Started Her First Business in 2013
It’s late afternoon when Dinah Cherlonlaten greets us from the entrance of her compound in Soy, Kenya. She’s dressed in a purple shirt which complements the green painted letters on her house that read MPesa. She has a welcoming smile and a calmness about her demeanor; right away I can sense that she’s dependable and trustworthy. She leads us to a side of the house to view her motorbike that’s parked under the shade of a tree. She informs me that the bike helps her generate money; she employs a man to ride it, a service that provides transport for community members. We depart the motorbike and Dinah welcomes us into her home where cement floors and comfortable seating await us. There are colorful posters on the white cement walls that have numbers one through ten printed in a bold font. There’s a poster with the human body drawn out and each body part is clearly marked in English. Lace doilies have been carefully draped over the couch cushions where we are welcomed to sit.
Six years ago, after receiving business training from Village Enterprise, Dinah started a shop where she sold sugar, soap, and vegetables. The shop was an extension of her house with a small window at the front where customers were welcomed to peer into the room and place an order. But after some time, Dinah and her business partners realized that there were many small shops in the vicinity, which meant they had competition. They decided to switch gears and diversify. This is when Dinah became employed by MPesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer, financing, and microfinancing service that widely used in Kenya and Tanzania. Through this job, she makes $120 per month. In addition to this, she makes about the same amount each month from her motorbike service.
Before Nelson, a Village Enterprise business mentor, came to Soy, Dinah’s circumstances were difficult. As a widow, she had the responsibility of raising her five children, prepare meals, hand wash the laundry, and earn money to support everyone. She was very thin and depended on others for help. But after Nelson came to her town and introduced the Village Enterprise program and she went through the trainings, started a business, and began saving money, her life changed. She became financially independent, an accomplishment that has brought her the most pride. “People are seeing me as someone who has things. People see me as a person who has changed,” Dinah declares.
Dinah changed her life. She took the information she learned from Nelson and used it to alter her circumstances. Once she had some money saved and could begin thinking about more than her next meal, things became possible. The first thing she did with her savings was cement the floor of her house. This was a big achievement and produced a living space that was clean and free of uninvited bugs and dirt. Some other things she’s been able to do due to her business and savings are purchase a TV so she can see what’s going on in the world, buy land where she grows corn for her family’s consumption, and afford the most expensive school uniform shoes, known as Tauphees, which are $20, equivalent to two large bags of corn. “I don’t know where I’d be with Village Enterprise. Probably someone useless in the community,” Dinah expresses.