With a salon and a barbershop, Niceta William was at a good point in the world of business when she decided to venture into the food processing business in 2009.
Pioneer Foods is in the business of manufacturing snacks and spices and a few months after she got the business going, Niceta bought a pick-up truck on credit.
But she soon found the going so bad that she could not service the loan.
“When I started, I didn’t know that there would be many expenses and I couldn’t make money as easily as I had thought. It just didn’t pick up the first time,” she recalls.
She looked on as auctioneers took away the pick-up truck, effectively complicating her plans as she could no longer make deliveries.
It was while struggling through that gloom that she met a Relationship Manager at Diamond Trust Bank, who told her the Bank could help but advised her to open an account first.
Five months later, she had qualified for an overdraft to provide working capital for her business.
Then came her best phase. “I went fully into business. Everything was well and I became creditworthy. They gave me a loan to buy my first car, I paid it off, I went for a truck, paid it off and the business was so good that I was able to go back for more,” she says.
A bad phase would follow three years ago when word began to spread that Nakumatt, at the time one of Kenya’s leading supermarket chains, was having trouble paying its suppliers.
“You know what happened,” Niceta said, alluding to the collapse of the giant, which shook the Kenyan market as suppliers went unpaid and questions were asked about the entire business.
The one thing she had was a relationship with the Bank, and a financial track record, which meant that her business model was known, her cash flow had been established, and her potential was evident.
What had happened to Niceta’s business is almost typical of Small and Medium Enterprises in Kenya, where a majority of them collapse within three years. SMEs have also been characterised by a failure to keep records, which makes it difficult for banks to correctly assess their cash flows and have an idea of how well they are organised. Without a financial track record, making banks shy away from lending to them and when they face hard times, like Niceta did, for a reason beyond their control, they face collapse and its attendant effects.
Niceta’s story was different because she had made steps in the right direction.
“I went back to DTB and sat with one of the senior managers and we worked out something and I got back on track,” she says.
As she gave her story at one of the Financial Literacy Training sessions organised by the Bank in Nairobi, Niceta encouraged the rest of the traders to learn from her and to build the sort of relationships that can enable them to get back in business again when the unprecedented happens.
She still drives the car, a Range Rover, she bought during the best phase, and she is happy to be back in business and in good terms with the Bank. She laughs at the fact that she gets a cup of tea whenever she walks into a DTB branch and her requests are always handled.
“Any time I am asked to talk about DTB, I get emotional because I know where I have come from (with the bank) and where I am today. Thank you so much and God bless you,” she said.