What I have learned from leading a young Sacco


Esther Wanjiru Maribe, the managing director at Kuza Sacco. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Esther Wanjiru Maribe is the managing director of Kuza Sacco, a financial Sacco offering savings, investments and loan services.
  • Cash is king. You need multiple cash flows to get ahead in business and life especially as a woman.

How did Kuza Sacco start this business?

This Sacco started as a merry-go-round with a group of 25 members that met and contributed monthly. Later, the group broke up but a few members remained and evolved into a SACCO. Kuza Sacco was registered in 2013. The Sacco faced many financial challenges and got into huge debts. I joined as an employee, with experience in cooperatives management. I was able to mitigate the problems and repay the debts that were owed. In 2020, I became the Sacco’s chief executive officer.

How long did it take to break even?

We broke even and started making a profit one year after I joined the Sacco as the CEO. The main challenges we faced were funding gaps due to high demand for loans against low savings. There were also the Covid-19 shocks that caused job losses and business closures, and caused huge member defaults. Inflation and high cost of loans have also been challenging for our members.

Were you previously employed or in another line of work before you got into your current career line?

I was employed at Medspan Medical Equipment Supplies as the Sales Manager. I later joined Muthiru Sacco before I moved to Kuza Sacco.

What has been your biggest money mistake?

I employed a large workforce with the hope that I would penetrate a wider market. This proved futile as I didn’t have adequate expansion capital. I solved this by downsizing the workforce to a smaller group in the early days. I also invested heavily in marketing but this did not realise the expected returns. I changed tact and adopted an online marketing strategy that proved to be more effective.

If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would separate the business as an independent entity for my expenses. I would also get a well-detailed plan of the business and future plans. I would have a clear budget and financial plan. I would cut down my expenses and focus on increasing revenue. I would take relevant business development courses and implement the knowledge gained.

Which method do you use to save your money?

I save through the Sacco. I use a Sacco investment account that gives passive income annually. Previously, I saved in a merry-go-round but earned no interest.

Do you have heart advice that you have learned on life and money?

Cash is king. You need multiple cash flows to get ahead in business and life especially as a woman. As a woman, I find that I need to have more than 10 ways of earning income to meet my needs and break even in business. This calls on me to work more hours and innovate to stay ahead. This can be quite taxing. I have also learned the importance of mentorship and the role it plays in personal and business growth. My mentors have really guided me especially on digital marketing and grant funding.