Startup Spotlight- PremierCredit

PremierCredit is an online micro-lending platform operating in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Since 2019, PremierCredit has been offering micro-loans in Zambia, supporting local entrepreneurs and small scale traders, many of whom are women. With the support of two partner banks in Zimbabwe, PremierCredit also provides affordable bicycles, smartphones, and Solar equipment on a Pay as You Go (PAYG) basis to underserved, urban, and rural communities across Zimbabwe.

We caught up with Chilufya Mutale, co-founder and CEO of PremierCredit, who shares more details about the business.

My career started with an international microfinance company that had a social mission to reduce poverty and my passion to support women-led businesses was derived from there. My father was also an entrepreneur and he inculcated the entrepreneurship spirit in me.

After 3 years of working as CEO in one of the fastest-growing consumer lending FinTech companies in Zambia, I realised I could serve my customers better by providing solutions that met their needs and contribute positively to their standard of living. There was an inner burning desire to be part of an impactful cause that benefited our society and economy at large, and this passion and drive led to the birth of PremierCredit.

In the first year of our start-up, we faced many challenges. I was a full-time entrepreneur with no other source of income and liquidity was our biggest challenge. We had to create a super-efficient and very lean model, leveraging off the existing technology.

Most funders we approached wanted audited financial statements for the last 3 years among many other requirements, and we could not meet these requirements so we got a lot of NOs.

Entrepreneurship can also be a lonely journey, not all friends can relate to your problems as you are no longer in the formal sector. Perhaps in an executive role with support systems, you can easily fix things with a phone call. Therefore, I had challenges in sharing my problems and knowing how best to solve them.

At the time PremierCredit was founded, I was expecting my second-born son. It was challenging trying to balance business, debt that comes with unemployment, family, and taking enough rest. It was a stressful and vulnerable period.

I went on to attend the 2nd cohort of the BongoHive FinTech4U programme. I chose to apply for the programme because I wanted to join a startup community that shared similar aspirations as mine. I could not believe the exceptional support system that BongoHive has, I have greatly benefited from them. I found people, now friends with who I can relate, share experiences and challenges, and it’s easier to solve them with the support of peers at BongoHive and industry experts. 

I am happy about the partnerships/collaborates that BongoHive has with regulators such as ZICTA, Bank of Zambia, Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the MNOs, banks, law firms, investors among others to create an enabling environment for startups like ours to scale and thrive in this market.

Under the FinTech4U programme, we had sessions with the United Nations Capital Development Funds (UNCDF) to develop human-centred design (HCD) products and services for our core customers (based on identified customer personas). The goal was to develop a product that would scale our business even on a regional level.

We had free legal clinics, we were equipped with sales and marketing tools, and had industrial sessions with various regulators that gave us valuable insights, linkages and information necessary for our business.

We have made significant progress with our business over the years. We have received over 10,000 applications via our platform in Zambia alone. The majority of the micro-loans have been directed to small scale traders whose average monthly income is below USD 100. The micro-loans provide working capital to boost their businesses to sustain and improve their standard of living.

We take pride in some of the achievements/awards that we have received:

  • We were fortunate in the latter part of 2020 to partner with a VC firm, Enygma Ventures that focuses on and supports early-stage women-led businesses. We received a USD 650,000 investment from Enygma Ventures.
  • We received a USD 5,000 grant from the FinTech4U programme sponsored by UNCDF and BongoHive. 

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