Kiva Offers a Look at Microfinance in the United States

July 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Photo: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a recent post on its blog, “Stories from the Field,” Kiva provides a look  at microfinance in the United States.

The lens used is that of Kiva Fellow Kimia Rafaat. After spending time with microfinance institutions in Ecuador and Paraguay, and curious about the nature of microfinance in the Western world, Kimia signed on with Opportunity Fund, a microfinance institution providing financial services to borrowers in the San Francisco Bay Area:

The cliche microfinance story goes as such: a single mother in a developing country was given credit to purchase a cow or chicken; she then sold off the animal’s produce and used the revenue to eventually pick herself up from her own bootstraps.

San Francisco may be a concrete jungle, but I doubted this traditional cow/chicken scenario would ever present itself during my Bay Area visits… so I wondered, what did microfinance “look like” in the US?

Kimia focuses that lens on Georgia Howard, the enterprising owner/operator of Pretty Pretty Collective, a hair salon and art gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco.  What Kimia finds is an entrepreneur who was in need of a loan much smaller in size than that typically offered by banks administering Small Business Association loans ($10,000 versus $50,00o), and also in need of solid business counseling.  The result of both is a new going concern that has created six jobs.  Kimia writes:

So while, microfinance in San Francisco may look different than in South America, the microcredit “ripple” effect holds true; access to capital and business advising could make a difference in the lives of working people anywhere.

As I’ve said in previous posts, I couldn’t agree more.

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