Creating Beauty from Pain

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Lilian Kimko has experienced a lifetime worth of hardship in her short 37 years of life. And yet, her resilience and perseverance has helped her to create and sustain a thriving business and family. Lilian was born into a large family with two boys and five girls. School was often a struggle for her as her parents were peasant farmers and keeping the children fed and in school was never a certainty and a consistent problem.

After years of being in and out of school, because her parents couldn’t pay the school fees, she decided to work with her parents in farming, growing kale. By selling the kale she produced, Lilian was able to pay her own way through school. After completing her A level education, she joined the Trans Eastern Airline Aviation College in the Mechanical Engineering course, with a focus in aeronautical.

Lilian shares, ‘my father struggled to pay college fees for one semester then he fell sick. Due to his deteriorating health we struggled more but by the grace of God I went through college for three years but could not sit for the diploma exams because my father passed on in February 1998 when I was to complete my course in December 1999, so I had to quit college and got married since all our siblings were depending on me as the first born.’

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A few years after marrying David, she gave birth to two beautiful daughters. Her daughter Shekina was born with a heart problem which resulted in being in and out of the hospital for two years. Unfortunately, Shekina passed away in 2008 after a case of bronchial pneumonia. Then, in 2011, Lilian’s husband was diagnosed with diabetes, so the hospital visits continued for Lilian and her family. After being put on some medication and changing his diet, David started to improve, however, he then went into an adiabatic coma and was not able to make it. He passed away on May 5th 2012, leaving Lilian a widow and a single mother.

Lilian is a tailor by profession and does dressmaking, tailoring, upholstery and soft furnishings. Before becoming ill, her husband had been a casual laborer and he helped to educate Lilian’s siblings and paid for Lilian to go back to college to study tailoring and dressmaking. She opened her own shop called, ‘Dalimu Trading Company’ but was forced to shut down when her husband was sick, as she could not pay both the rent for her house and workshop. Fortunately, she has been able to maintain her business from her home and through her sales she can pay rent, school fees, and she also reinvests in her business.

She explains, ‘Nairobi as a city has a lot of challenges in housing and through this there is a lot of building and constructions of flats, homes and offices taking place to curb the demand of the housing problem. Typically any house needs basically a curtain, mosquito nets, bed sheets, pillows, seats etc, due to the high rise of real estate in Nairobi and easy access to mortgages, many people are getting new homes therefore the need to furnish it and this has caused a rise in demand in our services. Normally things get old or due to change of fashion a customer would wish to change her curtains or any other thing that she deems fit, this has also caused a rise in demand of our products.

The reason why customers prefer my business is the type of customer care I give, I talk to our customers with esteemed respect, I make quality goods, I am time conscious, and I meet the deadline. Many a time I finish making the product before the required time which makes my customer come back or refer a friend to me.’

So far, Lilian has successfully acquired 5 Zidisha funded loans. Her first, was in September 2013, for $97. With this loan, she was able to purchase a small overlock machine. This machine would allow her to significantly reduce her production costs.

With her second loan of $299 in February 2014, she increased her stock of tailoring accessories. This included products such as, ‘eyelets, all types of canvas, different colors of threads, lining materials, piping cord, and ready made pelmets. A year later, in March of 2015, she secured a loan of $417 which she used to stock curtain material in her shop. She explains, ‘it has been a great challenge when you buy just material for samples then when a customer comes and orders the same material and you go back to the shops and find its out of stock, this was my biggest challenge and it frustrated us so much.’ With this loan, she knew she’d be able to eliminate this problem!

For 2016, her next goal was to take her business online! So, with a $575 Zidisha loan in hand, she did just that. She used the loan to purchase a laptop computer as well as a modem for internet access. She predicted that putting her business online would allow her to increase her profits by 50%.

Feeling confident in her business skills, by February 2018, Lilian found that she was ready to diversify and enter a new market. With a loan of $892, she prepared to secure some rental properties, as she noticed a big demand because of the strong university presence in her area. She also found that she had a desirable location, being within walking distance of the colleges.

Recently, in February, Lilian proudly shared, ‘Hello lenders, I just want to say thank you for your continued support..the last loan I had I used it in buying a laptop for online business.. This helped me to get other customers outside Nairobi where my business is located and thus my profit increased and by that increased profit I took my daughter to school without any struggle as she joined form one this year.’

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Would you like to help support a mother and female entrepreneur like Lilian? Feel free to head on over to our Lend page to read similar stories of resilience!

