I quit my job to offer my own bank loans

I quit my job to offer my own bank loans

“My name is Lillian Gachoki. Today, I am the chairperson of a credit only micro finance business known as Dream Credit Limited. Over the years that I have been active professionally, my interests have been largely in the financial sector. Nonetheless, I have a passion for information, communication and technology (ICT), focusing mainly on financial software solutions.

The principal focus has been in micro lending. Through this business, we seek to avail accessible and affordable credit to micro, small and medium enterprises.

It is said that a journey of a million miles start with one step. I embarked on the entrepreneurial journey by forming a credit company as a partnership. Like many other entrepreneurs, I began with formal employment as a base.

It goes back fifteen years ago when I graduated at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies with an Associate of Kenya Institute of Bankers (AKIB) Diploma and a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (credit option) from Gretsa University. After graduation, I worked for several companies in the banking and information technology sectors. I held my first job in 2002 at Equity Bank where I worked as a Credit Officer until 2003 after which I was transferred to project management.

My last assignment at Equity Bank was in the Trade Finance department. I felt that I needed a bigger challenge and moved on to Craft Silicon Limited, a local technology company, in February 2008, where I worked as a Technical Sales Manager for about 9 years. All through, the remuneration at these jobs was quite competitive.

But despite the comfort of the stable and competitive remuneration package and sense of security from employment, I harboured an irresistible urge to venture into entrepreneurship. I wanted to be a wealth creator. I also wanted to have my own platform, in which I would be able to design and execute my business passion without the limits that corporate jobs sometimes have.

Over and above, I was inspired by the desire to make a contribution in improving the efficiency in the credit sector. In my banking career, I had observed that bureaucracy and cumbersome processes were some of the main causes for low credit uptake by entrepreneurs.

In 2009, I decided to venture into entrepreneurship while still employed. Although I was confident that my choice of business would eventually vindicate my resolution to switch from employment to entrepreneurship, I was a bit nervous that the venture I wanted to launch was capital intensive. I carried out a quick research and realized that the easiest way out would be through partnerships. I approached and shared my vision with potential partners who were also considering switching from employment to entrepreneurship.

Luckily, the few carefully selected friends bought into the idea. The icing on the cake was that we had all been in jobs that offered decent salary packages. This enabled us to pool significant savings together and launched our joint business Dream Credit Limited.

We started as sub-tenants at Rehema House, in Nairobi’s Central Business District, with just one employee. We could have opted to make major recruitments but as a start-up, we wanted to keep our operational expenses at the bear minimum. Also, from our experience in the banking and financial jobs we had previously, we were determined to save and be frugal until we broke even. We also wanted to practice frugality and good utilization of funds just as we would preach to our customers.

In fact, we launched Dream Credit Limited with a compelling value proposition of availing loans to our customers within 2 hours upon compliance. Nonetheless, we kept our jobs because we had to keep on beefing up our operating capital. In 2015 though, I quit employment to concentrate in Business.

Supporting the business until its backbone firmed was not a walk along the beach. There were many hurdles that we came face to face with. Sourcing, recruiting and retaining employees of unquestionable integrity was one of the toughest challenges we encountered. This was further compounded by the tough task of recruiting customers in an environment that was already highly competitive. We also had to contend with dishonest borrowers who borrow money without the intention of ever making repayments.

Today, I can afford to smile with contentment since we have found ways of going around these challenges. Unlike during our formative days where we opted for experienced staff, we now prefer to hire fresh graduates with whom we model into the work culture and ethics that we have anchored the business on.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned over years that we have been in business is the virtues of networking and connecting with like-minded business people. For example, joining the Business Networking International (BNI) has been instrumental in the continued growth this company. In fact, I have been fortunate to serve as a president in one of the local Chapters of BNI. Currently, as we mark our first decade in entrepreneurship, I am thrilled that our loan pricing is quite competitive thus ensuring sustainability and growth. But getting this company to where it is has not come without trials and errors.

For example, companies in the financial sector are constantly reviewing their existing products and introducing new ones in order to remain relevant and competitive. Dream Credit Limited is no exception. Sometime back, we tried group lending that targeted market traders. It was a wrong move and we really burned our fingers.

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