The Kiva offices in San Francisco in 2006.
One of the biggest problems for most aspiring entrepreneurs is access to startup capital. Take Lucy Whittle, 54, an unemployed woman in Los Banos, Calif., who can’t afford the $15,000 insurance policy she needs to launch a trucking business. My colleague Amy S. Choi interviewed Whittle for her compelling Desperate for Entrepreneurs story, Reporter’s Journal, and Seven Struggling Merced County Entrepreneurs slide show.
Starting today, person-to-person microlender Kiva.org aims to make it easier for people in the U.S. like Whittle to fund their own businesses. This is a departure for the San Francisco-based nonprofit, which previously only facilitated loans to entrepreneurs in poor countries. Kiva’s mission is to connect people, through lending, to alleviate poverty. It currently connects lenders in 185 countries with entrepreneurs in 45 countries, through 97 microfinance partners.
The Associated Press has a good story about the change. Also be sure to check out my colleague Amy Barrett’s piece about how this social-networking approach to lending has suffered from high defaults.