“Life has improved”: Updates from Kenya Small Business Fund

“Life has improved”: Updates from Kenya Small Business Fund

Wambui is the local coordinator in Nairobi, Kenya. We spent a week together in July 2014 evaluating and improving our Small Business Fund program.

Exciting updates! Just yesterday I received a whole packet of business reports and new business plans from the latest 10 Small Business Fund grant recipients in the Korogocho area of Nairobi, Kenya. It’s thrilling to see our investment (in the form of small grants) making a positive impact in so many families!

Below are 3 updates from Wambui Nguyo, our Nairobi local coordinator, about groups that received their initial grants in September, and 2 profiles about groups that are just beginning this month:


God’s Favour Group – Tailoring Services

These are a group of friends and are still keeping the business strong. They bought a new sewing machine and added to their stock. Carolyne said they are able to pay school fees, eat better, and pay rent from their profits. Judy, who had taken her kids to stay with her mother in the village, said she will bring them back because life has improved. Alfayo, who is in high school can pay his school fees and meet his other needs.

Playstation Group – Video Game Cafe

Wako, age 17, the leader is so hard working. He bought a new game terminal for the Playstation. The other Small Business Fund women in the area (who would be Wako’s mum’s age) are so pleased with him. He is not engaged in drugs or alcohol like most of his peers. They are orphaned and Wako does care for his 6 siblings and takes care of them. Josephine [a leader in the community and a mentor/trainer in the SBF groups] adds that he was able to pay the exam fees for his siblings who are at Josephine’s school in the slum.

Imarisha Maisha Group – Grain Shop

Sarah the group leader could afford a smile. She no longer goes to Josephine to beg for some food for her and family. She is able to pay her rent and has not been locked out [because of non-payment] so far. She bought cereals [rice, beans, barley] with her grant and still sells by the roadside and at times takes them around to people to buy. She has the plan of adding plastic stuff like buckets and soap to add to her stock. [Tanya’s note: I wrote 2 weeks ago about how SIA Small Business Fund is specifically designed to get people out of cycles of begging. It’s so good to hear these stories of the grants doing just that!]


Josephine shows Tanya and Wambui the pot of beans cooking for the lunch meal for students at her school.

Josephine shows Tanya and Wambui the pot of beans cooking for the lunch meal for students at her school.

New Business Grants in Korogocho, Kenya

Wambui and Josephine met with five new groups on the February 26th, explaining about SIA and what is expected of them as they received their initial $100 grants. Here are profiles of two of the new groups:

Ebenezer Shop and Cafe

Pamela Anyango, the group leader, has a small shop and sells items like tissues, diapers and also cooks githeri (a dish of beans and corn) by the roadside. Her husband, Misael, is unemployed and looks for casual work. If in any particular day he does not succeed, he comes to help Pamela. Most of the time they rely on this small shop for the family income. With the grant, they will start cooking rice and sell it to school children over the lunch hour. She has done her research and feels this will be successful.

Mwangaza (Light) Shop and Cafe

Ann Ayuma is already in an existing business of cooking food from her house and taking it to the neighbouring town by motorcycle. She targets the construction workers over lunch hour. Her husband, George Mungai doesn’t have a permanent job – he works with a handcart to carry people’s luggage. With this grant Ann hope to get a place close to where she supplies food and add more foodstuffs. They have 5 children and 2 grandchildren in their care.


For more updates from Kenya:

Success Story: Fikani Bicycle Transporting Service

People hire bicycle ferries to ride across town (sitting on the back of the bikes) or carry goods like fertilizer and crops to/from market. The rough roads are hard on the tires.

People hire bicycle ferries to ride across town (sitting on the back of the bikes) or carry goods like fertilizer and crops to/from market. The rough roads are hard on the tires.

Business Members: Stanly Kumwenda (23), Janet Banda (20), Harry Kumwenda (child)
Product: Bicycle Transportation Services
Area served: Manyamula, Malawi
Received SIA grant: $100 on October 9, 2014
Profit after 3 months: $105

Stanly and Janet married young. His parents never had money for enough food or clothing for everyone. The newlyweds were eager to start a good life together and yet they faced many challenges. They came to Canaan Gondwe, Spirit in Action Small Business Fund (SBF) coordinator and mentor, for advice on building a more successful future for their family.

I kept on explaining about the God-given potential within us,” writes Canaan in his report on their progress. “I had series of talks, even citing some people in the village who had changed their situation for the better.” Stanly was an enthusiastic learner, eager to move forward and put what he was learning into action. Canaan talked to him about dreaming and visioning for the future, business research, getting focused, working hard, and also about “getting disciplined with any money that comes his way.”

Stanly, Janet, and other new grant recipients completing their business plans with the guidance of Canaan Gondwe (standing).

