Henry SokoniBy Henry Sokoni|November 4, 2022|6 Minutes|In R&G Season II

Risk and Glory

I want to ease financial pain

My entrepreneurship journey started way back before I ever knew the meaning of the term entrepreneurship. Whether it is the poverty and deprivation I was born in, or just pure talent, that drives me, is something I have not yet figured out.

All I know is that I have always provided a service to the general public at any stage of my life. During my primary school days, I used to spend my evenings selling kerosene for household lighting as we lived in a compound with grass-thatched houses without electricity.

In boarding school (2008-2010), I was a photographer. I used my savings from the kerosene business to buy myself a Kodak camera, which enabled me to make money as an amateur photographer. This helped with my groceries and other small necessities,  I enjoyed it.

During my college days (2012-2016), I was engaged in two business activities that kept a steady stream of income which helped pay for my accommodation, groceries and all other necessities. The first line of business was selling clothes. I used to order clothes from Tanzania and sell to my fellow students on campus. I would take orders from students and during recess, travel to Nakonde to order clothes. When school opened, I would supply those clothes. Some would pay cash, while others got them on credit. The other business was doing academic work for mature students most of whom were on distance education. I wrote their assignments, research proposals and reports. And in some cases, I even held tutorial sessions in various programs. By the time I was completing my program, I had over 400 academic papers on my desktop, that I had written for people most whom I never even met.

After graduating from university, I decided to pursue business adventures, and build businesses. This decision has put me on a very challenging and adventurous path, especially due to the fact that there is no capital readily available to fund my business ideas.

In 2018, I started running a grocery business, which led me to turn down an offer to pursue a Master of Science Program in Sustainable Development at the University of London. As a full-time grocery shop owner and keeper, I faced all challenges that come with founding, funding, and managing a business. I learnt many lessons that I could never have learn from the university. For example, I realized that many people wanted money as a commodity more than any commodity that I stocked in my shop. Also, I once turned to a named bank for a loan to boost my grocery business. After two weeks of a tedious process, I was given a Five Thousand Kwacha (ZMW5,000) Loan, which was actually half what I had applied for.

I felt unfairly treated, especially since the bank listed everything I owned (four shop fridges, three deep freezers, all the stock, and all my household items including my bed) as collateral for the loan, despite providing them with a government-employed guarantor. I was desperate, so I accepted that amount. I settled that loan in ten months, as scheduled.

Due to all these experiences, I started imagining how and what it would be to have a shop that provided money as a commodity. I realised I could help a lot of people with finance and capital, and I would also make a living in the process. I liked the idea, I cherished it. After studying the requirements for setting up such a business, it was clear I was not prepared. But I did not dump the idea. For the next year, I saved a considerable percentage of every bit of my income until I had twenty thousand Kwacha (ZMW20,000) by November 2020.

With the ZMW20,000 as initial capital, I founded Imagine Express Cash Advance (https://imaginexpressloans.com/), a Micro Fin that offers Personal Loans, Salary Advances, Business Loans, and Financial Consultancy in an attempt to establish a Financial Institution that can be both a cheap and efficient for people in financial distress, start-ups, SMEs, Marketeers and all those in need. To date, Imagine Express Cash Advance has served over 435 clients. It has continued to grow steadily and we have been building a great team of partners, investors, clients, and supporters whole all contributing to the growth and impact of my core imagination.

With interests in Agribusiness, Real Estate, and Recreational Services, I am motivated by the desire to conquer and break all the limitations I faced growing up in poverty, and stand as a beacon of hope and inspiration to everyone living in poverty. I believe that we can uplift ourselves from poverty if we decide to be determined, focused, consistent, disciplined, and most importantly hardworking.