If you want to make a difference in the U.S., giving a micro-loan might be one of the most effective methods.
Micro-loans are made from one individual to another, and the Web site Kiva.org is dedicated to facilitating those kinds of loans around the world. The nonprofit company, founded in 2005 and based in San Francisco, Calif., connects individual borrowers or "entrepreneurs" with lenders who make direct loans of as little as $25.
To date, more than half-a-million lenders from 185 countries have provided more than $75 million in loans, according to Kiva. Remarkably, the current rate of repayment of those loans is 98.35 percent.
Now Kiva is bringing its successful model to the U.S., where the economic downturn has led to a need for the same kind of funding Kiva has made possible across the globe.
Jeremy: Emergency BBQ
Loan Request: $10,000
Jeremy is a former ambulance driver and a high-energy entrepreneur. He runs Emergency BBQ, a mobile catering company in San Carlos, Calif., that serves up barbecue favorites in a style Jeremy calls California Beer B-Que.
With this loan, Jeremy can expand his business beyond on-the-go catering trucks and open up a retail store in San Carlos. He will be able to cater a greater number of lunch and dinner events from his shop, as well as serve lunch to local workers in San Mateo. He will also be able to create full-time employment for his three seasonal employees.
Amato Loma-Yindja: Village d'Afrique Day Care
Business: Village d'Afrique Day Care|
Loan Request: $6,000
Amato Loma-Yindja, a widowed mother of two, has always loved children and believes her mission in life is to help them. For more than 10 years she worked with disadvantaged children at various nonprofits before being laid off in 2003. She began fostering children and decided to take this effort one step further by opening a day-care in her home in Fremont, Calif. Loma-Yindja hopes to expand her business, but she needs funds to fully convert her home into a day-care with a larger capacity.
"I'm originally from Africa," she said. "I've been in the U.S. for 24 years. I've been a widow for 20 years. So I've raised my children by myself, and being a single parent and to see how hard it is, that's what really motivated me to become a day-care provider to help children."
Without these kinds of loans, she said, "It would be very, very hard to fulfill my dream. So they make it possible."
With a $6,000 loan, Loma-Yindja will be able to carpet her nap area, convert her garage into a playroom and buy art and educational supplies. Currently she has three children in her bilingual French and English day-care, but she hopes the loan will expand her capacity to care for more children.
"I'm very grateful, to begin with, for the opportunity that has been given to me," she said. "It's not just me, it's the children. That's where my heart is."
Luis: Independent Bakery
Business: Independent Bakery|
Loan Request: $5,603.73
Luis has learned to navigate the Manhattan streets like the back of his hand through his baked goods delivery business. He began his business seven years ago and smiles when he thinks of the success his venture has become. He is happy and proud to be able to send his 13-year-old to a good school. He also has two sons serving in the Marines.
Luis begins his morning with his first delivery route between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. He does three rounds of deliveries throughout the day. He has expanded from two delivery contracts to six major contracts with various bakeries throughout the city, and he has added a new van and hired an employee. He has requested a loan to insulate his second van, which will be necessary to keep his goods fresh during the hot New York summer.
Carl: CA Window Cleaning
CA Window Cleaning
Loan Request: $5,000
Carl worked for 20 years in the trucking industry and washed windows on the side for extra money before deciding to start his own window washing business. Carl manages the business and washes the windows, often waking at 3 a.m. for early jobs while his wife helps out with bookkeeping. His business capacity has doubled in the last few years and could keep growing, but he needs to invest in advertising and hire a full-time employee to meet the high demand.
A $5,000 loan would help Carl advertise his business online and in real estate brochures, as well as prepare the business to hire a full-time employee.
Kiva has partnered with ACCION USA and the Opportunity Fund to provide small business micro-loans in the United States. Please visit www.accionusa.org or www.opportunityfund.org for information on applying for a loan.
Continue Reading for More Entrepreneurs Seeking Loans!
Meet More Kiva Entrepreneurs in the U.S.
Amanda Keppert: Mandy's Korner
Mandy's Korner Hot Dog Stand
Loan Request: $6,500: FULFILLED
Amanda Keppert has always worked hard to support her family, despite facing a series of personal tragedies, including the death of her parents and the losses of her brother to cancer and her stepson to a drunk driver. She invested the money she inherited from her parents to purchase a busy street corner lot in San Jose, Calif., where she opened a gourmet hot dog stand to support her four children.
"Mandy's Korner is a quick-turn food service selling specialty sausages, hotdogs and sandwiches," she explained. "There's homemade cooking here; it's made with love. It's just a place where people can come and relax and enjoy a great hotdog or a sandwich ... When you are cooking your food with love they can tell.
