Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kiva loans and ways to help others more

At RiverKids in Cambodia (the program I worked with) women are taught a new skill so they can get jobs. And many women also get grants or loans from Riverkids to start their own businesses later. It has been very successful so far.

Today a Kiva loan I made several months ago was repaid in full to me. It always gives me a huge warm fuzzy when Kiva loans are repaid, and it has nothing to do with me getting my money back. (If you aren't familiar with Kiva or microenterprise loans click here.) I'm happy because something good has happened for other people.

In today's case, a man in Kenya repaid a loan given to him to start his own mechanic shop. Not only is he now a business owner (which is a great feeling and accomplishment for him), but his whole community benefits from it. His town was in need of a mechanic shop. They are in a remote area, and when vehicles break down, and there is no mechanic to fix it, town members are not able to go to their jobs in other towns. So this new mechanic shop is a good thing for the whole community. The total loan to the man was $600. I was just one of 10 lenders (I think I only contributed $50?).

And it got me to thinking-
Is there a micro-lending program for Americans? We have huge business loans, angels, venture capital, etc. But where is the micro-lending for people looking to start smaller, simpler businesses? I was thinking today that there are so many people who are held back from starting a business because they don't have $1,000 or $500 for the basic essentials. To people who have income security or bigger money they can't quite conceive of such a small number holding people back.

I'm thinking specifically of people like single mothers, stay at home moms, or recent immigrants, who would be able to start simple businesses such as janitorial services, seamstress, hair styling (from home), etc. if they just had access to a small amount of capital.

Many colleges or tech schools now include laptops for students in the tuition because they know that not owning a computer (or a good enough computer) holds many people back. Even micro-financing for a laptop could help several types of people start an internet based business.

Not all entrepreneurs need venture capital or thousands or millions of dollars. Some just need a few hundred to help them get going.

Is there already micro-enterprise loans or micro-funding for Americans? I know of plenty of grants, etc. But I've never heard of a Kiva-like program for Americans. And if that doesn't exist, why doesn't it? I'm not one to ever promote bigger government, but it even seems like a good money-making venture for the government (in the same way that student loans are). But I'd prefer to see it done through a non-profit group that has a mission to help, and not to make money.

Thoughts?

4 comments:

  1. There is something similar, but not quite the same called kick starter. I don't think it's a loan component, but they normally offer rewards for funding levels.

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  2. The Church I belong to has a program like that and it is very, very successful. It extends to poor countries where a small amount can really make a difference. Who would ever think that here in "prosperous" North America we could also use such a program? Nice thinking Erin, you really do make a difference in this world !!!


    darcy

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  3. I've seen loans for Americans on Kiva.

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  4. There are micro loans available in America. They have to be structured carefully because our banking laws are structured to favor the big banks. You're not smart enough to decide how to risk your own money, apparently. But Google is your friend - enter "American micro loans" and see what you get.

    You might find another reasonable way to support American small business at the Lending Club:
    http://www.lendingclub.com/home.action

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