By Sarah Gantz
The Baltimore Sun
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Founded in 2005 as a way to spur growth in developing countries, Kiva has expanded to more than a dozen American cities. In Baltimore, Kiva’s model is designed to offer loan opportunities to people whose low credit scores, debt or other financial shortcomings have prevented them from being approved for other financing. Its loans range from $500 to $10,000 and are funded through its crowdsourcing website.
The Baltimore Sun
Kiva, a nonprofit microlender, is expanding to Baltimore with a three-year goal of making 700 loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners who have been turned down for traditional financing, such as a business loan or line of credit.
Founded in 2005 as a way to spur growth in developing countries, Kiva has expanded in recent years to more than a dozen American cities, where leaders see an opportunity to use the same model to help residents in low-income areas lift themselves up.
“We see ourselves as the first rung on the ladder to capital access,” said Adam Kirk, digital marketing manager for Kiva U.S. “Maybe you have a damaged credit score — Kiva is willing to give you a shot. You can borrow with us and build your credit back.”
In Baltimore, Kiva will work with Guidewell Financial Solutions, a Catonsville-based financial counseling organization, to target women and minority entrepreneurs.
Guidewell works in low-income neighborhoods to help residents with debt management, financial literacy and credit counseling. The referral agreement with Kiva is a way to expand Guidewell’s offerings to include micro-loans and maintain contact with clients who otherwise might have been lost after being referred to another organization, said Tom Simonton, director of housing and community development for Guidewell.
In return, Guidewell offers Kiva a recognizable local brand and insight into the city’s business community as the lender tries to break into the Baltimore market. Kiva seeks out organizations like Guidewell, which it calls “trustee partners,” to help anchor it in every city it expands to.