By Betsy Ramser Jaime
Eric Ntonja, an entrepreneur from the Meru region of Kenya, is a recent university graduate, and budding entrepreneur. With three younger siblings, two sisters, and one brother, Eric works hard in his business to be able to help his mother and support the education of his siblings.
He shares, ‘I graduated last year in December from University and I managed to support my mum in supporting the education of my younger brother as mum is struggling to get in touch with the education system of the two sisters. Up to now they often depend on me in terms of food. And I hope we shall move on well despite the covid 19 epidemic.’
Eric started his business while he was still a university student, solving a problem that he noticed amongst his peers. He explains, ‘While I was in university, I could see and even experience other college students struggling in cooking. Some used charcoal of which is expensive and consuming. From the experience I managed to borrow some capital from my friend to start a business of selling gas cookers and refueling gas cylinders. From where the students hostels are located, it was a far distance to go and refuel or purchase a gas cylinder. So I started selling gas cylinders and refueling them from the shop I rented near the university gate.’
After operating for over a year, Eric is doing well in his business and has even started renting a larger shop. He was even able to repay the capital that he borrowed to start within four months.
Since joining Zidisha in 2020, Eric has been able to raise five Zidisha funded loans, raising $15 for his first loan. Finding that his services were in great demand, Eric set out to purchase additional gas cylinders to accommodate the increase in customers.
Shortly thereafter, Eric managed to raise his second loan, this time for $26, as he shared, ‘It’s with great joy for your previous boost on giving me a loan to add more gas pipes. This time I need to add gas burners which are in great demand. One burner costs $6.I0.’
Seeing success with his first two loans, Eric requested two more for $68 and $141, allowing him to increase his supply of gas cylinders to attract local hotels in the area. He also hoped to purchase a new product called Jikokoa. As he shared with lenders, ‘From the experience of some previous months, some of my customers keep requesting Jikokoa which is a modern cooking platform. It consumes little charcoal which is cheap. It mostly is preferable to some people who are not in a hurry, hence applied in cooking hard foods.’ At a cost of $35 each, Eric set out to purchase three ‘Jikokoa’s’ and five new gas pipes, costing $20 each.
With his loans thus far, Eric was in a good position to respond to his customers requests, increase his profit and his ability to re-pay his loans, and also employ an assistant to help with the business.
Most recently, in November, 2020, Eric raised his largest loan yet, $277. With new goals in mind, Eric set out to, ‘to conquer stiff competition, to satisfy customers demands, to attract customers hence reaching my target, and be able to make repayments on time.’
Eric also rented a motorbike for $30 a week, and hired an assistant for $20 a week, allowing him to offer free delivery to each of his customers during the pandemic.
In November, Eric wrote on his Zidisha discussion page, sharing his appreciation for the community as he wrote, ‘Zidisha always brings a smile on my face for great achievements!! I appreciate this family so much. The support upon my life has brought a great change. Thanks my lenders as you continue to fund my ongoing loan.’
Would you like to make a difference in the life of an entrepreneur like Eric? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to read about motivated Zidisha business owners around the globe.