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How small loans are transforming businesses in Kenya's informal markets

By Wainaina Wambu | September 8th 2021
Allan Ochieng (right) and Edward Kwasi (center) have a discussion with Martin Wahuri, Equity Gikomba Branch Manager (left) at their second-hand shoes outlet in Gikomba. [Courtesy]

For a visionary entrepreneur, there’s no capital too little to take their business to the next level.

Take the two cases of Allan Ochieng and Lucy Muchira, small traders dealing in mitumba and vegetables respectively. The turning points in their businesses were from Sh30,000 loan provided by Equity Bank.

Back in 2009, Mr Ochieng was just another second-hand shoe retailer at a small stall around Nairobi’s City Stadium but now stands as one of the biggest mitumba shoes importers in Gikomba market – Kenya’s largest thrift market.

Back then, he used to buy from the wholesalers at Gikomba market running the business all by himself. Ochieng, a member of Sunlight Self Help Group, later moved to Gikomba market to continue the mitumba shoes business.

“I noted the rising demand for retail shoes and thus went for a credit facility (Sh30,000) to stock guaranteed by the group members,” he said.

Ochieng would also strive to diversify his business interests and ventured into events as a provider of Public address equipment, a business being run by the spouse.

“My business continued to grow as well as my customer base and I started delivery all over the country. My weekly savings in Sunlight Self Help Group have since grown one-hundred times from what I was contributing when I first joined the group,” he added.

Allan later realised a big opportunity to import the shoes by himself and in 2018 he took another loan facility and imported shoes from china, Taiwan, Hong Kong with the help of other wholesalers in the market.

This year, he also took another credit facility from the same bank which he used in the importation of the shoes.

Key wins 

Ochieng’s key successes have been the growth from retail to wholesale, business diversification from selling shoes to adding a second stream of revenue through his events business and personal growth. His chama weekly savings has grown 100 times.

Now, he has two big stores at Uhuru Market Jogoo Road where he keeps most of his stock to avoid the risk of fires that frequently erupt in Gikomba market.

“I can say that my major success has been expanding from retail trade to wholesale trade to supplying products countrywide and also having a strong financial advisory support from Equity Bank,” said Mr Ochieng. 

Employment creation 

The customer started his business way back in 2009 and by then he was running the business alone. He didn’t require any assistance then as the scale of business was small. Currently, he operates with the help of three employees.

He then started the event planning business which is managed by the spouse and hires casuals when there is an event.

Lucy’s journey 

Lucy began as a small scale pineapple seller at Migingo Market (Githurai 45) in the year 2000 to become one of the large scale suppliers and farmers of pineapples in Gatundu.

She joined Moda Youth Group. With the help of Moda Youth, she managed to develop a savings culture. She started with a loan of Sh30,000 and has continued to borrow and repay resulting in the growth of her business.

Currently, Lucy is servicing a loan which she ploughed into her pineapple farm. The client has continuously enjoyed Equitel services and she is doing very well.


Lucy has also grown her business from retail to wholesale and diversified from selling pineapples to growing the same and selling to other traders in Githurai.

She has expanded the business and is currently farming around 10 acres of pineapples in Gatundu; having diversified from pineapple supply and cites financial advisory from Equity Bank as a booster.

“From the 10 acres that she is farming, she is able to get quite a substantial supply of pineapple that she is supplying to Migingo Market. This has increased her profit margin and has made her business expand,” said Lucy.

She also has created employment having employed two salesmen whom they are working together in supplying and selling pineapples.

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