When a venture capital firm invests in a startup business, they don’t just provide money – they also provide connections, expertise, guidance and advice.
They strengthen the social capital of the entrepreneurs they invest in, as well as their financial capital.
And this is also our vision for the Kiva U.S. program – that Kiva’s wonderful lenders, as well as lending $25 or more to the small business owners they are backing, will also connect in other ways.
Just as Mark Zuckerberg (who was a white male who went to Harvard) needed financial capital and also social capital from the VC firms that invested in Facebook, Kiva’s borrowers (most of whom are entrepreneurs of color, most of whom are women and most of whom did not go to Harvard!) also benefit from connections, customers and support.
As a Kiva lender, we would love it if you asked yourself: “How else can I support this entrepreneur, beyond my $25 loan?”
Here are some ideas:
1. Like their business's Facebook page – it will take you 10 seconds to become their brand ambassador.
2. Write them an encouraging message of support – the comments you write on the bottom left of a loan page will be sent directly to the borrower. Small business ownership can be an emotionally grueling slog at times – help spread the Kiva love with a positive note!
3. Connect with the borrower on LinkedIn – some lenders might be reticent to connect with someone on LinkedIn if they don’t know them, and that’s okay! But if you’re like me and you don’t really see much downside to a larger LinkedIn network, then why not add the borrower as a connection? You might write a message like this: “Hey Brenda, I am proud to be one of your Kiva lenders. I wanted to connect on LinkedIn, in case anyone in my professional network could ever benefit your business. Cheers, Jonny.”
4. Make a connection for them – on a related note, if you know someone that might be able to help their business, you could offer to make a personal introduction. For example, maybe you’re friends with the buyer at Whole Foods, and you might be able to help the borrower get their products on Whole Foods’ shelves.
5. Offer them some free business advice – perhaps you were once in their shoes and can help them learn a lesson from your successes or failures with a nugget of advice.
6. Become their customer – and of course, the greatest gift of all to a small business owner – why not buy their product yourself! Many Kiva borrowers have a link to their Yelp profile or business website. You might discover a wonderful new restaurant that you now have a personal connection to, or be delighted by a new product – my Indosole flip flops, made by a Kiva borrower, are my favorite pair of flip flops ever, and have a great, socially conscious story behind them! And you never know – the borrower might even give you a 10% discount for being one of their Kiva lenders!
Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. And the vision for our Kiva U.S. team is that the “product” we are providing to the dynamic, creative, hard-working entrepreneurs that we have the privilege to support is not just money – it’s more than money. It’s not just financial capital, it’s social capital. And, it’s community.
Not only do we see this reinsertion of human relationships into our finance system as an end in itself, but we also see it as a means to the end of strengthening borrowers’ businesses and increasing their chances of success.
More successful small businesses means more vibrant local economies, more good jobs in those communities and higher repayment rates on our Kiva U.S. loans!
Our dream is that when a Kiva U.S. borrower talks about their Kiva experience, they say something like this: “Yeah sure, the 0% interest loan was great. Nobody else would lend to me, but on Kiva, these 278 people from all around the world put their faith in me, which was cool. But what was really amazing was the outpouring of support from the Kiva community that accompanied the loan – I had dozens of lenders pop into the restaurant to say hi, and many of them wrote super encouraging Yelp reviews. One of them used to have a restaurant herself, and she gave me some great ideas about how to spruce up the menu.”
Thanks to all of you Kiva lenders, as always, for helping make dreams come true!