business development

Celebrating Growth: Five Talents' Board Chair Reflects on Latest Kenya Visit

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I recently returned from an incredible trip to Kenya.

The purposes of the trip were to participate in the launch of Five Talents Kenya, to hold our regular Five Talents International Board Meeting, and to see the progress made in our programs (specifically our Kenyan programs) to date. We participated in a number of meetings and celebrations, but the highlight of the trip came when we were able to visit clients on their home ground and see the amazing transformation that has occurred in the lives of the people touched by this ministry.

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Monday, March 7 was our first "official" day, and was taken up by our FTI board meeting, where we reviewed the progress of our programs world-wide, with a particular emphasis on our African programs. Although our programs are strong, we continue to be concerned about our ability to keep functioning in conflict areas, especially in Burundi and South Sudan. That said, it continues to be a source of great inspiration to see how our clients are able to keep operations running in the face of such hardships. As the Bishop of Juba told our Program Director, "Your friends come and visit when you are sick."

On Tuesday, we celebrated the launching of Five Talents Kenya, in a ceremony attended by five Kenyan bishops and an enthusiastic crowd. It was more of a worship service than a business meeting, and reflected our hopes for a bright future for FTK.

The highlight of the day, however, was our visit to "the field" that afternoon. We were able to see the Thungururu Community Bank in operation, and were able to meet Monica, a Five Talents client who used a small (approximately $50) loan to develop a thriving petrol station. We learned that there are now over 40 small businesses operating in the community!

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On Wednesday, we travelled to two separate locations to see possibilities for additional expansion. My team went to Mbeere Diocese, where we learned that they are already starting savings groups in anticipation of Five Talents, and have over 8000 people lined up! Their drive is amazing!

Our group had the easier day, as we only had to drive for two hours over some really bumpy dirt roads to get to our meetings. It is easy to forget how challenging the logistics can be in this part of the world!

A personal highlight for me was the opportunity to meet with a young man by the name of Robert Martin. He introduced himself to me, and reminded me that he attended a seminar that I taught in 2012 on business, which emphasized Christian business principles. He is a teacher, and now has a thriving poultry business as well. In addition, he serves as the chairman of the board for the Community Bank! He credits us with giving him the skills and inspiration to start his business. Although I think he gives us too much credit, it is indeed inspiring to see what he has done with a little training and a lot of ambition!

Once again, I came away in awe of these people, and what they can do with just a little assistance from us, coupled with their own innate dignity and drive. It is a humbling experience to be a small part of this ministry!

Jim Oakes serves as a Board Chair of Five Talents USA.

Photos by Joe Paulini for Five Talents.

Sampson's Story: The Journey of Microfinance Business Development

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Sampson grew up in an agricultural community amidst fields of maize, coffee, pineapples, and beans.

 While there are a few larger plantations in the region, most residents of Sampson's community are small-scale farmers. They struggle to eke out a living and meet basic financial needs. Many keep poultry or livestock to feed their families. A few sell in the local markets, but many business opportunities are yet to be explored. Development and escaping poverty are on everyone's minds.

With few formal jobs, lack of capital, and limited financial services, many young men in the region don't think small businesses can work. They turn to crime. Unemployment and alcohol abuse are rampant.

Sampson's story took a different turn. At the encouragement of friends and his local church, Sampson joined a Five Talents savings group. Here he learned financial management and business skills. He also gained access to savings and loans.

With advice from his group leader, Sampson took a loan of 50,000 Kenya Shillings ($500) from the community savings and used it to buy a small business for animal feeds.

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He began sourcing and selling products to small farmers, quickly paying back his loan and using profit to further develop his business. Many of his neighbors were losing animals to disease or malnutrition. Sampson hopes to help these farmers protect their assets and strengthen their community.

Last year, Sampson took a larger loan of 120,000 Kenya Shillings ($1,200). He has been faithfully paying back and continuing to grow his business. Sampson has also been using his profits to construct and develop at home.