"To own a piece of real estate here, in this very busy commercial-zoned area, is the best thing I could have probably done with my money," she added.
Keppert's only employees are her teenage kids, who help her with cooking, cleaning, catering special events and even bookkeeping. This helps her save money while helping her children develop a strong work ethic, she said.
"How I treat my family I treat my customers, and they really love that," she said.
Keppert says a $6,500 loan will enable her to purchase an electric panel and an ice machine, which will save her both time and money. She also plans to invest in fliers and advertisements in local newspapers to boost business.
"When you borrow money and when you owe someone money, there's integrity and commitment involved," she said. "It's a commitment to grow a business."
Erik Mantsch and Shane Allen: Just Awesome
Just Awesome -- The Board Game Store
Loan Request: $7,500
Erik Mantsch and Shane Allen might seem an unlikely pair to run a board game shop. Allen works as a behavioral specialist for people with disabilities, and Mantsch is a veteran of the Iraq War with a background in sales. But they share a love of board games and opened Just Awesome in San Francisco in April.
"The board game store is awesome because we only sell board games," Mantsch said. "And board games are great tools for social interaction and it's really a community spirit ... they're a wonderful tool for an ease of interaction."
While serving in the Air Force, Mantsch learned a game from a young Iraqi that he developed into a board game, also called Just Awesome! He donates all of the proceeds from this game to Operation Iraqi Children. Just Awesome! will also pay to ship any board games to American troops serving overseas.
"The Kiva loan will really help to fine tune our rough edges and really be able to deliver outstanding customer satisfaction and have the games in stock that people are asking for," Mantsch said. "What's great about Kiva is that the individual can really help another individual or small business in their mission. What's great about the program on the Internet is you can reach out farther than you have before."
Allen and Mantsch will use their $7,500 loan for advertising and inventory and to make their business more environmentally-friendly.
"Part of this whole experience is just wonderful to share my story so that other entrepreneurs like myself would be able to fund their dream," Allen said.
Vika: Island You a Hand
Island You a Hand
Loan Request: $10,000
Island You a Hand hires out in-home caretakers, providing companionship for the elderly. With her diverse and multilingual team of caretakers, which includes Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and other foreign language speakers, Vika is able to provide a high quality of service. She founded the company in January 2009 with her own savings, and a deep commitment to her work. Vika sees an opportunity to expand into more technical medical care services, but will need to be certified by the state of California. This loan will help Vika acquire certification and hire qualified nurses for more technically demanding client placements.
Zonia: Zonia's Day Care
Business: Zonia's Day Care|
Loan Request: $10,000
Zonia provides high-quality child care and offers it to some of her community's most vulnerable residents: families experiencing homelessness. While some providers think these children and families are too difficult to support, Zonia embraces the opportunity to work with families going through a difficult time.
The 14 children in her care are a diverse group -- ranging from children experiencing homelessness to the children of international embassy staff -- and the waiting list for her day-care shows that parents value the services. Zonia has an associate teacher's permit, and her San Francisco business has created two full-time jobs.
With this $10,000 loan, Zonia will make needed repairs to her home so that it complies properly with city codes and meets the standards required to hold a child care provider license.
Silvia: Grandma's Family Day Care
Business: Grandma's Family Day Care|
Loan Request: $10,000
Silvia has been providing high quality child care services in her Pacifica, Calif., home for 12 years. She started by caring for her granddaughter, and the business grew from there. She has a license to serve up to 14 children, who call her "abuela," which is Spanish for "grandma." With a $10,000 loan, Silvia can build an outdoor storage shed that would allow her to stop paying $200 a month to rent one. This investment will also enable Silvia to upgrade outdoor areas to provide adequate play space for children.
Serena: Serene Fitness
Business: Serene Fitness|
Loan Request: $5,000
Serena, a single mother with a teenage son, is a dynamic fitness instructor and personal trainer at the Heptagon Gym in Mountain View, Calif. She has taught aerobics and yoga classes for several years, and she started personal training two years ago while studying biology at San Jose State University. Now she wants to complete additional training so she can offer more services to her clients.
With a $5,000 loan, Serena can complete a higher level certification in sports fitness, which will allow her to serve her clients better and help them reach their personal fitness goals.
Mark: Urban Digital
Loan Request: $7,000
For 15 years, Mark worked in architecture offices as a graphic designer, producing Web sites and scale images of architecture projects. He liked the work, but the jobs were inconsistent and there were long dry spells that were difficult to manage. Mark knew that he could do it better as his own boss, so in late 2008 he decided to start his company, Urban Digital.
