"Art is...worth making. Something risky. Something human.”

It has been just over three weeks since I started my fellowship with Kiva Zip.

When I first applied to the program, I warned my family and friends that I would most likely be very “out of reach” for four months. Meaning that I would be working in a faraway place in a distant time zone- think Samoa, Togo, Bangladesh, or maybe even some country that I had barely heard of or knew very little about.

It was much to my surprise after finding out I was accepted to be a Kiva Fellow that I was to be placed in Los Angeles working with Kiva Zip. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that as a Canadian, my knowledge of Los Angeles was somewhat limited to Hollywood, Disneyland, good food and shopping. Most people had a similar response when I told them where I’d be spending my fellowship: “LA? Isn’t Kiva supposed to be helping people in developing countries who really need it?" 
My surprise and uncertainty about a fellowship in LA quickly transitioned to what I would call fist-pumping elation when I learned more about what Kiva Zip is doing here in the U.S. Rather than working through a micro finance institution, Kiva Zip works directly with a trustee and a borrower to enable entrepreneurs to borrow up to $5,000 (even more for agricultural loans) at 0% interest. The decision to post a borrower’s loan on the Kiva Zip site is made based primarily on a borrower’s character- a trustee who has a relationship with the borrower endorses the borrower’s business and their character and ultimately, Kiva Zip's lender community decides who they would like to fund by lending as little as $5 on Kiva Zip's website.

Through this kind of direct lending, borrowers are able to engage with lenders via a “conversations” tab on the borrower’s loan profile. Lenders are based all over the world, though most loans that are funded tend to have a higher concentration of lenders that are geographically located close to the borrower. I find it totally ironic that through leveraging a highly technological and progressive crowd funding platform, we are able to essentially go back to our roots of person-to-person lending, social underwriting, and community support. For me, this gives whole new meaning to “it takes a village."

Meeting our borrowers drove my enthusiasm up yet another level. Who are these entrepreneurs? How can I help them? Little did I know; for as much as I was to be in service of them, I was actually benefitting and being inspired by them more than I could have imagined.

Thus far, my job involves hearing people’s dreams- talking about their ideas, their passions, and being surrounded by individuals who are courageous enough to go forward and just try. Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors and bloggers; in his book Linchpin (one of my favorite books of all time), Godin speaks of art: 
“Art is what we call… the thing an artist does. It’s not the medium or the oil or the price or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it. What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.” 
Here in LA, I am working with artists every single day. People who have, with courage, taken a leap into the unknown in the name of pursuing their passions, of living their dreams. 
David of Buzzed Honeys left his job producing for TV to get outdoors and into the natural world…. he makes urban honey here in LA. I have tried it. It’s art, it’s magic. His loan is currently fundraising- check it out.

Sampling some of Buzzed Honeys delicious urban honey.

Greg of Patriot Move is a Marine Corps veteran who founded a non profit called Patriot Move which provides support services in assisting young combat veterans into the civilian world. His loan is also currently fundraising (and expires soon).
Annie, of Found Coffee has a passion for coffee and an affinity for telling stories. She is currently fundraising to build her dream of creating a coffee shop that embodies community and that is a gathering place for people to connect and share stories. Check out her loan here. 
I hope that after having read my post that you are as excited as I am to be supporting local entrepreneurs. If you know someone in your community whose dreams are a 0% interest loan away from being realized, share this post with them, or have them check out our borrower page. If you know of a champion in your community who is passionate about supporting small businesses and local entrepreneurs and who would be interested in endorsing these individuals, have them check out our trustee page.   
The best way to learn more about Kiva Zip is by trying it out! Click on any of the profiles above and make a loan that's as little as $5. You can browse other profiles here as well. Tell your friends about it; BE A DREAMWEAVER! 

About the author

Sydnie Nicoll

Sydnie Nicoll studied commerce in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia. It is there that she became highly interested in entrepreneurship and small business management. Her career took her to work for both smaller and larger organizations in Calgary and Toronto where she had the opportunity to connect with entrepreneurs and experience many facets of the organizations she worked for. Equally as passionate about business, Sydnie takes great interest in social impact initiatives and building community; Sydnie has worked with Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cross Cultural Solutions, and also directed a project that enabled Tanzanian wood carvers to sell their products in Canada. Through these experiences, Sydnie realized the opportunity to combine both her passions for business and humanity to empower people to live fulfilled and sustainable lives. Sydnie currently lives in Vancouver with her boyfriend, Jonas. She loves to be active - trekking is her activity of choice; most recent treks include: Machu Picchu, the West Coast Trail, Everest Base Camp, and the Chomolhari Trek in Bhutan.