"I hope to do big things through our bank", he says.

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The Thurunguru Community Bank is the third community bank opened in partnership with Five Talents and the Diocese of Thika. Its members now have access to a variety of financial services including savings accounts and educational, business, and emergency loans. The community bank is a source of pride and signals new opportunities for the residents of Thurunguru.

Learn more about Five Talents programs in Kenya and help more entrepreneurs like Sampson.

Make a gift to Five Talents today!

Photos (from top) by Joseph Paulini: Sampson welcomes bank and community leaders to his shop, Sampson serves customers, A collection of animal feeds ready for sale inside the shop, Members of the Thurunguru Community Bank Make a Transaction.

Hamida's Story: More than a Survival Business

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Here's an example of a micro-enterprise that has matured and expanded beyond what is sometimes called a "survival business." This stand in Iringa, Tanzania, is owned by a woman named Hamida and offers everything from soda pop to fresh fruit and vegetables.

Hamida was one of the first clients of Five Talents' partner in Tanzania, Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF) having joined in 2006.

Following the tragic death of her husband she had to find a way of supporting her children.

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After attending a local meeting and seeing how friendly it was she decided to join a group. She received business training and a first loan of $30. She used this loan to invest in her fruit and vegetable stall and pay for her son's school fees.

Over the years Hamida's business has flourished and she now generates daily income of between $9-12. She saves some of this money and invests the rest in her business. She is now a trusted client and recently took out a loan of approx. $600.

Hamida says she can really see the difference that the training and support make in her life. She can now meet all of her household expenses and send her children to school.

Hamida plans to focus on making her one business stable before opening her own clothing line in the town. She also hopes to one day see the house that she started with her late husband completed.

Learn more about our programs in Tanzania.

Photos by Adam Dickens for Five Talents.

Building a Veterinary Business in Kenya: Geoffrey's Story

A decade ago, two out of every three Kenyans made their living as farmers. While the numbers have changed slightly, the vast majority of Kenyans are involved in agriculture or animal horticulture.

This has meant good business for Geoffrey Mwangi (29), a qualified vet who also owns a supply shop that serves the local community of pastoral farmers in Kairi.

Although Geoffrey is single and has no children of his own, following his graduation from Veterinary College in 2010, he found himself supporting his parents financially. He also offered to help pay his sister's school fees. Even as a qualified vet, this was a strain on his limited finances, and when a friend asked him to move to Kiari to take employment as a sales representative in another veterinary practice, he jumped at the opportunity.

In Kiari, Geoffrey found himself attending the local Anglican church, along with many of his clients. It was here that he was introduced to TCDT, the local Five Talents partner programme, and given the opportunity to join the Trust Group and start saving small amounts on a regular basis. After six months he had saved approximately ksh50,000 ($500).

'Before joining the group, I had many financial problems because I had nowhere to start financially. The reason I started to save was to have my own business – this has always been my vision right from the start. This is what I started saving for. I did not have enough savings to get a loan from a bank but the microfinance programme helped me to save enough. Because my income was very low when I first left college and I needed a large capital I had to save bit by bit, in small steps.

I took my first loan in 2012 for ksh100,000 ($1,000). I then bought my first motorbike which I used it in my field work when serving my customers. There was a very high return, it made travelling around convenient and easy and I was enjoying having it. I was able to repay it within 6-8 months. During this time, I was still employed in the Veterinary shop as a Sales Representative.

After another 6 months, I borrowed another loan which I used to restock the shop where I was working. I think it was for ksh150,000 ($1,500). Once I had repaid that loan I borrowed another loan straight away for ksh120,000 ($1,200) and bought another motorbike. The first motorbike I bought is rented out as a Boda-boda to generate some more income. I rent it for ksh300 ($3) a day, and on average I rent it out 6 days a week as we do not work on Sundays.'

