Building Better Futures from the Ground Up February 27, 2015 by Nick Johnson
Starting from scratch is never easy, especially when opening a business or any other income-generating enterprise. Rebeccah and Josephine, both small business owners in Kibera, learned this quickly after setting up shop in Kibera.
Rebeccah grew up in Nyamira County, Kenya, a rural area near Lake Victoria that she describes as “very underdeveloped” and without infrastructure. When she moved to Kibera, she decided to begin working towards her long-term goal to open a restaurant. Rebeccah knew she had to start small; at the moment, she owns a chapati shop called Mama Chapo (chapati is a flatbread made from wheat flour that is a staple side dish in Kenyan cuisine). “I started this business 4 years ago to sustain my family,” she says, proudly. “I plan to have a restaurant after growing my chapati business.”
Over the past 4 years, Rebeccah says her biggest challenge is finding enough capital to really make progress towards saving for her restaurant. In order to get some ideas, she reached out to staff at CFK. Rebeccah first got involved with CFK as a Community Health Worker (CHW), assisting with health outreach projects that CFK organized. When other CHWs in CFK connected her to the Economic and Entrepreneurship Department, she took the opportunity to ask the CFK staff for ideas about how to help her business grow.
That’s how she learned about Kiva Zip, an online micro-lending platform that connects entrepreneurs in search of a micro-loan directly with lenders from all over the world. CFK acts as a trustee for local entrepreneurs like Rebeccah by endorsing them and their business. Since July of 2012 (when CFK entered into partnership with Kiva), CFK-endorsed entrepreneurs, including Rebeccah, have re-paid 95% of loans successfully. Through her loan, Rebeccah has begun offering service for MPESA, a Kenyan company that allows money transfers over mobile devices to supplement her income from chapati sales.
Josephine’s story is similar. She grew up in the Nairobi neighborhood of Jamhuri and is no stranger to city life. She says that her focus is simply to give her 4 children a good education. Josephine owns a fashion boutique called Pambo, where she sells handbags and women’s dresses made with patterned fabric called kitenge. The store provides her family’s main source of income, which can be challenging since business isn’t always steady. “My biggest challenge is that the business tends to be seasonal,” she admits, “so my immediate goal is to diversify my stock.”
Also a CHW, Josephine heard about Kiva Zip in the same way as Rebeccah. Volunteering as a CHW helped connect Josephine to friends, fellow community members, and more customers. Through her Kiva Zip loan, Josephine has added clothes and shoes to her assortment of products, in an effort to cater to different groups of people. In this way, she can ensure that she has something for everyone throughout the year.
Both women feel that taking out loans and expanding what they offer to customers have improved their immediate lives greatly, while they have also helped them take the next step towards achieving their long-term goals. Rebeccah and Josephine know that building their futures is difficult when doing so from the ground up, but with support from Kiva Zip, CFK, and others in their community, they are building them brick by brick.