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"Diversifying Strategies", From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

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Venture is a rich and readable collection of true microfinance stories. It is written for anyone who would like to better understand the realities faced by the the aspiring middle class in the world's least developed countries, the range of factors that affect their prospects for working their way out of poverty, and how microfinance can impact their lives.

The entrepreneurs featured in this book are all members of Zidisha Microfinance, a web-based crowdfunding platform that allows low-income, computer-savvy entrepreneurs in developing countries to share their stories and negotiate microloans directly with individual lenders. As the world's first person-to-person lending service to eliminate intermediaries and connect individual web users and entrepreneurs across the international wealth divide, Zidisha is uniquely positioned to offer an undistorted depiction of the variety of individual stories and circumstances that come to play each time a microfinance loan is disbursed.

Each story paints an unforgettable picture: A 70-year-old goat farmer who relocates his home to better care for his ailing father, carrying the sticks and metal sheeting it was made from across the mountains on his back. A plump, beaming detergent saleslady who lives in a home no larger than an ordinary bathroom but has adopted five orphans. A cancer survivor who supports herself and two children by pounding millet for $1.58 per day. An irrepressible lady who supplies half of her neighborhood with much-needed IVs and other medical supplies by day, and by night checks into the local cybercafe to chat with Facebook friends on the other side of the world. A young man who has no arms but insists on working to support his able-bodied parents out of filial duty. An accounting student who pays for his university tuition by purchasing a taxi and splitting proceeds with a hired driver. A bright young lady who renounces college to care for her orphaned siblings and overcomes gender stereotypes to launch a thriving construction business.

At its heart, "Venture" is a tribute to the remarkable community of Zidisha Microfinance entrepreneurs and countless others like them -- a tribute to their grit, ambition and indomitable spirit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. We hope this book will help translate the statistics about poverty and the opportunities afforded by microfinance into human terms, and inspire readers to reach out and connect with their counterparts on the other side of the international wealth divide.

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Story 18: "Diversifying Strategies"

Dorcas Wambui runs two different businesses in Kiptangwanyi, Kenya. During the week she sells vegetables in the town market, but on Saturday she transforms her stand into a secondhand clothing boutique.

Saturday is the big market day in Kiptangwanyi, when many traders and farmers congregate to sell farm products. To avoid the tough competition with these other sellers, Dorcas decided to sell clothes on Saturdays instead of vegetables. She finds ready customers in the rural residents who have cash available from their own produce sales. As a result, she sometimes manages to make more profit on a single Saturday than during the whole week. At the same time, combining two different activities helps to suppress the effect of these businesses cycles on her revenue and to maintain profit relatively stable over the year.

After receiving her loan of $919, she decided to invest half of the money in her clothes business and to send the other half of the money to her first-born son, who runs a similar shop in Nairobi. This allowed her to reduce the risk of the investment and help her son at the same time. They both used the loan to increase their stock.

Dorcas has eight children, two girls and six boys. Her daughters are already married and have moved with their husbands to another part of Kenya. Her two older sons are now working in Nairobi, so she has only to support her four youngest sons, two of whom are students.

Before joining Zidisha, Dorcas was a client of another organization that requested 24% interest. The high interest charges made it very difficult for her business to be profitable enough to grow or to pay for her children's education. She is very thankful to lenders to have helped her so much. She says that things are getting better for her now and that she hopes that Zidisha will help her to grow her business further.

Dorcas is a very likable women, constantly smiling. I always had the impression that she was about to tell me a joke.

Dorcas' Words:

Hallo all lenders and the whole of Zidisha team. I am doing fine and my family is doing well too. I received my loan and I have already added stock in my business. I would like to thank Zidisha for such a great opportunity in our lives. They are really a blessing to us. Long live Zidisha and all the stakeholders.

You may view more comments and photos of Dorcas at her Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 18 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time:Father of ten, church pastor, entrepreneur and artist: the story of a modern Kenyan renaissance man...