The Zambian Craftsman

Matthews Kasamka 10

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Mathews Kasamika was born and raised in Mpika, a small rural village in northern Zambia. He was born into a large family and completed his primary and secondary school studies locally. After finishing school in 2001, he began selling homemade ice cream in the streets of his community. With the proceeds, he was able to raise the funds to attend a mission school. After finishing his program, he began working as a volunteer mission worker through his church which he continues to do today. In addition, he is also happily married, has one child, and loves playing volleyball in his free time.

To support his family, Mathews decided to enter the arts and crafts business where he also does t-shirt printing. Zidisha has proven to be a great partner for him as his lenders are able to help him grow and expand his business in ways that he wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

With his business profits he is able to invest in other ventures such as a poultry farm. So far, Matthews has acquired 5 Zidisha funded loans. With his first loan of $63 in February of 2017, he purchased printing ink to print t-shirts.

For his second loan, in April, 2017, he had a very practical request. He decided that buying a bicycle would be a smart move as he spent a significant amount of time and money on transportation costs. He was spending $20 a month just to get to and from his workplace and this did not even include the additional transportation costs to visit his clients. For as little as $90 he could purchase a bicycle of his own.

A few months later, in June 2017 and in August 2017, he was ready for two more loans. While his business and work were going well, he hoped that Zidisha lenders would assist him with a project at home. His home was not unfinished, however, with the help of his faithful lenders, he was able to pay for cement, door frames, building sand, and labor costs. He shares, ‘First and foremost I thank you all my lenders for my past loans, you have really made my life lot more easy.’

On August 31, he updated lenders and shared, ‘Thank you so much my lenders for having confidence in me. I will use the money to buy cement, sand, door frames and to pay for the labour cost of plastering the inside part of my house. I am very grateful for the help you have given me. May the Almighty God bless you.’

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The completed plastering job!


Most recently, in December 2017, Matthews secured his fifth loan. With $788 from lenders he was able to purchase an egg incubator for his poultry business. As a multifaceted entrepreneur, he was ready to shift gears, and make progress in his poultry farm. He explains, ‘The incubator will help me grow my poultry business, at the current time I’m spending a lot paying for incubation service. If I buy my own incubator I will cut on incubation costs and I will be able to raise some extra money through incubation services. Your assistance towards raising this loan will be highly appreciated as it will greatly boost my business.’

On December 23, Matthews proudly shared, ‘Hi lenders, this is the incubator I have bought from the loan I got from Zidisha. Thank you so much for your help. This will greatly improve my business.’ Then, exactly one month later, he was back with an additional update, ‘Hi lenders I just want to let you know that I have already started using the incubator. On 20th January, 2018 I had my first hatched chicks. I’m always grateful for your support.’

If you’re ready to make a difference in a family or individual who will really appreciate it, head on over to our Lend page  to read dozens of stories of hardworking entrepreneurs.


With Zidisha, He Can Do More

John Okoth 11

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

‘My name is John Okoth. I’m a fatal orphan with no mother, father, sister or a brother, I just stand alone. My mum and dad left me while I was only 4 months old. My grandmother was the one who took care of me. Unfortunately she also passed away.’

With such a rough start at life, it would be easy to assume that John continued to struggle throughout his early adulthood, holding a grudge against the unfair cards that were dealt to him. However, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, he shares, ‘When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide will turn.’

So, how did John the orphan grow up into John the wise truth teller? After his grandmother passed away he went to live with his aunt where he started his education in Eldoret town. He attended Obambo primary school in 2002 and finished his class 8 in 2008. After that, he joined Chianda boys high school in 2009, unfortunately, he had to drop out as he didn’t have a way to pay the required school fees.

Shortly after, John went to live with his aunt in Nairobi. However, after two months, his aunt’s husband chased him out of the house. Luckily for John, opportunity was just around the corner. In January 2011, his friends father agreed to employ him as a home cleaner. After 3 months, he was able to save enough money to quit that job and start selling mtumba clothes. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he also enrolled in a computer training course. After finishing the computer training in 2012, he acquired a job at Josflo Supermarket as a cashier. After proving to be a great employee he was promoted to a management and accounting role to work with the suppliers.

Currently, John continues to work in the supermarket and also has a mini shop on the side selling mtumba clothes. Since he is so busy in his day job, he is able to employ his best friend to run the clothing shop for him. Each of his Zidisha funded loans has helped him to continue to grow his shop and increase his inventory.

He shares, ‘Life is full of many challenges but we have not to give up on whatever we are doing no matter how it is, we never know about tomorrow.’

