Feeding her Community

Jackline 4

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Jackline Kemunto happily wears many titles as a native Kenyan, wife, mother, and business owner. As a student, she was forced to discontinue her education due to a lack of funds. However, this also proved to be a stepping stone for her as it set her on a new entrepreneurial trajectory. She opened a small grocery business in her home and continued running the business until she bet and married her husband.

Currently Jackline runs a retail shop and grocery at the Gesonso market. Her products include: maize, wheat flour, drinks, sanitizes, cooking fats, oils, rice, sugar, bread, milk, sweets, airtime cards of all Kenyan mobile subscribers and many others.

She’s found that selling common household foods and goods are excellent for business as these are items that her customers purchase on a regular basis, compared to novelty items. She shares, “My customers also like my services because I make sure I have a stock and I operate in six days a week Sunday to Friday as Worship on Saturday so I do not operate my business on this day and my customers are always aware.”

Jackline has an impressive track record with Zidisha, with 12 successful loans so far. She also sets a high standard for her fellow borrowers by maintaining a 98% repayment rate. A seasoned Zidisha member, she’s been borrowing from Zidisha lenders since 2014. What started as a $150 loan in April 2014 to replenish her supplies, has grown into a relationship with lenders where she now receives $1,000 or more per loan.

By the end of December in 2016, Jackline was proud to share this update on her discussion page, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank my lenders and the entire Zidisha management for giving me the chance to be the borrower and indeed my life has been changed so far since I became a borrower and now I enjoy and hope to expand more entrepreneurship so that I become a future great investor.”

With a business like Jackline has, maintaining a wide variety of stock is essential in allowing her to keep her customers happy. In this way, Zidisha has been a great opportunity for her as it has allowed her to continuously borrow and keep her stock updated. With these loans, she has continued to maintain her supply of goods such as, ‘milk, bread, rice, eggs, apples, oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, charcoal, grains, cabbage, and sugar.’

With her most recent Zidisha funded loan for $1,120 in August, 2018, Jackline shared that, “Life in Kenya is changing drastically as the living economic is becoming very expansive and the price of commodities have gone high and therefore makes the living cost expensive to Kenyans.” However, amidst these changes, Jackline has still been able to support and grow her business as she explains, “I am very much thankful for the opportunity you have give this far. My business growth has tremendously improved by almost 20% since I joined Zidisha and I hope through your lending am going to go far and maybe become a lenders to help young Enterprise.”

Through her thriving business and strong work ethic, Jackline is setting a great example for her children, family, and community on what it means to overcome obstacles and to push forward. Even when she wasn’t afforded the opportunity to go to college, she continued to turn a challenge into an opportunity by starting a business and gaining her own experience.

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Would you like to empower an entrepreneur like Jackline? Make sure to check out our Browse Projects page to read about all of our other inspiring business owners around the world.

Zidisha has a new look

By Julia Kurnia, director

Nine years ago we disbursed our first loan in the Masai Mara region of Kenya, to a cattle herder living in a settlement too remote to be served cost-effectively by local microfinance organizations.  His village was not connected to electricity and the nearest bank branch was almost a day’s journey away by dirt road.  But using the new mobile phone payment technology that was emerging in Africa, we were able to transfer funds from the US directly to his cell phone.


Zidisha.org, 2009


When Zidisha was founded in 2009, the idea of connecting individual lenders directly to borrowers in developing countries without any intermediaries seemed far-fetched.  Though the internet was beginning to make possible direct communication with individuals living in the world’s most impoverished places, it was not generally believed that loans could be entrusted to people in low-income communities without the physical presence of a loan officer.  Since the cost of sending loan officers to visit communities is high relative to the small size of microloans, the world’s poorest entrepreneurs were paying the world’s highest cost for business loans.  This made it hard for them to access the capital they needed to create value and employment in their communities.

Zidisha was founded on a radical premise: that disadvantaged entrepreneurs in developing countries can participate responsibly in a direct online person-to-person lending community. Unlike other microlending programs, we do not maintain a network of branch offices and loan officers.  And unlike other charitable microlending websites, we do not outsource relationships with borrowers to local banks.  Instead, we offer a technology platform that allows our lenders and borrowers to interact directly.  This allows us to reduce the administrative cost of the loans dramatically, so that profits from Zidisha loans can be reinvested in the entrepreneurs’ communities instead of paying for organizational overhead.

