New Loan Program Focuses on Entrepreneurs

An international crowd-funding project is coming home to help American entrepreneurs who lack access to capital. The service could help fill a niche for rural entrepreneurs.


A message from the Rural Assembly

Lender-borrower interacting can be a boon for business owners . During her loan-raising endeavor, Happy Hollow Farms’ Liz Graznak said she had “a number of one-on-one conversations with lenders who contacted me saying how great the project was and how great they thought it was that I was farming.”  She, in turn, kept them abreast of her progress. “I communicated with the whole group of lenders… through the whole process of putting up the high tunnel… letting them know what I’m doing and saying thank you.”

This crowd-lending model is often compared to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, but there are some important differences. The most obvious being in the Kiva Zip program the borrower pays back money rather than offering rewards in exchange for donations. David Edmonson, who collected a $5,000 loan through Kiva Zip for Salt and Savour, his sauerkraut business in Dunsmuir, California, said that while he considered crowdfunding, it didn’t make sense for him as a brand-new business owner.  “Part of the problem is that you pay those back with product or t-shirts or things,” he explains, “I don’t have all kinds of promo pieces like t-shirts. This seemed like the easiest and quickest and most promising way to secure the funds I needed.”

Kiva Zip connects new-business owners to a global community of lenders. While projects on sites like Kickstarter are primarily funded by people within an entrepreneur’s own network, Justin Renfro estimates that only 20% of lenders in a typical Kiva Zip loan come from people known to the borrower. 

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A message from the Rural Assembly