So far, John has raised 5 Zidisha funded loans ranging from $3 all the way up to $693. His first two loans in July and August of 2017 were used to cover travel expenses as he needed to purchase raw materials in his business. Shortly after, his third loan of $10 in September and his fourth loan of $298 were put towards purchasing stock for his shop. He knew that this would allow him to sell to more customers and also to expand his shop over time.

By January of 2018, John was in need of a fifth loan of $693 from Zidisha lenders. One of the amazing things about the Zidisha community and lenders is that they are able to help borrowers when they really need it the most. This loan allowed John to both meet his business needs of restocking his shop and to assist personally as well. In terms of his business, this loan allowed him to replace his crushed smartphone so that he could reach his Zidisha account via phone rather than searching for a cyber cafe.

In addition, on a personal level, he also used $168 of the loan to pay his cousins school fees for two terms. His cousin had lost both of her parents as the result of a road accident and as her guardian, John felt that it was important to be able to keep her in school.

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In February 2018, John gladly shared this message with his lenders, ‘I do not have enough words to express my gratitude in you my lenders. For now, I want to tell you a heartfelt thank you! Never stop learning because life will never stop teaching. It means that you are never going to be the most wise person in the world because life can discover anything anytime.’

Today, John is also engaged and shares that he is ready for marriage, relaying this final message to his lenders:

‘Thank you Zidisha for your support, because with you, I know I can do more in my life.’

Would you like to be the change maker for other encouraging entrepreneurs? Don’t forget to head over to our Lend page to read their stories!

The Animal Farm


By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Frederick Cudjor is a poultry farmer from  Agona Swedru in the Central Region of Ghana. He attended the Swedru School of Business and graduated in 2004 before continuing on the University of Cope Coast. He is now married with 2 kids, and runs his animal farm on top of his other responsibilities.

Frederick found himself at a crossroads in his business as he needed additional capital to grow his farm. Fortunately, his partnership with Zidisha has allowed him to do just that!

Frederick successfully acquired his first $150 loan through Zidisha in September of 2015. He shares, ‘We wish to increases our production to feed the local market and also create employment for youth in the community, the loan will be used in buying feed, day old chicks and other farm equipment for production. We hope this is going to go a long way to help our dream of producing good poultry product for Ghana. This will also help us to produce on a larger scale.’

As a farmer, there is always work to be done and new problems that need solving. For Frederick, this meant that by November, he needed another infusion of cash to keep his farm running. With a Zidisha loan of $299 he attended to a whole host of problems including: ‘buying additional feed and drugs, purchasing new breeds of livestock and day old chicks, paying for transportation to a veterinary officer to visit the farm weekly and building new pens for the pigs.’

Before working with Zidisha, a common problem for borrowers is that they don’t have the available cash to purchase items in bulk. This means that they are buying very small quantities on a regular basis. However, through their Zidisha loans they are often able to start purchasing in bulk, which allows them to save a significant amount of money over time.

This line of thinking held true for Frederick as well as he shared in March 2016, ‘When the loan is granted, we intend to buy drugs, feeds and new breeds of piglet for the farm. When feed is bought in larger quantity, it’s economical and also the cost of transportation becomes less. We also intend to increase broiler production to about 10%. 30% of the loan is going to be our cash back for salary and other stuff.’

The following loan, which Frederick obtained in November 2016 was for $659 and was used for a variety of needs. First, he purchased feed medication and paid his workers salary. He also used part of the loan to purchase a new breed of piglets, built cages, purchased new rabbit breeds, and bought feed. In addition, he shared that in the coming months he wanted to help educate his workers.

Never one to remain stagnant, with a loan of $928 in June 2017, Frederick set out to expand in a big way. With this loan, he purchased a wide variety of animals including: 50 broilers, 20 pigs, 48 ducks, 15 rabbits, and 4 turkeys. He also bought an assortment of feed options such as, brown rice, maize, fish meal, soybeans, and vitamins. He also noted in the near future he is hoping to add egg production and that at that time he had 3 pregnant pigs.

It is clear that the Zidisha community has really impacted both Frederick and his entire family as he says, ‘Thank you my lenders you guys have put a smile on my face & the faces of my kids, now I am able to pay their school & provide their needs. Look at them ready for school. I  can now take care of my family. My kids are in school, my farm is doing well, thank you Zidisha. You guys have saved me and my community from poverty.’

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Would you like to be a change maker in another community like Frederick’s? Make sure to head on over to our Lend page to read similar stories of hardworking entrepreneurs.