- Mirza, Bey Designs
It was in Fall 2011 when I first heard about an amazing pilot by Kiva called Kiva Zip (now Kiva U.S.). At that time, I worked with the newly launched Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, serving those who have served to start and grow their businesses. We were connected to Jonny Price at Kiva Zip., who was also eager and committed to serve those who have served by providing them access to 0% micro-loans, and that is how my amazing journey with Kiva started, and I am glad to report that there is no end in sight.
The first entrepreneur that we, the IVMF, endorsed was Gerald Young with his amazing Young G’s BBQ Sauce. He was one of the first entrepreneurs that got funded with Kiva Zip. Guess what? It took us less than ten days to raise the funds. Kiva’s funding had tremendous effect on Young G’s BBQ Sauce, and today you can buy the BBQ Sauce in select Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Iowa.
Over the last five years, the IVMF endorsed 21 borrowers, helped them raise a total of $102,000, and have had a 97% repayment rate. Most of the entrepreneurs, or as we call them ‘vetrepreneurs,’ came from two entrepreneurship programs managed by IVMF, namely the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) and the Veteran Women Ignite the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE).
The work with vetrepreneurs and Kiva led to establishment of my own small business, which creates both social and economic value. In September 2015, I launched Bey Designs, an innovative design and production company of sustainable gifts with a soul. Our first product was the New York Cube (NYCube), a 3D artistic interpretation of the New York City skyline, handcrafted and made out of 30 recycled wooden pieces. The NYCube made it on Forbes’ Top Ten Gifts for Travelers and to leverage the opportunity and demand I became a Kiva borrower and raised a $10,000 micro loan in April 2016. As result, today you can find NYCube in several retail stores in NYC including the Museum of Modern Art, NY Botanical Garden, the Morgan Library & Museum, Museum of the City of New York, and many more.
There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” Working with vetrepreneurs and Kiva as Trustee, Lender, and Borrower has been tremendous source of empowerment for myself. I am honored and humbled to be able to help vetrepreneurs grow as individuals as well as grow their businesses, which have both social and economic impact for their local communities… If you seek happiness join the Kiva family!
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