Last week I felt like a star. I had a gymnasium full of people who either knew me or had heard of me. I had a rockstar team of Kiva employees doing my bidding. And to top it all off, someone made me a cake.
Well, to be honest, someone made Kiva Zip a cake. Same same, right?
The last Thursday of June saw the official launch of Kiva Zip in Oregon! As the Fellow in Oregon for the summer, I spent the month or so leading up to the event working with the Kiva Zip team in San Francisco to recruit Trustees and Borrowers to climb on board the Kiva Zip train. The whole process was both exhilarating and exhausting, and now that it’s over I am left with nothing but optimism and excitement for what is to come up here in the Pacific Northwest.
Thanks to some stellar support from the Portland and Oregon state government, we had a connection to some incredible organizations in Oregon that are working closely with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Many of these organizations are truly grassroots, reaching populations that don’t have access to capital. I’ve loved working with them as Trustees, because their commitment to their work shows through everything they do. I had some calls with Trustees at 9 o’clock at night to talk through some of the issues their clients were facing with debt or business development, or to discuss how Kiva Zip would function in Oregon in the long term. These are people that truly care and are invested in their community, and I am honored to be working with them.
These Trustees were essential in connecting Kiva Zip and Borrowers. Without the Trustees, we would have no Borrowers currently fundraising on the site. These fifteen organizations worked with the individual entrepreneurs to complete the loan application and get them set up for fundraising success. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet almost all of the borrowers currently fundraising before the launch, some at their places of business (which proved delicious for me in the case of the food-related businesses), some at a Trustee’s office, and some over coffee. I was delighted and encouraged by the drive and motivation of these entrepreneurs; it takes guts to start a business, and even more resolve to publicly put yourself and your business out there on a website, asking for a loan.
This loan means so much more than simply the funds to start a business. These loans really are votes of confidence; it’s a way for individual members of a community to let an entrepreneur or small business owner know that they have faith in them. This faith and trust in one another is what’s really going to grow this Kiva Zip community up here in Oregon.
The support was evident at the launch event. Fourteen Borrowers had tables at the event to showcase their businesses. We had goods from toffee to tortillas, clothing to greeting cards, and hot sauce to barbeque sauce. Throughout the afternoon, these borrowers spoke with event attendees, getting lenders and potential new clients.
Keynote speeches were given by Kiva Zip’s very own Jonny Price, First Lady Cylvia Hayes, a representative from one of our Trustees, MERIT, and a Borrower, Cynthia. These speeches touched upon the importance of local economic investment, emotional support, and the spirit of entrepreneurship in Oregon. The Prosperity Initiative, spearheaded by Cylvia Hayes and her stellar team, is setting Oregon up for economic development with a specific emphasis on small businesses. Kiva Zip is proving to be a tool that is appreciated in the community because it provides a place for small businesses to grow and thrive by engaging the lending community, with the help of their Trustees (and me!).
Thanks to the support of the Kiva Zip team in San Francisco, the First Lady of Oregon, the amazing Trustees, and the courageous Borrowers, I have a feeling Kiva Zip is just getting started in Oregon. Stay tuned over the next few months to see what happens next! In the meantime, make a loan!