Our entrepreneurs have proven time and again that our trust in them is well-founded, not only repaying their loans but also giving back to the community by serving as Volunteer Mentors to coach fellow borrowers in their countries.  One heroic Volunteer Mentor, Sammy Kanja, sold the dairy cow and donkey carts that were his family’s source of livelihood in order to obtain life-saving medical care for one of his Zidisha mentees.  Such inspiring stories are not uncommon in our community.


Sammy Kanja


We remain a volunteer-driven organization, with most of our day-to-day operations performed by generous individuals all over the world who contribute their time and energy to help borrowers interact with our platform, process loan payments and produce financial reports.  Our Burkina Faso lending program became large and successful thanks to the work of Mien de Graeve, who left a comfortable job in Belgium to spend a year trekking through desert villages, showing local entrepreneurs how to raise business loans via our website.  Many of our volunteers have worked with us for years, helping connect thousands of people all over the world to the resources needed to improve their lives.


The new house Zidisha member Siaka Toure built for his family in Banfora, Burkina Faso, using profits from a cassava-processing business made possible with a Zidisha loan.


None of this would have been possible without the boldness and generosity of our lenders, who every day reach out across immense barriers of geography, socioeconomic status and culture to connect directly with our entrepreneurs and join them on their journeys to achieve their goals.  Our lenders come from all over the world and all walks of life.  They all share the Zidisha community’s belief that all people, regardless of geographic location, deserve the opportunity to achieve their dreams.

We are so incredibly honored and humbled to serve this amazing community.  We are a technology organization, and we strive to support our community by providing the best technology platform possible and improving it constantly.

In recent years, lenders and borrowers have begun to tell us that the Zidisha website was beginning to look dated.  We knew that a more modern, professional design was important in making joining our community easy and inviting.  So six months ago, we embarked on an ambitious project to improve the visual design of our website.  We are excited to present the new design to you now.


Zidisha.org, lender homepage


The photo in the lenders’ homepage is of Ndeye Bineta Sarr, one of our members in Senegal whom I had the pleasure of visiting several years ago.  Bineta used Zidisha loans to acquire the sewing machines and materials she needed to turn her part-time dressmaking activity into a tailoring studio that provides employment to others and enough income to send the children in her family to university.  Her story has always been inspiring to us and illustrates the impact that we are always striving to make possible.


Zidisha.org, borrower homepage


The photo in the borrower homepage represents people coming together and supporting each other to achieve their goals.  We chose an image that was not specific to any particular nationality, gender, race or culture, in order to reinforce the message that at Zidisha, all responsible, high-achieving entrepreneurs are equally welcome.

The new design features a brigher, more varied color palette, reflecting the beauty and diversity of our community.  It showcases more photos of our entrepreneurs, and makes more use of modern web design features that facilitate access from smaller devices.  This is intended to make our website easier to use for both lenders and borrowers, who increasingly access Zidisha with tablets or smartphones.


Browse Projects



Loan profile page



Project Updates


Zidisha has changed a lot since our founding nine years ago.  Innovation is at the heart of our culture, and we will continue to improve our technology platform as we learn and grow.  But our commitment to bridging barriers and connecting people has remained constant from day one.  Our new design is intended to embody ever more faithfully our vision of a world where people everywhere reach out and connect with each other, and where geography is no longer an insurmountable barrier to achieving one’s dreams.

A Budding Bead Maker

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Gloria Agbadi is a 19 year old college student from Ghana, currently in her second year of studies for Biomedical Engineering at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Ghana. Before college, she received her primary and junior level education at St. Mary’s International School and Better Best Academy. Then, she continued to high school at Achimota Senior High School.

When she’s not studying engineering, she has a creative side with a passion for fashion and colors. This led to her side business of jewelry making. She shares that, “Bead making is an indigenous activity in Ghana and beaded accessories are an irreplaceable item in our cultural dressing. Growing up in a country like mine where graduate unemployment is on the rise, I decided to turn my interest in bead making into an employment opportunity for myself and others.”

Through her business, Gloria is able to promote African fashion, especially jewelry and accessories. Over time, she hopes to expand her business worldwide to become a top beaded accessory production company.

So far, Gloria has successfully raised four Zidisha funded loans, which is impressive considering that she has only been a part of the Zidisha community since January 2018. With her first loan of $67 she was able to purchase a variety of beads, bead making tools, and other equipment.

