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

Allan Ochieng (right) and Edward Kwasi (center) chat with Martin Wahuri, Equity Gikomba branch manager (left) at their second-hand shoe store in Gikomba. [Courtesy]

For a visionary entrepreneur, there isn’t too little capital to take their business to the next level.

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

In 2009, Mr. Ochieng was just another second-hand shoe retailer at a small stand around the City Stadium in Nairobi, but he is now one of the largest importers of mitumba shoes in the Gikomba market, Kenya’s largest thrift market.

At the time, he was buying from wholesalers in the Gikomba market and running the business on his own. Ochieng, a member of the Sunlight Self Help Group, then moved to the Gikomba market to continue trading in mitumba shoes.

“I noticed the growing demand for retail footwear and therefore opted for a credit facility (30,000 shillings) for stock guaranteed by the members of the group,” he said.

Ochieng would also endeavor to diversify his business interests and ventured into events as a supplier of sound equipment, a business run by the spouse.

“My business continued to grow and so did my customer base, and I started shipping nationwide. My weekly savings in Sunlight Self Help Group have since increased a hundred times over what I was contributing when I first joined the group, ”he added.

Allan then realized a great opportunity to import the shoes on his own and in 2018 he took another loan facility and imported shoes from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong with the help of other wholesalers. on the market.

This year he also took out another credit facility from the same bank he used to import the shoes.

Key wins

Ochieng’s main successes have been growing from retail to wholesale, diversifying the business from selling footwear to adding a second stream of income through its event business and personal growth. His weekly chama savings have been multiplied by 100.

Now he has two large stores at Uhuru Market Jogoo Road where he keeps most of his inventory to avoid the risk of fires that frequently break out in Gikomba Market.

“I can say that my main success has spanned from retail and wholesale, to supplying products across the country and strong financial backing from Equity Bank,” Mr. Ochieng said.

Job creation

The client started his business in 2009 and at that time he was running the business on his own. He did not need any help then because the size of the company was small. Currently, it operates with the help of three employees.

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

Lucie’s journey

Lucy started as a small scale pineapple vendor at Migingo Market (Githurai 45) in 2000 to become one of the large scale pineapple suppliers and producers in Gatundu.

She joined the Moda youth group. With the help of Moda Youth, she managed to develop a culture of savings. She started with a loan of Sh 30,000 and continued to borrow and repay which resulted in the growth of her business.

Currently, Lucy is servicing a loan that she invested in her pineapple farm. The client has always appreciated the services of Equitel and she is doing very well.


Lucy also expanded her business from retail to wholesale and branched out from selling pineapples to growing pineapples and selling to other traders in Githurai.

She developed the business and currently cultivates around 10 acres of pineapple in Gatundu; having diversified from the pineapple supply and cites Equity Bank’s financial advice as a booster.

“Out of the 10 acres that she cultivates, she is able to get a fairly large supply of pineapples which she supplies to the Migingo market. It increased her profit margin and allowed her business to grow, ”said Lucy.

She has also created jobs by employing two vendors whom they work together to supply and sell pineapples.

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