“Our economy continues to do well because we work together and support each other in this community,” said Fitzgerald. “Kiva Zip’s vision allows us to build on that history and to further expand the ways that we can support small businesses in Allegheny County. Kiva Zip, literally, allows everyone to play a part in a business’ success.”
The relationship enables the Allegheny County Economic Development Department, the County’s lead economic and residential development agency, to recommend entrepreneurs for Kiva’s innovative crowdfunding platform by serving as a Kiva Zip Trustee. As a Trustee, according to Emily Keebler Kiva City Pittsburgh’s Lead, small businesses endorsed by Kiva Zip “Trustees” can gain access to 0 per cent interest loans of up to $5,000 for a first-time borrower. She explained that Kiva Zip Trustees are individuals, organizations and governmental agencies that vouch for entrepreneurs they know and trust in their community.
Allegheny County Economic Development is part of a community of 40 Trustees in the region with more than 60 small business owners already receiving crowdfunded loans. Fitzgerald indicated that Allegheny is the third county in the nation to become a Trustee and is home to 1.2 million residents, making it Kiva Zip’s second largest Trustee. Other area Trustees include CEED, Urban Innovation21 and WEEE is striving to soon endorse their first candidate.
The County’s first endorsement is Carrie Ann’s Bridal based in Oakdale owned by Carrie Ann. Her goal is to utilize the $5000 Kiva loan to improve the e-commerce portion of her website in order to increase online sales and to purchase equipment and supplies to bring custom designs in-house. Carrie Ann describes her business as a one stop bridal shop that believes all women are beautiful and should embrace their uniqueness. “We want to make our customers’ bridal, prom, or other big day fabulous, fun, and stress free.”
Also in fund raising mode is A Hair Boutique operated by LaToya Johnson-Rainey. Located at 5510 Centre Ave., Johnson-Rainey’s Trustee is CEED.
“A loan of $5,000 will help me to add more human hair wigs to our inventory and add licensed hair and scalp care services,” she indicated. With the mission to restore confidence and empower women and girls she explains that A Hair Boutique is an intimate wig shop providing customized service. “We serve women who wear wigs for many reasons, including having a short- or long-term medical condition such as chemotherapy or alopecia, fashion, modesty or simply for convenience.”
To date CEED has endorsed eight loans valuing $38,000. “We are endorsing Ms. Johnson-Rainy due to her encountering a few roadblocks in her growth both financial and otherwise, but her diligence and determination have ensured her continued progress. She works hard, has a sound business plan and continuously is forming partnerships with organizations that have a similar vision,” said CEED executive director Rufus Idris.
CEED has also endorsed Branded4Christ a faith-based apparel start-up company whose products consist of T-shirts, sweaters, sweat pants, polo shirts, jerseys, caps, and dressy tops. Owner Yebom Hillary Atanze, a Nigerian native with a dream to start and grow a social enterprise that positively encourages people says B4C will soon offer a wide range of apparel that will carry Christian illustrations, keeping to the mission of B4C.
Currently in payback mode, Atanze said the $5000 loan has assisted her in launching and packaging the B4C shirts and creating a social media platform for her brand.
“Yebom is both an extremely high performing and compassionate individual, who seeks to engender profound change in the world. As a young female immigrant from Nigeria, her ingenuity in creating a faith-based apparel company is a reflection of her determination to positively impact those around her,” explained Idris.
Another CEED endorsee was Cobbler World Baked Goods operated by Terina Jett Hicks. Describing her company as a distributor of baked goods she says she bakes and sells cobblers, sweet potato cheesecakes and sweet potato pound cakes. Pleased with her progress since initially starting the Kiva process in October of last year, Hicks pointed out that her bake goods are sold at Carmi Soul Food Restaurant on Western Avenue, Creamy Creations and More Cafe on Penn Avenue, Giant Eagle on Frankstown Road and SHOP ‘n SAVE on Centre Avenue. “Soon my products will be sold at Whole Foods on Centre Avenue,” she said.
Presently paying back her $5000 loan, Hicks goal was to purchase a delivery truck and to produce marketing materials. Still trying to purchase the truck, Hicks continuously has been participating at vendor sites and selling at the Public Market.
“We endorsed Terina because she is a determined, driven, and passionate entrepreneur that demonstrates a continual commitment to achieve success and customer satisfaction,” said Idris. “She also loves to give back to the community.”
A nonprofit organization that aims to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty and expand economic opportunity, Kiva is the world’s first and largest crowdfunding platform for social good. Since 2005, Kiva and their growing global community of 1.3 million lenders have crowdfunded more than $650 million in microloans to more than 1.5 million entrepreneurs in 85 countries, with a 98 percent repayment rate.
(Kiva Zip Pittsburgh was launched in Pittsburgh in March of last year. Keebler is the local contact person and can be reached at 412- 606-2116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)