Lota walked past my room last night, focusing a smile that could hypnotize a canary. He grinned at me like a cat who just swallowed one.
He carried a bag full of something. He pulled one out. Green. Perfectly, symmetrically shaped. A green pepper!
“Abarani just delivered this for you!”
“From Matilda? How would Abarani know Matilda? Or, connect? How would he know?”
Matilda served as my small business group example of an irrigation farmer. She grew greenhouse green peppers. I used her farming operation as an example for her small group for which to build a business plan. We just met a few hours earlier to review the business plan outline that I developed as the follow-up to last week’s meeting. We reviewed the projected financial statements, as best we could, with the limited input from the first meeting.
Matilda worships at the Ilboru Lutheran Church. She responded to Pastor Abel’s invitation to attend my large group seminar. She continued her interest by showing up for a small group workshop that targeted farming. I picked on her, used her as my object of embarrassment. But she agreed.
Of the four workshop target businesses, she may have impressed me the most with her description of her business operations. Rather than a start-up entrepreneur-in-waiting, she had already taken the plunge. She and her husband had operated a farm for several years (maybe many). Two years ago, she invested what she had in building a greenhouse. She raised green peppers. Sold them to a large supermarket mostly. Sold a few through local vendors.
She portrayed herself as successful with her greenhouse business. Demonstrated initiative, courage and drive. Exercised financial discipline with her finances, and made a consistent profit. The numbers looked good.
My saddle may have carried its cowboy maybe a decade or so longer than hers. Her saddle sores probably rival the size of mine, or may be bigger. (Hard to tell, exactly. Didn’t look.) She doesn’t tend to stand out in a crowd, as I surmised. Wears a shuka (Maasai blanket) around her shoulders to keep her warm, or to enhance her modesty. Rather quiet, reserved. Holds her smile back, somewhat, but can’t quite keep it corralled entirely. Since our first meeting, her facial clouds have parted more liberally to reveal more sunshine. Doesn’t speak a word of English, or so I’ve deduced. But her smile easily translates from Swahili to a language I can understand.
Has four kids. Brought her son (3rd born, who is 27 years old) because he could speak English. Good thing, because I needed a translator yesterday. Two oldest kids married and started families. Loon (my translator) courts a Danish lass, remotely. The youngest still makes her way through the grade levels.
I talked with Abarani last night. Coincidentally, he visited her earlier in the day. Told me that they were related. (I think all Maasai are somehow related to each other. A lot like the Dutch culture within which I grew up back in Michigan.) Said she talked about the workshops. She wanted to set up an individual interview with me, if she could. So now, we’re set up for Monday.
Ran some more numbers last night, based upon our follow-up workshop. Plugged in a 12 million TSH expenditure to double the size of her greenhouse. At a currency exchange rate of 2200 TSH to $1, that means that she needs about 5 or 6 thousand dollars to double her capacity. Probably an affordable investment for someone who might like to help shift the transmission of an upstart entrepreneur into second gear.
At the conclusion of our follow-up workshop, I briefly explained the rationale for borrowing money or obtaining a silent equity investor. Related it to the time value of money. Explained that the value of a loan would be measured by the interest rate charged. The lender would minimize risk in return for a higher probability of repayment. She might prefer a loan, whereby her obligation to pay back would be a firmer foundation for giving up profits. However, an equity investor would try to recover a higher return, in exchange for higher risk. Correspondingly, she would then share her risk with the equity style of capitalization.
She smiled broadly at all this. Not sure whether it was a smile of understanding, or a veil for hiding her receipt of my confusing lingo. Anyway, I’m looking forward to working with her some more. She may be the kind of entrepreneur that could actually succeed with a bit of capitalistic mentoring.
Meanwhile, I think Lota will chop up a couple of green peppers into our main course, over the next few days.