"Leveraging the power of community and entrepreneurship"

- Brad, Lender

My name is Brad Willows, and I work as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Rochester, NY. VISTA is a federal program that places recent college graduates for yearlong terms of service with government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations, with the goal of eradicating poverty. After graduating from the State University of New York College at Geneseo, I signed up for my year of service and was placed with the government of the City of Rochester as the Kiva Rochester Project Coordinator.

I first heard about Kiva when I was given the final packet of potential host sites for my year of service in May of 2016. As I read through the names of the different organizations and agencies, Kiva Rochester caught my eye - I always planned to enter government work, and it seemed like an interesting partnership. The more I read about Kiva's mission, the more I became convinced that it was a perfect fit for me. Now, nearly one year later, I know that my gut feeling could not have been more accurate. I know that regardless of where my career takes me, I am a proud Kiva ambassador for life!

My experience with Kiva has been life-changing and eye-opening. Kiva has inspired me to work every single day to empower those who need it most and give them the opportunity to improve their lives through the power of entrepreneurship and business ownership. In my role here at the City of Rochester, my eyes were quickly opened to some of the unsettling realities of our world. Our beautiful city has much to offer - a strong sense of community, low cost of living, a vibrant and eclectic range of arts and entertainment. However, Rochester also struggles with one of the highest poverty rates in the country; poverty here is a deeply ingrained fact of life. Our Mayor speaks of the "two Rochesters," a theme that holds true in daily life.

One Rochester symbolizes generational wealth and opportunity; comfortable living; access to the many incredible institutions of higher education in our area. The other, however, has come to represent the deeply intractable issue of poverty, which manifests in myriad statistics such as high school graduation rates of less than 50% and crime. It is easy to fall into the mindset that teaches us as a society that poverty is an issue that will never be solved - that people must simply work harder to get ahead. My experience with Kiva Rochester has taught me that this is not the case. I have learned that there are people in every neighborhood and every zip code who desire to better their life and that of their family.

Structural forces work against many people in this world - truly, in our society, "dreams are universal, but opportunity is not." But enough of the gloom and doom - I have also learned through my experience that there is a undying spirit and force of will in the people of this city. Given the chance, it is truly incredible what a person can accomplish for themselves, their neighborhood, and their family. Kiva provides an unprecedented resource for everyone - regardless of zip code or income level - to use the power of entrepreneurship to build wealth. 

My advice to potential borrower is this: before you become a borrower, make sure that you take the time to plan your business and seek as many opinions as possible. A well written business plan not only proves to potential financiers and investors that you are serious, but also helps you to organize your thoughts and start up your business in a strategic and ultimately more successful way. It might take a bit longer before you are actually ready to pull the trigger and take out that first loan, but it will be worth it in the long term!

Kiva, you are all amazing, and I'm proud to be part of the team!


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About the author

Kathinka K. Nakstad

Kathinka moved to San Francisco to pursue her BBA degree, with a major in marketing. Being form Norway, she time to time misses the different seasons (especially winters with snow). One of her hobbies consists of finding a part of a city and explore it for a whole day. Checking out cool boutiques, and the best places to eat. Two of her favorite places to visit are Budapest and Vienna. No wonder her dream job would be to travel the world and write about the places she visits.