Benita Dallo, shop owner

As bright, animated and vivacious as the fine cloth she sells, Benita Dallo is an entrepreneur with big plans for her fashion business.

Paris - Milan - Ziguinchor

Ziguinchor in Senegal isn’t exactly Paris, Milan or New York, but Benita hasn’t let that put a limit on her ambitions. Thanks to a series of loans from Oikocredit partner U-IMCEC, Benita is turning her ceremonial dress shop into the ‘go-to’ destination in town.

And what makes her cloth so ‘must-have’ is Benita’s vision and ambition. Not satisfied with local Senegalese suppliers, she used part of her loans to fund buying trips to Morocco to source unique designs – featuring silks, stones and sparkle found nowhere else.

A sound business employing four people

Benita already had a sound business plan given that every event, be it a birth, wedding, or festival, demands a new outfit for local women to wear. And with demand so high, she has simply stayed one step ahead of the competition thanks to the quality of her stock and the healthiness of the margins she can command.

Her business already provides a valuable local service, but her community spirit doesn’t end there. She tells us the loans from U-IMCEC, “haven’t just improved my trade and income, but also helped me to employ four people. I feel I’m helping people in my community, not just myself.”

To build a home

Benita hasn’t stopped at selling fabrics. She has used the income from the fabrics to buy a piece of land on which she hopes to eventually build her own house. Of her children, Benita says, “I can now send all three of my sons to school. My eldest daughter has just left school with her diploma and hopes to go to university.”

At the moment, Benita’s customers take the cloth away and get clothes made by tailors elsewhere, but it’s so expensive they often worry about the tailors ruining the cloth. So eventually, Benita would like to provide a made-to-measure service herself, as this could also prove profitable. In the meantime, she’s planning her next buying trip abroad and tells us she would like to visit the United States.

For now though, she’s just grateful for that first loan from U-IMCEC. "They treated me very well when I went to see them and all the other lenders in town wanted more guarantees… but they trusted and believed in me right away".