A few short months later, Gloria was able to raise a second loan in March 2018 for $108 and used this loan for additional raw materials. With the remainder of the loan she started advertising to widen her market. With the additional materials, she predicted that she would be able to produce up to 150% of what she had currently been producing at the time.

On May 9, Gloria proudly shared an update on her discussion page, “I am very grateful for your support through my endeavour. I have been able to establish my business on social media with the previous loan offered. By this, I have expanded my customer base by 200% and increased profit by 300%. Production has also increased by 300%. God richly bless you for your contribution to this achievement! I am very surprised at the numbers that are willing to help support my business and dream..thanks for being a part of it.”

While the personal benefit is important to Gloria, she also sees her budding business as a way to contribute and hopefully employ her fellow community members as she explains, “This loan will help me create a job opportunity for myself and my community to help towards alleviating unemployment in my community. I hope to employ another to join in the production process creating employment opportunities in the end.”

With the help of her first two Zidisha funded loans, Gloria was able to gain additional publicity and also worked to expand her social media presence. For her, mobile is a big part of her business as she says, “Most of my customers make purchases on social platforms and my mobile phone is the main tool for interacting… However I have lost touch with most customers since my phone has developed a fault… I need this loan to buy a new phone to interact with customers.” This problem led to her third Zidisha loan in June 2018 where she raised, $145.

Most recently, in August 2018, she successfully raised $138 from Zidisha lenders to purchase additional equipment including: drilling, cutting, and filling machines. She also felt that these additional tools would allow her to better customize her products for her customers as many of them love custom products.

Gloria 4

If you would like to follow Gloria or see more of her work, she has a Facebook page for her business called, “Des-Afric.” Or, if you’d like to support another student entrepreneur like Gloria, head on over to our Lend Page to read more about our other inspiring business owners.


Entrepreneurial Genes

Linus 3

By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Linus Obiero was born and raised in the Nyanza region of Kenya. He shares that this area is “predominantly occupied by the Luo culture, known to be pleasure loving and not business oriented.” Even so, Linus had the good fortune to be raised by entrepreneurial parents with established businesses. This allowed Linus to get experience working in a business from a young age.

In addition to his entrepreneurial skills, Linus also has a great education with a degree in Applied Statistics with IT. Until recently, he worked for a local NGO as a Data Officer. Since changing positions, he now works as a Social Worker at Oyugis Redeemed Gospel Church with a Compassion International assisted project. He explains, “I implement programs that are aimed at holistic child development among the poorest children in the oyugis community.”

As a side business, Linus also owns a stable liquid petroleum gas supply business which he has been able to grow solely through his Zidisha loans. He also owns a motorcycle which allows him to facilitate restocks and home deliveries.

Linus shares an update as he explains, “Following a recent relocation to Oyugis town due to change of jobs, I have since established another branch of the business in town (the one in the village maintained). Although there exists competition, I have an added advantage since I do doorstep delivery and have a measuring scale to verify weight of cylinders at the point of delivery. This strategy is working well and within just two months, my stock base is already being overwhelmed by the client base. I therefore seek to double my operating stock.”

He is currently able to earn about $120 per month and is looking to hire an assistant to help with the growing demand.

In addition to a busy work life, Linus also has a wife and a young son and also enjoys playing the keyboard explaining, “I love to play piano keyboard and bass guitar, and this makes Sunday my best day of the week, as I get to serve with my skills during the worship service in my local church.”

Linus has been receiving Zidisha funded loans for a little over a year, starting in June 2017 with a $99 loan. He used his initial loan for travel expenses as he traveled to meet with future suppliers.

Linus 5

Later in 2017, Linus raised two additional loans in September and December, the first for $149 and the second for $596. With his September loan, he purchased some stock of LPG cycliners with burners and grill. He explains, “The inventory will function to start up the business and warm up the market as I progress to build up more stock. I expect to net $5 per cylinder.” Once again, with the December loan he was able to restock his inventory.

So far in 2018, Linus has received two Zidisha funded loans for $295 and $444 in May and then in July. As he prepared to increase his inventory he explained to lenders the importance of his business and why he’s doing it. He shared that without this business his fellow community members would need to travel 50 kms to another town to purchase these products. He also hopes that he will soon be able to achieve another goal which is to one day sponsor a needy child in his place of work.

