Mary Maina is a baker who lives Wangige, Kenya, a rural marketplace roughly 10 miles northwest of Nairobi. Back in 2014, she was a mother of two struggling to manage a tiny business all by herself. Armed with just a charcoal oven and a wooden spoon, Mary only had time to mix 2kg of flour a day before then having to bake her goods and get them delivered to her customers all by herself. And despite all of this back breaking work, she was having difficulty making ends meet. Her gross profits from the bakery were $311 per week, but with restock and living expenses equalling $375 per week, she was struggling to keep her head above water.
That’s when Mary decided to take out a loan with 4G (one of Seeds’ lending partners). For 20,000 Kenyan Shillings (KES), which is just shy of $200, Mary was able to purchase a 120 liter electric mixing machine that allowed her to say goodbye to the wooden spoon and increase the amount of bread she could bake each day 60 fold. The increased revenue generated by this one key investment, along with her spotless record of making her loan payments on time, qualified her for an even greater loan of 35,000 KES (approx. $330) in 2015. This allowed her to invest in some electric ovens, which increased her output and revenue enough to enable her to buy ingredients in bulk, effectively decreasing the overall cost of ingredients per unit.
And Mary didn’t stop there. This increased productivity gave her the chance to take out another loan in 2016 for 45,000 KES (approx $430), which she used to hire two employees, a chef and a packing assistant, the latter of whom made it possible for customers to come and pick up goods straight from the shop instead of Mary having to spend so much of her precious time delivering them herself. With this extra help, Mary no longer had to worry about wearing all the hats and was now able to focus on simply running the business. And not only did Mary have less work to do, but with a 36% increase in revenue and a 146% increase in profit (now $736 per week), Mary’s head was now comfortably (and more important, sustainably) above water.
Today, Mary’s business is thriving and she can reliably pay for all of her family’s needs, including clothes, food, and school fees for her children. Her story is just one example of how an infusion of capital that might seem humble to many of us living in the West can be a life changer for someone like Mary. Contributing to microloans like these are a practical way that people like you and I can make a significant and sustainable difference for the Marys of the world, and it’s stories like hers that continue to encourage us at Seeds to keep doing our part.