Urban Digital specializes in marketing and visual tools for builders and architect engineers. With a degree in architecture and many years of experience, Mark is an expert at producing technical images, Web sites, marketing kiosks and other materials that architects need. But getting started is hard, especially given the high upfront cost of all the hardware and technical software he needs. With a $7,000 loan, Mark will be able to make these purchases.
Mark is saving money right now by running the business out of his home. But his goal is to bring in enough clients that he can hire employees and establish a real office.
Massandjie: Beauty Salon
Business: Beauty Salon|
Massandjie, a single mother of three, has owned her own beauty salon since 1999. She learned how to braid hair from family members in Africa and later went to school to obtain formal training. Her work has inspired many of her younger family members to pursue the profession.
She was successful with a small loan through ACCION USA to build her credit, and she's now using a new loan to purchase more inventory. She hopes to expand her business and would even like to open a second location.
Alejandro: Jewelry Business
Business: Independent Jewelry Sales|
Loan Request: $2,042.54
Alejandro sells Italian jewelry to clients in New York City. He travels throughout the city to doctors' offices, hospitals, private offices and other establishments where he has built up a loyal client base.
When he first began his business, he borrowed money from friends to build up his inventory. He once tried to get a loan from a bank but was turned away and hasn't returned since. With his loan he will purchase more inventory: chains, bracelets, pendants and watches, and some precious stones.
Segundo: Taxi Driver
Business: Taxi Driver|
Loan Request: $3,000.00
Segundo has been a taxi driver in the Big Apple for almost two decades. Segundo says the key to his business is to have all licensing papers, follow transit norms and, most importantly, avoid accidents. Segundo is married and has five children.
The next road Segundo plans on taking is the one leading to his own taxi base. He would like to get his own cars in his own base and partner with his oldest son in the business.
Nancy: Taxi Driver
Business: Taxi Driver|
Loan Request: $2,800.00: FULFILLED
Nancy has been a taxi driver for five years. After getting laid off from her job in the cleaining department in the World Trade Center, a friend gave her the idea to become a taxi driver.
Micro-loans would help her to drive her own car rather than renting one. Nancy is a single mother of two daughters.
Jorge: Event Planning
Business: Event Planning|
Loan Request: $4,800
Jorge owns a business in New Jersey that organizes social and commercial events, such as graduations, marriages, birthdays, baptisms and musical events.
The biggest hurdle for his business has been accessing working capital and building up his credit. He hopes to expand, and at age 60, he is looking to the future of his business. He hopes to integrate his wife and two sons into the operations in order to create a lasting legacy.
Anibal: Painting and Tile Business
Business: Painting and Tile Business|
Loan Request: $6,644
At age 63, Anibal Rendon has just as much, or maybe more, energy than the characteristically young people who work in his business. He owns a decorative painting, paper hanging and ceramic tile installation operation. He began work in this industry 20 years ago working for various construction companies and landlords. In 1998, after 10 years of working for others, he set off on his own and has built a steady business for himself.
Today, Anibal's business provides an income and the ability to enjoy time with his wife, three children and two grandchildren. He hopes to purchase a tile cutter and upgrade other equipment for his business.
Hardyal: Recycling Business
Business: Recycling Business|
Loan Request: $6,000
Hardyal recently started a recycling business that exports scrap metal to India. There is a high surplus of scrap metal in the U.S. and a high demand for scrap metal to be used for construction in India.
With the flexibility of his job as a cab driver, he finds metal through the Internet and creates a contract with business partners in India to buy the metal. Business has gotten off to a good start, he says, and he hopes to expand. He trusts that within the next two years it will be booming and he can take it on full-time.
Trinidad: Home Day-Care Center
Business: Home Day-Care Center|
Loan Request: $9,000
Trindad says every day is wonderful because she spends it in the company of children. She has been running her in-home day-care center since 2003, but her experience extends decades back. She is married and the mother of three grown children.
She plans to refinish her floors, and she's painting and purchasing some new toys and practical items for the children. As a licensed day-care provider, she is required to make these improvements. With the help of her daughter, Trinidad would like to one day open a larger day-care outside of her home where she can make an even greater impact on her community.
Elizabeth: Beauty Salon
Business: Beauty Salon|
Loan Request: $6,000
Elizabeth has been working most of her life in the beauty industry and works full time at her salon. She is a single mother of four children.
Three years ago she had the opportunity to purchase the salon she now owns. Elizabeth's store is in a great location in a busy area, where she gets lots of foot traffic. Elizabeth has one other employee. Her loan will be used to purchase new chairs, hair dryers and several other products to enhance her salon. Her plans are to eventually expand her store and offer more services.
ACCION USA and the Opportunity Fund provided information for the entrepreneur profiles.