Like many of our clients, Beatrice Wanja had a small business before she joined our programme. With three children ranging from nine to eighteen, it was important for her to be able to supplement her husband’s wage with a small market stall. Despite her energy and enterprise, by her own admission the success of the stall was originally limited. A lack of capital meant that Beatrice was only able to offer a small number of products and she often found herself running out of the more popular items due to limited stock.
Fortunately, Beatrice doesn’t live far from a savings group operated by Five Talents’ partner in Embu, Kenya. After being introduced by a friend Beatrice began to deposit small amounts of money into the group pot on a weekly basis and - equally importantly - began receiving business training from the savings group’s development specialists. Over the first few months, Beatrice picked and knowledge around recordkeeping, the saving and lending process, and other general business training.
“MY FAMILY IS ABLE TO EAT AND DRESS DECENTLY, I AM ABLE TO ASSIST MY HUSBAND IN PAYING SCHOOL FEES AND HAVE ALSO BOUGHT IRON SHEETS FOR A HOUSE WE ARE CONSTRUCTING. IN THE FAMILY, WE ARE ABLE TO DISCUSS ALL ISSUES TOGETHER AS A TEAM AND EXCHANGE IDEAS. BEFORE, IN THE CHURCH I COULD NOT DO MUCH BUT NOW I GIVE TITHE AND ASSIST IN FUNDRAISING.”
The first change that Beatrice made to her business was in record keeping. Like many small business owners in Kenya and the UK, balancing the books and keeping robust records wasn’t exactly a priority. It didn’t take Beatrice long to understand the benefits of reviewing income and expenditure to see which products are selling and which can be ditched: “I am able to keep a record of my daily activities and regularly bank my sale proceeds to avoid misuse of business money… I did not change my business but I have diversified it, now I sell milk, cooking oil in small quantities and kerosene to my customers.”
Beatrice’s entrepreneurial drive is clear, but so too is her community spirit. Although she didn’t trumpet this herself, the shop’s success has allowed Beatrice to become increasingly active in the local church as a member of the Mothers Union and a Sunday school teacher. She also contributes financially to the welfare of the church and the village development and has big plans for the future: “The program is good but I wish the coordinator could borrow more money to help us borrow three times of our savings. If I can get more money my business can help the orphans and needy in my neighbourhood.”
Here, Beatrice succinctly identifies one of the limitations of the group savings model. Even though large sums of money do accumulate over time (our Kenyan programme has seen members save over £1.9m together since its formation), the most driven entrepreneurs do require larger loans than the group can provide. To help meet this demand our local partners are exploring a financial tool called a Revolving Loan Fund that has been successfully implemented elsewhere in Kenya. Essentially, it’s a hybrid of the credit and savings-led models that allows long-term members to take loans from a larger source of capital. With an injection of outside capital, entrepreneurs can realise long-term dreams and the programme can improve its sustainability by charging interest - something that doesn’t happen when members are borrowing from each other.
This interview was conducted by members of the Embu team in Kenya. Find out more about how you can support entrepreneurs like Beatrice, either as an individual giver or as an organisation. There is so much you can do to help!