THE BLOG

"Wasted Potential," From 'Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories'

03/08/2013 12:51 pm ET | Updated May 08, 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 22: Wasted Potential

Soda Ndiaye used her Zidisha loan of $691 to increase the inventory of bright batik clothing and handmade carrot- and honey-scented soaps, which she purchased from artisans in southern Senegal and sold from a small boutique shop in Dakar. She had built up a loyal clientele over the six years she had owned the shop, and this combined with an infusion of working capital from her Zidisha loan provided a comfortable living for Soda and her children, the oldest of whom attended a neighborhood private school.

Then without warning, her shop was demolished to make way for new construction to accommodate Dakar's rapidly growing population. With nowhere to go, Soda gave her wares to other retailers to sell on her behalf. Taking advantage of Senegal's weak legal enforcement, her former competitors did not pay her for the goods when they were sold as agreed. Her working capital and shop now gone, Soda was forced to resort to making sales door to door. This resulted in a substantial reduction in income.

Soda is a single mother still in her twenties, and lives with her mother. Soda is responsible for supporting her children as well as her mother, and she has not managed to make any loan repayments in over a year. Her daughter has been taken out of school for lack of money to pay the modest monthly tuition. Today Soda's business is almost moribund, and she relies on the help of charitable relatives and neighbors to support her family.

Soda's Words:

I am still having problems because I do not yet have a retail location and my business is not stable, and I am still having problems in that my children have not yet been able to attend school because we do not have enough money. I am living with my mother who is supporting me. I truly desire to repay my loan in order to have a clear conscience.

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

From Chapter 22 of Venture: A Collection of True Microfinance Stories by Zidisha Microfinance.

Next time:An inspiring story of a Kenyan social entrepreneur who leaves a comfortable private school job to launch a volunteer-driven preschool for Nairobi's poorest children...