is even able to teach young entrepreneurs in his community how to invest and to make sandals and in doing so, creating their own businesses.

Recently, on September 19, he shared with lenders, ‘Dear lenders, the loan I received is of great help since my business is doing good. Thanks a lot.’

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As of September 2017, Bernard is an aeronautical engineering student and hopes to be graduating in 2019. He notes that he is doing great in school and that his business is thriving. He is so appreciative of his lenders and says, ‘Zidisha is really making me grow.’

Would you like to support another student/entrepreneur like Bernard? Head on over to our lend page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs.

Dancing to a New Tune

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Beatrice Moraa is a hardworking woman, and a single mother to two teenage children. With an open minded approach to life, she believes that we have the potential to improve or better our lives and through doing so we can also empower others to do the same.

Although she had a fairly average childhood and grew up in a family of 6, her world was shaken when her mother died when she was in high school. As her pillar of strength, her death affected Beatrice deeply. After high school, she got married but once the marriage ended she was left with the burden of providing for two young children.

While she has a part-time job, she’s found that she doesn’t earn enough through that job to adequately support her family. Therefore, she determined that a side hustle would be a great way to supplement her income from her job. Through her business she supplies toiletries to hotels and has also started getting orders to supply housekeeping and kitchen items. She says that she chose this particular business because the goods were readily available.

When she’s not busy working or running her business, she is also part of an organized dance troupe of around twenty ladies. She notes that their objective is, ‘to empower ourselves economically with the aim of encouraging more ladies in decision making. Under the group we have a traditional dance troupe which we use as an income activity as well as for culture preservation.’

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Beatrice serves as a great example that small loans really add up over time. Since she requested her first Zidisha funded loan in February 2017, she has had five total loans and all of them have been under $100. When she first discovered Zidisha, she was struggling to build up her working capital. She found that she had no problem finding orders, but didn’t have the necessary money to buy enough product to meet the demand and had to turn down orders. Therefore, she used her initial loan of $9 to build up her fund for buying inventory.

A few months later, she requested her second loan of $14 in April of 2017. With this loan, she bought two bales of toilet paper to re-sell to a hotel that she had secured a contract with as a supplier. The cost of the tissue was ksh. 1520 and then she was able to re-sell it for ksh. 2400 making a profit of ksh. 880 or ($8.50 USD).

Seeing success with her first two loans, Beatrice prepared herself for a $21 Zidisha funded loan in May 2017 to purchase five soft brooms. She was excited that once she was able to sell these five brooms, she would be one step closer to one of her big goals, purchasing a laptop computer for her college age daughter as she prepared to write her thesis.

On July 10, 2017, Beatrice shared this inspiring update with her lenders, ‘With the cash I bought housekeeping items as indicated early and I used the profit to make a down payment for a second hand laptop for my daughter. I intend to finish paying for it soon for her to use it for her project. My daughter is excited already she is so willing to assist with deliveries whenever she is free. The most interesting part of all this…my son is going round looking for orders. He wants to have his own clientele. He is willing to also join the Zidisha family and this is due to the friendly atmosphere exhibited by the Zidisha family.’

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As she set her sights on another loan, she continued with the same goal in mind of slowly and surely setting aside money for her daughter’s laptop. For this fourth loan, she requested $32 and used the loan to buy five wheeled mopping buckets which she could re-sell and earn a little over $1 USD per bucket.

Recently, Beatrice prepared for her largest loan yet, of $79 which she requested in September 2017. While her profit margins had remained fairly low on her first few products, she was ready to up her game. She prepared to purchase a few bales of jumbo toilet tissue, making a profit of $14.94 USD per bale. With the profits, she is excited to re-invest in her business so that she can continue to purchase larger quantities of products in the future. In addition, as her daughter will be sitting for her final exams in the future, Beatrice hopes to clear her college fee balance. She says, ‘this will be a great achievement for my children in general, especially my daughter.’

On September 8, 2017, Beatrice took to her discussion page and shared, ‘Zidisha is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am really grateful to my lenders for the support they have given me and my children by extension. Since I joined Zidisha things have been really easy for me because of the additional capital.’

It’s clear that Beatrice and her family have a great future ahead of them. She even adds that her dance troupe recently participated in the International Investment Summit where they were the main entertainers. She notes, ‘I must confess it was a memorable occasion. I thank God for the opportunity and exposure and we hope and believe that this is just the beginning of many more to come.’

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Would you like to invest in another family like Beatrice’s? Head on over to our Lend page and check out more amazing entrepreneurs that are changing the lives of their families and communities.