Greenhouse Pioneer: Vashti Seth, Deki

Founded by visionary social entrepreneur Vashti Seth, Deki is the UK’s first person-to-person micro finance charity. Inspired by the need to help in a sustainable, dignified manner, Vashti realised that micro finance was a great tool for empower people to build a business with a hand up, not a hand out.

We spoke to Vashti, to explore how Deki has changed the lives of over 60,000 people across Africa, lending over £1 million in micro finance loans.

Tell us about Deki – what’s your mission?

Deki’s mission is to empower people in the developing world to work their way out of poverty.

What drives you?

I’m passionate about making a difference in the world and inspiring others to do the same.

What is your greatest achievement to date? 

Founding Deki, a micro-finance charity that provides small business loans and training to entrepreneurs in Africa to help them work their way out of poverty. This has been an incredible journey from starting the charity at my kitchen table to changing tens of thousands of lives, with amazing support from others.

What are the challenges you face?

As a small charity funding is a continuous challenge and there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way. Much of our funding comes from grants, but individual donations and regular fundraising campaigns are our bread and butter.

We’re currently running a fun raffle where you and 11 friends can win a 2 week stay in a luxurious eco-villa in Kenya. It was donated by a very generous Bristol entrepreneur for the second year running. It’s a fantastic prize and will raise vital funds to help change lives. Tickets are £5 and we are only selling 2,000 tickets so there are good odds to win. You can buy tickets here until 1stApril.

What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?

Alongside working with Deki I’m creating a digital platform to help businesses to measure, improve and communicate their social and environmental impact – coming soon, so watch this space!

Where do you want to take Deki next? 

I’d like to focus on creating sustainable communities that are empowered to continue lending and training without the need for Deki. We work closely with Field Partners to ensure they provide the best support for the entrepreneurs who get Deki micro-loans and training. We want to bring financial inclusion to the most marginalised people in the world, such as people with disabilities, women and young people among others.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

Donate, lend, fundraise, volunteer, campaign, recycle – the opportunities are endless. Collectively our small individual actions can make a big difference – it’s amazing how far a small donation can go in Africa.

How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?

I believe everyone can make a difference. The key is to have a strong vision that will bring people along with you.

Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers? 

Banker to the Poor: The Story of the Grameen Bank by Muhammad Yunus.

He had a dream of helping the poor to help themselves and built his concept around people receiving a little financial help in the form of a loan and training the basic principles of financial management.

“When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognizing the problem and finding a solution. If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss to seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because the cannot retain the returns of their labor. They have no control over capital and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.”

What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner? 

Listening to Dr Joanne Martin’s inspirational podcasts as part of a woman’s leadership course I’m doing called ‘Lead the Change’.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

We’re stronger together. We can achieve more in collaboration, when playing to our own unique strengths.

Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero? 

16-year-old Greta Thunberg who started the Youth Strike for Climate Change. My daughter is so inspired by her. Her and children around the world are standing up for what needs to be done for future generations. I was glad to hear about her Nobel peace prize nomination.

Are you an ethical organisation looking to increase your impact through communications? Get in touch with Greenhouse to find out how we can help.