KIVA is an online platform where people post business ideas with hopes for funding from people across the world. The site caters to budding entrepreneurs and provides business loans from $25 to $10,000 – generally repayable in 24-36 months.
Rochester joined dozens of other cities involved with KIVA by loaning $100,000 via the Rochester Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) matching loan fund to kick start the local micro-lending program and appointing Bradley Willows as Rochester’s full-time Kiva program director.
VLSP staff attorney Vasanthi Pillai runs VLSP’s micro-entrepreneur program which offers free legal assistance to eligible low income entrepreneurs who are starting businesses in Rochester. An issue faced by many low income entrepreneurs is funding.
“It is discouraging when you have supported an entrepreneur with all the legal essentials, but the business start-up is put on hold due to lack of funding,” explained Pillai.
That’s why when she heard about the KIVA program, she reached out to explore how both programs could collaborate.
“The city was in need of Trustees for their new KIVA program,” Pillai explained. “Trustees publicly endorse entrepreneur borrowers whom they believe in, and support them in the loan application process. A Trustee endorsement is a prerequisite to the KIVA loan approval.”
“The goal of both programs is to stimulate job creation and economic growth, so it made sense for VLSP to partner with the city and serve as a Trustee. This allows VLSP to refer and endorse eligible clients who are accepted into the VLSP micro-entrepreneur program and who are found to be suitable KIVA borrowers,” she added.
In 2015, over 39,000 people provided a combined $4.7 million in loans to 811 small-business owners through Kiva program. Applicants who receive funding must begin paying back the lenders the following month, and KIVA Zip reports 90% success rate of borrowers reaching their goal.
Locally, interested clients can contact Vasanthi Pillai at email@example.com or Bradley Willows at Bradley.Willows@cityofrochester.gov.
Written by Nora A. Jones