From Orphan to Entrepreneur: The Story of Sheba Joshua

From Orphan to Entrepreneur: The Story of Sheba Joshua

Sheba (right), her siblings and their aged blind grandmother. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Sheba Joshua became the head of her household at just 18 years of age, when she lost her parents to AIDS. She is responsible for seven siblings and her blind grandmother and earns money by running a catering business out of her home in Gombe State, Nigeria. Becoming the main caregiver for an entire family at that age would have been a daunting experience for most teenagers, but Sheba was not fazed. Now 23, the young woman is fast becoming a respected business owner.

Sheba’s family recently began to receive support from the PEPFAR-funded Community Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CUBS) project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). CUBS’ support is routed through the Knightingale Women’s Health Organization (KWHO), which registered two of Sheba’s siblings in school and provided the children with school uniforms, books, pens, and care kits that include mosquito nets, buckets, spigots, and a Water Guard. KWHO also periodically provides the family with food, soap, and money.

Sheba was also the recipient of a CUBS income-generating grant of N15,000 ($93.85), which she used to strengthen her catering business. The grant allowed Sheba to buy a large supply of yams, eggs, oil, firewood, and cooking utensils. Since receiving the grant, Sheba’s business has grown from catering for just a few customers to feeding more than 45 people a day.

“We now have a daily sale of about N7,000, with about N2,000  profit, though on market days we make double the profit,” she explains. This translates into about N18,000 per week, (or $112.5), minus overhead expenses. “I can now comfortably feed my grandmother, brothers, and sisters and send three of them to school, especially now that CUBS is supporting two of them,” Sheba continued. Before receiving the grant, Sheba’s daily profit ranged from just N500 to N1,500 ($3 - $9).

Using her savings and increased income, Sheba recently built a new structure with a zinc roof. The family uses this structure as an additional bedroom, freeing up space for a living-room in one of the old buildings.

“When CUBS provided [micro-credit] funds through KWHO, I was excited," Sheba said. "My profit has increased and I have been empowered! I was able to put a roof on the house early this year. My major goal now is to build a fence around the huts to reduce erosion during the rainy season. Later, I would like to expand my business to fabric sales."

Shadrack Yerima is the CUBS project monitoring and evaluation specialist. 

Sanusi Sule-Garlora is an intern with the CUBS project in Gombe state, Nigeria.