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"The Right Tool Makes All the Difference" from Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories

05/10/2013 04:26 pm ET | Updated Jul 10, 2013

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.

Story 31: The Right Tool Makes All the Difference

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Stephen Maina is a carpenter in Kiptangwanyi, Kenya, and he used his Zidisha loan of $849 to buy a lathe machine. He used to work earlier with a simple cutting machine, with which he could cut wood but couldn't really give it any shape. With the lathe machine he is now able to make beds, tables, chair, doors and other wooden items on order.

Stephen's original plan was to invest some of the loan money to buy a carving machine as well, but he finally decided to increase his stock of wood and other materials instead. This proved wise because he has been receiving orders and keeping busy even without having the carving machine and will be able to pay back his loan easily. He will use his next Zidisha loan to buy a carving machine.

Stephen has five children. After his loan was disbursed, he found that the prices of the machine and materials he was planning to buy had gone down, and he used the remaining money to pay his children's school fees. His oldest son is in university, where he studies "computers or something to do with ICT." This son had studied in a public school and his performance was very good so Stephen has admitted another son into the same public school. He wants to educate his children and uses the extra income that the cheap Zidisha loan has made possible for him to fulfill this dream of his.

Stephen's Words:

First is to appreciate the Zidisha team and the lenders for the great job they have been doing. This have had a great impact on our societies, especially in the rural setting. I have come to realize that the funds lent does not only benefit the borrower alone but the community at large in one way or another. Out of the loan one can employ several people thus [combatting] unemployment in the country. Wish all of you a happy New Year...

Apart from workshop work, I am a farmer and that is why I am expecting to get much of the money from September onward to December, when we harvest our produce. During the month of May and June, most of my customers have invested much of their money in their shambas [small farming plots].

During the month of June I had a problem with my son who was fixed [framed] that he had stolen another student's laptop, who is currently now at Meru University College. It is a branch of Jomo Kenyatta University where he is doing ICT. After he was arrested by the police, he was taken to Meru police station, so in order to release him from the station I had to give out some money which really affected me during the month of June. So in order to enable him to continue his education, although I have to pay for that laptop as we had agreed with that student in September of KSH 45,000 [$562].

I would appreciate what lenders did to me, for lending me money without even knowing me because that money went to buying a machine, which is making a small profit. Secondly, it helped with my school children. I also got to transfer my little daughter [from] a public school to a private school. I learned it was better learning so I am very thankful for giving me your money. Secondly, I am very glad that I got some friends out there. I never had friends outside [Kenya], but I know I have some friends who are willing to assist any one in need.

You may view more comments and photos at Stephen's Zidisha Microfinance profile page.

From Chapter 31 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time:An indomitable businesslady who lives in a house the size of a bathroom but has adopted five disadvantaged children...