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With his most recent loan, in July, Linus used this as an opportunity to expand his Oyugis branch of his business. He purchased 10 additional units of the 13kg cylinders and 5 additional units of the 6kg cylinders. Furthermore, he shares the continued benefits as he tells lenders:

Increasing my stock has the following benefits:

  • Safely and efficiently meet growing customer demands.
  • Increase revenue and profits (from $120 per month to $150 per month) due to more sales.
  • Increase the business capacity to employ an assistant.
  • More profit for me, means I will be better care for my first born as he arrives in August.

Linus 6

Recently, on August 27, Linus shared this exciting update on his discussion page, “Dear Lenders. Thank you indeed for having funded my previous loan. I managed to increase cylinder stock and hire an assistant. In the long run, it resulted in increased revenue. God blessed me with a son this month (an heir to this business). Preparing for his coming was a lighter task since there has been better flow of income from the business, to support my salary. I am therefore a happy father and a thankful member of the Zidisha community. May the Lord richly reward all my lenders.”

Would you like to fund other entrepreneurs like Linus? Head on over to our Lend page where you can read about dozens of other inspiring business owners like Linus.


The Ultimate Customer Experience

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By Betsy Ramser Jaime

Willy AmbaniI is a thirty three year old Kenyan man. As a husband, and the father of three children (two girls and one boy), his business allows him to provide for his young family. Currently, two out of his three children are old enough to attend school. As a child, Willy attended Kakamega Township Primary school and Lumakanda Boys Secondary School. Beyond that, he was not able to continue his education as both of his parents passed away and he found himself needing to start working right away. Through hard work and determination, he was eventually able to buy his own taxi which has now become a successful business for him.

Willy shares, ‘I would like to work harder so that my children can have a better life than mine. I have passion for cars; that’s why I went for driving as my job.’

Zidisha borrowers like Willy are able to do so much with so little. Willy entered the Zidisha community with a $5 loan and in the span of one year, he was able to go from $5 dollar loans to loans of $130.

With that initial $5 loan in August of 2017, Willy was able to purchase a spare wheel for his taxi. Shortly thereafter, he requested a second loan in August, this time for $8 which he put towards a new car battery for his taxi. He explains, ‘When I buy the battery I will be able to increase my daily income by a good margin.This will enable me to cater for my family and transport business without any alterations.’

As Willy continued to grow his business, he started to think about the customer experience and what he could do to please his customers and receive repeat business and referrals. With this, came the idea to purchase shock absorbers. With the help of a $26 dollar Zidisha loan, he put this idea into action. He anticipated that this would result in a smoother ride when picking up clients in parks or on rough terrain.

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By the end of 2017, Willy was continuing to think ahead. He found that he would need to replace the two back tires of his taxi and that a repaint was also in order. He hoped that this loan would improve the aesthetic appeal of his taxi, thus, increasing his sales. Even in a few short months, Willy was impressed with his Zidisha lenders as he says, ‘I am very much pleased with my lenders because since l started with you my progression in life has really changed.’

In March 2018, Willy found a way to expand his reach, as he registered to join Uber. A few months later, in May, he used a $80 loan from lenders to purchase a new radiator, which he explains, ‘The new radiator will protect my car engine since the old one makes my car overheat.’

By the time that June rolled around, Willy was excited to raise the funds for his largest loan yet. With a $130 loan from lenders, he purchased a new set of shock absorbers and seat covers. A few months later, in August, he raised a second $130 loan which he used to purchase a pair of ball joints and a new steering rod.

Willy 2 ball joints and steering rod

To update his lenders, on August 2, he enthusiastically shared this update on his discussion page, ‘The new seat covers have really made my customers delighted, this has enhanced a good relationship between me and my clients I made $56 daily this week since I was hired by Azan Engineering Company to carry their staff to a trade fair in Nairobi.’

Willy 5 seat covers

When Willy first started partnering with Zidisha he wrote these words on his page, ‘I would be grateful if you help me fulfill a dream of taking good care of my wife and children.’ Through his passion and love for customer service, Willy has worked hard to live out this dream each day. And in the same way that he cares for his family and customers he shares with his lenders the same encouragement, ‘Business is good. I thank God for everything. May he bless my lenders.’

Would you like to empower an entrepreneurial family man like Willy? Don’t forget to head on over to our Lend page to read about our other inspiring entrepreneurs who are transforming their families and communities.