Website That Pioneered Online Microloans to Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries Now Brings Same Opportunity to U.S. Entrepreneurs in Partnership With Maria Shriver, First Lady of California


Kiva.org brings its global, online micro-lending platform to the United States at a financial tipping-point for many small businesses. Small businesses represent more than 87 percent of all businesses in the United States, and, on average, these microenterprises are responsible for 900,000 new jobs created per year.(1) Despite these statistics, more than 10 million business owners faced difficulty obtaining business capital -- even before the credit crisis and economic slowdown.

Beginning today on Kiva.org, through partnerships with local microfinance institutions ACCION USA and Opportunity Fund, individuals will be able to browse and lend to small businesses across the United States. Through Kiva's website (www.kiva.org), a loan of $25 can be made to support an entrepreneur, and the specific progress of the loan can be tracked, from initial funding to repayment. Upon receiving repayment, lenders can withdraw their funds or relend to another entrepreneur, thereby continuing the lending cycle.

"Most people think of microfinance as something that helps people in the developing world alone, but the impact of microfinance can be felt in any community that supports creative, industrious entrepreneurs," said Premal Shah, President of Kiva.org. "Kiva's micro-loan model is extremely relevant to low-to-moderate income, U.S. based entrepreneurs, especially given the current economic conditions which makes access to credit a very real problem. The Internet could become a significant source of community driven, low-cost capital for the everyday small business owner in the U.S., and Kiva.org is excited to expand its platform to the U.S. at a time when the need for such capital is greatest."

Kiva's Roots in Microfinance

Founded as a means to combine the impact of microfinance with the utility of technology, Kiva.org has risen as a leader in global microfinance over the past 3 1/2 years. In May alone, Kiva.org users loaned $4.6 million to entrepreneurs, a 51 percent year-over-year increase and a record month for Kiva.org. Over $75 million has been loaned through Kiva.org to support more than 180,000 individuals from 44 developing countries.

The push for Kiva.org to expand into the United States was inspired by California's First Lady, Maria Shriver, during her visit to Kiva's San Francisco office in March 2008. As the staff of Kiva.org proudly showed her the enormous impact the website was having on entrepreneurs in the developing world, Shriver asked if Kiva's model could be replicated domestically to support low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs in the United States.

"The message of The Women's Conference is that we all have the power to be Architects of Change in our own lives and in the lives of others," said Shriver. "And this partnership with Kiva.org is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to team up as a community and empower women entrepreneurs here in California and across the United States to start and sustain a small business, become more financially independent, and ultimately fulfill her dreams. By pooling our resources, a loan as small as $25 can change a life. Thanks to Kiva.org, being an Architect of Change has never been easier."

Partnering to Make Microfinance a Reality in the United States

To facilitate micro-lending in the U.S., Kiva.org has partnered with ACCION USA, a microfinance institution lending in 48 states across the U.S., and Opportunity Fund, a community development financial institution based in San Jose, CA. Recent impact studies found that the business survival rate of ACCION USA's borrowers is 97%, while loan provided creates or retains 1.7 jobs. Additionally, 60% of borrowers report an increase in household income. Opportunity Fund loan recipient created or sustained an average of 2+ jobs, 70% of surveyed clients reported an increase in business revenues, and 65% reported an increase in household income. Opportunity Fund's borrowers have a business survival rate of 85% and a loan repayment rate of 90%.

"While microfinance has long been associated with the developing world, ACCION USA's work has proven that it is also an established tool in the United States," said Gina Harman, president and CEO of ACCION USA. "Microloans not only provide access to capital, but fuel business growth and job creation -- key factors in driving economic recovery in the U.S."

"With the economy still reeling and federal stimulus dollars yet to hit the street, Opportunity Fund's mission is more important than ever," said Eric Weaver, CEO of Opportunity Fund. "Microfinance isn't about bubbles, excessive leverage or opaque financial products -- it's about old fashioned hard work and faith in our fellow human beings."

To learn more about how you can help support U.S. entrepreneurs, visit www.kiva.org.

About Kiva.org
Kiva.org is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to an entrepreneur across the globe. Founded in 2005, Kiva.org's mission is to connect people, through lending, to alleviate poverty. Over 500,000 people have loaned more than $76 million to 180,000 entrepreneurs in 45 countries. Currently, loans made through Kiva.org have a 98% repayment rate. Kiva.org is headquartered in San Francisco.

About ACCION USA (AUSA)
ACCION USA is a nonprofit microfinance organization that provides access to capital and financial education to low- and moderate-income individuals, primarily minorities and women. A pioneer and recognized leader in U.S. microfinance, AUSA empowers individuals to create sustainable businesses, increase family incomes, and contribute to the economic development of cities across the U.S. Since inception in 1991, ACCION USA has provided nearly $115 million in small business loans ranging from $500 to $50,000, offered nationwide via the AUSA online lending platform. For more information about small business loans, visit www.accionusa.org.

About Opportunity Fund
Opportunity Fund (formerly Lenders for Community Development) is California's largest not-for-profit microlender and offers a unique blend of microfinance products and services to help residents of underserved communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area work toward economic stability. Opportunity Fund is a not-for-profit financial institution that advances the economic well-being of working people by helping them earn, save, and invest in their future. Since 1995, Opportunity Fund has used an innovative model to direct $150 million, and more than 40,000 hours of financial and business assistance, into neglected neighborhoods, improving the lives of 10,000 households. For more information, please visit www.opportunityfund.org.

About The Women's Conference
Under the leadership of California First Lady Maria Shriver, The Women's Conference has become the nation's premier forum for women. The mission of The Women's Conference is to inspire, empower and educate women from all walks of life to be Architects of Change in their own lives, in their communities and around the world. Every year, the non-partisan, 2-day conference event gathers the greatest hearts and minds to unite thousands of diverse women -- 20,000 in person and many more online -- with a shared conversation and a collective sense of purpose. The Women's Conference has formed partnerships with established and respected organizations in California, throughout the U.S. and abroad to develop far-reaching women's empowerment programs and initiatives. WE Invest, a program of The Women's Conference, has already been investing in women entrepreneurs in California, linking them to business training, mentoring, and a support network which gives them the tools to either start or expand their own business. This new partnership with Kiva will allow The Women's Conference to empower thousands of women across the country to become more financially independent. Founding WE Invest partners include Chevron, Visa, Wells Fargo and The Women's Self Worth Foundation. For more information about The Women's Conference and its other WE Programs, visit www.womensconference.org.

(1) The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)

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