Stanly, Janet, and other new grant recipients completing their business plans with the guidance of Canaan Gondwe (standing).

Stanly likes bicycling and so Canaan told him about the Small Business Fund program and suggested that he start a transportation business to carry people and goods around the village on a bicycle. Stanly and Janet attended the official SBF Training sessions with Canaan and prepared a business plan together. When they received the first grant of $100, they went straight to buy their first bicycle.

Within three months of hard working, Stanly bought another “fairly used” bicycle to expand the business. He has recruited a friend to work for him – job creation! – and now two bicycles are on the road every day for the Fikani Bicycle Transporting Service.

Stanly happily reports an income of about $7.50-$12.50 each day! Canaan continues to mentor him about expanding the business and saving for the future. He is pleased with the family’s progress reporting that, “Stanly and the family are now food secure and are progressing well in life. They plan to buy iron roofing sheets and build a better house of their own soon.”

A step up with a small grant, dedication and hard work, and mentoring support all have helped Stanly and Janet build the life and business they had only dreamed was possible. A grateful Stanly writes that “God is gracious and faithful; I never expected such a turn around on my family.”

Rock on, Emmanuel!

Rock on, Emmanuel!
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Emmanuel’s band bought their instruments with a Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative low-interest loan. They have since paid it back, after playing gigs around the village.

“Feel welcome, feel welcome!” The band – with keyboard, a drum kit, and a whole line of singers – sang us into the full meeting hall.  The music, the dancing, the warm smiles certainly made us feel very welcome. Boyd and I settled in to meet and share with the members of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (formerly called the Manyamula Savings and Loans Group – MAVISALO) in rural Malawi.

“I  want to give a testimony of what this group has done for me.” The band leader, Emmanuel Cachari, declared.

DSC04386

Notice the “local looking” cymbal in the upper left corner of the photo.

“If you look closely at my musical instruments you will see that some look local and some look exotic. The ones that look local, that is my beginning.” Indeed, one of the cymbals on the drum kit was clearly a piece of pounded metal, with drilled holes to make the right kind of ringing sound.  The room filled with applause, celebrating just how far the group had come.

They band had been playing gigs at weddings and other celebrations, earning about $10 US Dollars per show. But their “local looking” instruments left something to be desired.

Then, Canaan Gondwe, the leader of the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative (which has received several SIA Community Grants) invited them to join the Cooperative. The band used the Cooperative as a place to save their earnings. Soon, they were able to receive a low-interest loan of about $280 to buy the “exotic” keyboard and drums. The change in quality of their instruments helped them secure even more gigs and now they have saved over $1,000 in earnings, even after paying back the loan.

The key to business is “hard work and focus,” Emmanuel confirmed to us. And the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative is a way for people to be able to expand their businesses and succeed through their hard work  – just as he did. “I hope many of us will change for the better,” he said of his 165 fellow Cooperative members.

Emmanuel finished his testimony by sharing a big dream with us: “I hope, in time, we will be visiting you in the U.S.” he said, as the room erupted with cheers and whistles of support. We look forward to rocking out with this band again soon!

More stories about the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative:

Meanly’s Family Farm

The crew of friends that joined us along the way during a day of site visits. Here they are enjoying a donut made by Meanly.

The crew of friends that joined us along the way during a day of site visits. Here they are enjoying a donut made by Meanly.

It was still morning on July 10th and we were already visiting our fourth Small Business Fund (SBF) family in Manyamula Village, Malawi. The morning started with me, Boyd (SIA Advisory Board member), and Canaan Gondwe (local SIA SBF Coordinator) in the truck, along with our driver, Mr. Mango. By the time we reached Chisomo Place, several more people had hopped in the back of the truck. Two more followed along on the Manyamula COMSIP Cooperative motorbike.

The crew of our escorts and on-lookers created a festive atmosphere around the site visits. They were there to see their friends from the cooperative, experience the exciting atmosphere of an international visitor, and to make sure we caught everything on camera.

Meanly shows us a bucket of donuts. She sells in the markets and to the local World Vision training center./

Meanly shows us a bucket of donuts. She sells in the markets and to the local World Vision training center./

Meanly Mbeye, a widow, runs Chisomo Place farm with her siblings, children, and elderly mother, a practice common on African small farms. Also typical, Meanly has pieced together several small enterprises to provide for everyone. Receiving the $150 SIA grant in 2013 helped to revive the family dairy production. They had a cow, but it desperately needed vaccines and better food. The grant went toward these necessities and now the cow produces enough milk to sell to surrounding families and to the local World Vision center.

In addition to the milk, Meanly also bakes and sells donuts four days a week, earning up to $120 each week. To help her with this work, she has hired another woman to help with the baking. SIA SBF owners are job creators!

The family cows, enclosed in a pen to keep them safe from disease.

The family cows, enclosed in a pen to keep them safe from disease.