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In addition to access to loan capital and the resulting income streams, Geoffrey has also begun to receive small dividends from the group. These enabled Geoffry to earn an interest on his savings for the first time at a rate higher than savers in the UK can currently earn. And that's not all. Foundational business training is an integral element of each of the Five Talents programmes, and Geoffrey received a series of courses on financial literacy and business planning and best practice. In May 2014, following the completion of his financial training, Geoffrey took the plunge and borrowed ksh200,000 ($2,000) to start his own veterinary business. Members of the Five Talents team met up with Geoffrey during a visit to the area in November 2015.

'So far I think it has changed my life by 360 degrees. Everything that I have now can be traced back to the Trust Group. As a person who had no idea where to start, I was able to work and save enough to purchase my motorbikes and even get a bigger loan to start my own business. Now I am my own boss. I have also bought somewhere to build my own house.

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The best thing that I have learned from the group is that unity will give you a bigger step ahead rather than accumulating just your own savings. It is very hard to keep your own savings because at any time you can go and get them and misuse them. When you are part of such a group, you know that what you are borrowing is directed to a specific activity that you want to undertake, and that activity must be profitable.'

The World Bank estimates that 80% of sub-Saharan Africa is unbanked. This is sometimes because the bank is simply too far or expensive for them to reach. Low levels of education mean that many lack the ability to negotiate the complexities of a formal bank. In many cases, the bank views these people as simply too risky to work with. The impact of that even the most simple financial infrastructure on the lives of entrepreneurs like Geoffrey is clear to see. Learn more about Five Talents programs in Kenya.

Published by Five Talents UK. Images by Adam Dickens Photography.

Jeanine: Rural Business Development for Mothers in Burundi

Jeanine is a mother of three from rural Burundi. For years, she struggled to provide an income for her family by selling green vegetables at a local market.

Before joining a savings group, Jeanine admits that "my business was not well planned."

She lacked basic business knowledge and didn't understand savings or credit or how to plan for business development or unexpected events. After joining Five Talents program, Jeanine gained skills in business management and changed her business. Read more of Jeanine's story in her own words:

What was life like before joining a savings group?

"My life situation before joining the program was vulnerable because I was discriminated and rejected by my neighbours. I was suffering from lack of money to buy food, clothing for my children and I was very poor and I feared to be with other persons."

What type of training have you received and how has it affected you?

"[I have] received training about how to do the savings, credit, [and] manage a good business in honouring God. I thank very much the program activities. My family and the community have changed [with] improving relationships, knowledge, Biblical skills and income generating activities. I am the leader in our community about resolving problems and my husband needs my advices before making decisions of household income and expenses; imagine!''

How has your life changed since joining the program?

"My life since joining the program has changed [through] increased household income for my family. I became a business mother."

"Now I sell banana juice and I get benefit in order to satisfy my family's [needs]. Now I can buy high quality clothes for my family. . .school materials. . .and even gifts [for] birthdays and Christmas. . .My family is able to plan for medical fees and [for] ceremonies and social activities in the community. . .My business is progressing and transforming the community."

What are your hopes and dream for the future?

"My hopes and dream for the future is to improve my business and become a shopkeeper. [I want to] continue to involve other women in business activities, and [help them] make decisions about household income and an efficient participation in family life."

Help us empower more women like Jeanine. Learn how you can impact families across Eastern Africa.

Losing a Job to Start a Business: Tina's Story

When Tina lost her factory job in Jakarta, Indonesia, her children, Putri and Willy, also lost the funds they needed to cover school fees for books and uniforms. Tina, 40, needed to act fast.

While her husband continued his work as a driver in Jakarta, Indonesia's capital, Tina opened a small salon. Unfortunately, it was one of many in the neighborhood. While she was skilled in cutting and styling hair, her business did not survive, in part due to the cutthroat competition on her street.

So Tina took Putri and Willy with her to Cileungsi, a suburb of Bogor, which is about 60 km south of Jakarta. She once again set up a salon, and once again, it failed to generate any income. It was around this time that she learned about Five Talents' local partner in Indonesia, GERHATI. The project in Indonesia maintains three core programs that provide financial support, training, and technical assistance to poor entrepreneurs.

