By successfully forming a group, ladies running micro enterprises in Nairobi’s central business district access government funding which is gradually transforming their lives
By Zeiytun Sharamo
More often than not, many people start self-help groups with a lot of enthusiasm but they fizzle out after a few meetings. Indeed, it takes a lot sacrifice in respect to time and resources to hold a group together over time. As a rule of thumb, members of successful groups should read from the same script. They are bound by a common goal and vision.
Defying great odds, Special Blessed Ladies Group has registered remarkable success in a business that many people shy away from – hawking. The ambitious group was formed in 2016 by eighteen members who came together to make their dreams come true. They started by saving small amounts of money together which they would share at the end of every year. In 2019, six members left the group just as it was planning on how to engage in ambitious projects. Among the twelve who did not throw in the towel, ten are physically challenged. Fortunately, they are assisted to visit various places in Nairobi by their able colleagues whenever a need arises.
Members of Special Blessed Ladies Group started their business journey by selling fast moving items like face masks and handkerchiefs in Nairobi’s central business district.
Partnering with the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF)
In 2020, there was a lockdown in many parts of the country in order to curb the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. Nairobi County was not an exception. This adversely affected the small businesses that were being run in the streets of Nairobi by members of this group. They ended up consuming their little capital. Fortunately, true to the adage that in every cloud there is a silver lining, they were introduced to the Women Enterprise Fund (WEF) by a Good Samaritan. That was a turning point in their lives.
Upon joining WEF, they were offered a three day training course on record keeping, savings and how to make wise investment decisions by an officer from the organization. That was the first time in their lives that they had got such exposure. Upon the conclusion of the course, they were awarded a certificate which they used to open the group’s bank account. The first loan from WEF was Kshs. 100,000. They shared it equally among themselves and paid it within a short period of time, making them eligible for the next loan amounting to Kshs.200, 000.
Armed with that kitty, they decided to grow their businesses. Some of them started selling padlocks, wallets, socks, inner wears and key holders while others ventured into the sale of earrings, watches, sodas and sweaters. They are able to hawk freely in the streets of Nairobi as they have a permit from the County Government due to their PWD status. Currently, their outstanding loan with WEF is only Kshs. 85,000. They are planning to settle it within the next four months in order to qualify for the next loan cycle which is Kshs. 350,000.
As they continue growing their micro enterprises, these twelve strong and ambitious women are looking forward to getting more funding from WEF. Within a relatively short period of time, their lives have been transformed by the timely intervention. In particular, they are now able to manage their money and enterprises better, after being trained to do so by WEF. `
Considering the fact that majority of these women are physically challenged, it is not easy for them to carry their merchandize from one place to another. They sometimes end up paying people to carry out that task for them at a daily cost of Kshs 100. Additionally, since their businesses are ran in the open air, they are exposed to the vagaries of weather especially when it is too wet or hot.
In the same breath, given their low levels of income, they are not in a position to let shops where they can run their businesses comfortably, especially when the weather is harsh. Hopefully, they shall be able to do so as their financial status improves.
These visionary and diligent entrepreneurs are determined to make a major breakthrough in their business. For instance, they are planning to start importing second hand clothes in bulk and letting shops where prospective customers can access them. In the same vein, they are planning to buy a piece of land in the outskirts of Nairobi collectively, which they shall in turn subdivide into plots and put up residential houses. Consequently, they shall stop shouldering the burden of paying rent. Finally, they are planning to venture into agribusiness by rearing pigs. Going by their zeal and financial discipline, achieving these goals is not a tall order.