Julia stopped teaching to sell school items in her own shop

Julia (55) lives with her husband and four children in Kitengela town, Kajiado County, Rift Valley Kenya. Before starting her own business, Julia was a primary school teacher until 2002. She stopped teaching after her maternity leave, to be able to work from home and attend to her young children as needed. She started her business journey by operating a grocery shop using her own savings. In 2005, she decided to rent a shop inside Kitengela market to sell school-wear i.e uniforms, school bags and household items such as pillows, bedsheets, mosquito nets and blankets.

Introduction to ASA Kenya

In January 2018, she was introduced to ASA Kenya by a friend who was operating a hotel business near her shop.

“At that time, I was in need of some finances to increase my stock and make more sales during the school opening period when customer traffic is high.”

She was briefed by her friend on what was needed to receive the funding from ASA and was convinced of meeting the requirements. She approached the loan officer her friend recommended and expressed her interest to join ASA Kenya. Julia successfully registered as a group member in February 2018 after the Loan Officer and supervisor visited her business and residence. She received her first loan of KES 20,000, which she used to acquire more stock for her shop.

Business stability

Julia is satisfied she experiences minimal stress in repaying her loan. She is able to acquire funding for her business stock regularly and on time which enables her to meet the market demand, pay her business bills and also have enough money left to save and use for personal and family needs.

“My business has grown steadily since I started operating. I am grateful to be part of a platform where women in business can access funding when they need it.”

She considers the method of disbursing money to her phone to be very convenient and is happy with the weekly loan repayment schedule, allowing smaller installments than with a monthly schedule.

Julia used part of her loan to buy a fridge which she uses to store soda and drinking water to sell to customers, hence earning her more income, while keeping operational costs low.

Challenges and ambitions

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the most challenging experience for Julia since she started running her business, since it has meant less visits by customers in the market place. Julia is hopeful that the Covid-19 situation can be dealt with as soon as possible so that business can return to normal.

“When the pandemic started in March 2020, I realized more profit than my estimated targets because the demand was high from people who were moving their families from urban places to their rural homes. They believed that Covid-19 only existed in urban areas because of the dense population.”

“However, recently I observed that circulation of money is low since many people who lost their jobs (mostly the employed persons) have not returned to work or are on half-pay and therefore don’t regularly or hugely spend money.”

Julia’s future ambition is to acquire a bigger shop within Kitengela market so that she can fit more stock in order to meet customer demands during high sale seasons. Furthermore, she also thinks of introducing other goods and products that are often in high demand at the market such as cooking utensils.