Tina joined the program and, before long, was able to take out a loan and invest in a business that GERHATI helped her to develop. With the microloan, she bought a small food cart and positioned it outside of a large school in her neighborhood. She stocked it with instant noodles, sodas, snacks, and sausages.

So far, Tina has been averaging a monthly profit of 200,000 Indonesian rupiahs, or $20. Most importantly, she is earning enough to cover her children's school expenses, which include the cost of uniforms ($60 a year), books ($10 per semester) and after-school care ($10 a month). Tina is also paying back her loan, while her husband's salary is used to pay for electricity, rent and daily needs.

Tina says that she wants her children to get the most out of school, so she does not ask them to do any housework. Her only request beyond studying hard? "Pray every day," she tells them.

Help more women like Tina escape poverty and build a brighter future. Your donation to Five Talents supports entrepreneurs with business skills training, savings group formation, mentorship, and financial services.

Beating Loan Sharks with Community Savings: Chandra's Story

Chandra has been a member of a Five Talents savings group in Indonesia for over five years.

 After losing her low-paying job at a local factory, Chandra struggled to support her three children. "I got laid off. I still remember at that time our family could not depend on my husband as he did not have regular income. I had no choice but to buy a sewing machine and started to receive anyone who wants to have their clothes altered."

Chandra worked hard to develop her business. Through Five Talents local partner, GERHATI, she received business development training including simple lessons in bookkeeping, marketing, creating a business plan, product development, and promotion.

As a member of a small savings group, Chandra also gained access to business capital through loans. While traditional lenders in the area charge interest rates of up to 800%, GERHATI's small groups offer business loans and cover the lending costs through value added training and skills development, paid for by the groups themselves.

As Chandra's business grew she dreamed of sending her eldest daughter to college. "We are not the rich who can bequeath things to children. I can only give her education."

With her most recent loan, Chandra purchased two refrigerators and began selling ice cubes. The expanded business has brought new income and opened new opportunities. "This job enables me to send my first child to college", she says with a smile.

Chandra is now the treasurer of her savings group and her husband testifies:

"I'm proud of my wife. She is wise and she teaches children to be spiritually strong and to work hard. We are glad that my daughter is graduating soon."

Five Talents is helping many like Chandra to access savings groups, loans and business training. Members gain knowledge and resources to start new businesses and build income.

Low Interest Rates Help Micro-Entrepreneur Launch Second Business

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Rukia in Tanzania wasn't about to take "no" for an answer. She had a hunch and she was going to see it through.

For a while now, the 54-year-old mother of three children in the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha had been selling chapatti, a kind of flat bread that originated in India. But with her brother's passing, she had to begin taking care of his two children as well. And the income from her chapati business just wasn't enough to put her brother's kids through school.

So Rukia had hatched a plan to start a second business – selling charcoal. Rising kerosene prices had given charcoal more appeal as a local energy source. The problem was that sellers like Rukia needed a permit from forestry officials to transport charcoal into town.

These permits don't exactly grow on trees -- at least, not in Tanzania.

But like a lot of determined entrepreneurs, Rukia kept pursuing the permit until, finally, it was awarded. She has since used loans from Five Talents and its partner, the Mama Bahati Foundation (MBF), to spark growth in the new business.

Besides paying for her nephews' school needs, Rukia has enough money to cover their hospital bills. What's more, she has continued selling chapatti because, she says, that business introduces her to new customers for her charcoal business.

She is now on her fourth loan cycle.

As a Muslim believer, Rukia is discouraged from taking loans with interest. But she has continued with Five Talents and its partner MBF in part because of the low interest rates.

"This makes Five Talents and MBF different from other MFIs, and this is why I am still with MBF," she told us. "Through [these] loans I have extended my support to my late brother's children and to my neighbors' who are in need."

Click here to read more about Five Talents' program in Tanzania.