By Betsy Ramser Jaime
Alex Kioko was born and raised in Makueni County in the Mwisini Village in Kenya. Describing his home he shares, ‘It’s hot and dry, and the people who live in this area are poverty-stricken. All the river sources are seasonal. Growing up, I didn’t have even the privilege of nature favoring me. I walked to school for kilometers barefoot and the ground was ever so hot. In my family, we only had two meals each day. Education was a challenge. As a child, my dream was to learn and know how to read and write in Swahili and in English. Because I didn’t have any materials to read, I would borrow old newspapers from a neighbor to practice my reading and to try to memorize new vocabulary. I learned a lot through the old newspapers.’
Through reading, Alex continued to learn about the world and about his country’s political environment. He says that he loved reading because ‘I felt connected with the world.’
Today, he enjoys growing his business and spending time with his wife and son.
To describe his business he explains, ‘My business is a mini kiosk where I retail consumables to the people who live around Hinga Road. My shop retails sugar, rice, salt, baking flour, ugali flour, and packed milk. This kiosk has everything a client would need for breakfast, lunch, and supper. I have created a great clientele base. They rely on my services and products on a daily basis.’
Alex has over 200 customers and puts in long hours, operating from 5 in the morning until 11 at night. Through his business, he is able to support his family, pay school fees, and for necessities like food and rent.
Since joining Zidisha in 2015, Alex has raised almost a dozen loans. Starting in August 2015, he raised $100 and $187 to purchase bulk quantities of sugar for his shop as he shares, ‘My clientele they all use sugar in the morning for breakfast and at 4 pm for tea, among other items sugar is one of my fastest moving products and is profitable, if I spend 6130kshs to buy the stock I will make 3000kshs as profit within 2 weeks.’ He also bought 40 bundles of ugali flour since ugali is a staple food for most people in Kenya.
Throughout 2016, Alex raised three Zidisha-funded loans for $373, $562, and $842. He focused on buying products that last at least two months like oil, diapers, and flour. This was also the year that he set out to expand his business by opening a second location. In doing so, he was excited to create a job opportunity in his community as he would need to hire someone to run the second location.
In October 2018, Alex set out to raise his largest loan yet of $906 as he identified and hoped to solve a problem in his business. He writes, ‘The loan is going to help boost my current business because of the need to have the cooking oil sold in small quantities. In the informal areas where I run my business in Kangemi people are moving towards using liquid cooking oil, and I have noticed how inefficient I am when I measure with a measuring cup a lot of it spills over. I want to purchase a vending machine that measures the quantities of cooking oil from as low as 10kshs all the way to 100kshs, and the job of the machine is to measure and bring the exact amount of the values of the money inserted in the machine, the machine will cost me 90,000kshs to purchase it new, to install it will cost me 15,000kshs, to get my first stock of oil into the machine will cost me 6000kshs. This machine is going to add value to my current business and my wife is going to run it and see to it that customers get value for their money and they keep coming.’
From 2019-2022, Alex has been able to rely on his Zidisha lenders to help him keep his business fully stocked with maize flour, milk, oil, diapers, rice, and more. This has had a tremendous impact on his business, allowing him to bypass middlemen and buy bulk quantities directly from suppliers, providing big cost savings.
Would you like to make a difference in the life of a Zidisha entrepreneur like Alex? Make sure to head on over to our Browse Projects page to check out other amazing businesses and business owners in the Zidisha community.
Betsy is a Writer and Editor living in Florida with her husband. She has been writing with Zidisha for 5 years and loves sharing the inspiring stories of Zidisha entrepreneurs. You can connect with her on her personal website.