Last week I talked about passing along the joy of giving. Meanly has not only hired another person to help with the business, she has also trained another woman, named Joyce Banda (but not the Malawian past-president!) in baking and marketing donuts. Joyce also received the gift of a bag of flour for her first round of baking.

Menaly with the Moringa trees around her family's farm.

Menaly with the Moringa trees around her family’s farm.

Another piece of the family investment is a small – and growing – Moringa farm. Del Anderson (SIA Founder) was really interested in the potential benefits of Moringa. Canaan remembered that and has encouraged people in his community to plant these fast-growing trees with leaves that provide countless medicinal and nutritional benefits. Meanly proudly showed us the 35 Moringa seedlings and Winkly eagerly picked and ate a few of the leaves. I tried a few too – not too bad tasting, and they’re good for you!

Meanly was delighted to be able to show us her thriving homestead. Canaan was pleased to share the accomplishments of the family he has mentored. And I was impressed to see Menaly’s strength and perseverance in the face of the needs of her large family. They received the grant less than a year ago and already they are reinvesting to expand their farm and create sustainable businesses. And they are able to provide better food and medical care for the whole family.

As we left, Meanly sent us (and the crew that followed us) a basket of donuts and “minerals” (soda) for the next visit. One more display of gratitude and generosity for the road!

Meanly with her family, including her elderly mother in the pink sweater, who has many health challenges.

Meanly with her family, including her elderly mother in the pink sweater, who has many health challenges.

Generosity is Catching

Sharing the Gift of piglets

These healthy piglets were raised by recent high school graduates, who received SIA grants. They are now ready to be shared to widows in the community.

Last week I heard another story of pay-it-forward generosity. A chain of 457 people each offered to pay for the drink of the person behind them at the Florida Starbucks drive-thru. There’s something about generosity. When we see other people giving we also want to give. My Facebook feed has been flooded (no pun intended) with buckets of ice water showing just how contagious and fun giving can be. When we see people who give, it creates a good kind of peer-pressure: the pressure to do good.

It is just this truth that underlies our “Sharing the Gift” initiative (or “Spread the Blessing” as one partner in Uganda called it). Families who receive SIA’s $150 Small Business Fund grants are receiving a huge act of generosity. I know our local coordinators are met with questions from the grant recipients about why people half-way across the world and from a country so different from their own would want to give them money to start a business.

It’s pretty amazing, really. Imagine getting a (legitimate) email in your inbox from someone – someone you didn’t know – who wanted to give you money. You might have questions, rightly so. Our Small Business Fund coordinators explain that SIA gives because we see potential in them and we feel compelled to help them improve their lives – to lead more stable and prosperous lives. The best grant recipients see and recognize this generosity and our honest intentions.

Winkly and his wife invited us in their home to tell how they both received and gave piglets through Sharing the Gift. They are proud of their brick house.

Winkly and his wife invited us in their home to tell how they both received and gave piglets through Sharing the Gift. They are proud of their brick house.

And so Sharing the Gift is a way for them to respond to that generosity. They have received. One year after receiving the grant, they are asked to also give.

That’s all a big preamble to say that Sharing the Gift – just like other acts of generosity – is contagious. When Small Business Fund families see other people giving, they also want to give.

Culture of Giving in Malawi

Years ago, Winkly Mahowe received a “Sharing the Gift” gift of a piglet from a neighbor. That was the start of Winkly’s SIA journey towards building a new house, expanding his piggery unit, investing in poultry. He has a life now that he is proud of. In July, with a twinkle in his eye and a huge smile on his face, Winkly told us how he has also Shared the Gift of a piglet to another family, who is starting their own piggery. He knows deeply what an honor and opportunity it is to receive a piglet through SIA Sharing the Gift, and he was so pleased to be able to pay-it-forward to another person.

Hi there piggy!

Hi there, piggy!

SIA Small Business Fund (SBF) in Malawi is full of Sharing the Gift moments. Visiting over 50 small businesses in Manyamula Village this summer I saw that there was a real culture of generosity in the community. People were proud to be able to share and give to others. And that pride was contagious. As Fikire Chima told us about sharing the gift of a piglet to a widow who lived nearby, she added solemly, “It is all thanks to Canaan [the SIA SBF Coordinator] who models generosity for us. If he was greedy, I would not have considered Sharing the Gift.” 

So there you go. When we see someone give, we want to give. When we have received a gift, we want to also share gifts. Perhaps this is a call to make your giving show, and to recognize the call to give when you see others giving. Maybe the next viral charity challenge will be to call on friends to live without electricity for 24 hours, or to hand wash your clothes – and then to support a SIA family with a small grant so that they won’t have to do those things anymore.

Read more stories of SIA generosity in Malawi:

Donate to SIA Small Business Fund here.

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