Global Campaign Targets Female Entrepreneurs in Low Income Areas in U.S. and 56 Other Countries


SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - January 6, 2011) - Kiva.org, the world's largest personal microlendingwebsite, announced today with professional skin care brand Dermalogica, actress and advocate Geena Davis, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and women's clothier Eileen Fisher and others, the launch of a novel campaign to provide micro loans to women entrepreneurs in low-income regions of the United States and 56 other countries. 
Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship, or FITE, is a campaign designed exclusively to benefit women entrepreneurs and marks the first time that an open microlending platform has been created that is accessible to consumers online, offline and through retail channels. It also marks the first time that a microlending platform has been designed from the ground up to collectively engage the private sector, its marketing prowess, its employee networks and funding support, to empower women entrepreneurs globally.

The FITE campaign is an extension of the quickly expanding and unique platform that was created by Kiva.org in 2005. Through its open platform, the FITE campaign's strategic partners are enabling not just institutions, but also retail customers and the public at large to serve as lenders and agents of change.

"By engaging customers, FITE can turn thousands of members of the public into microlenders," said Kiva.org Director of Development Bennett Grassano. "This creates a potential for substantial economic and social impacts in many places across the globe."

Added Jane Wurwand, the entrepreneur who founded Dermalogica, a leading international skin care product company: "We know that the economic empowerment of women is one of the greatest levers for positive social change. What is particularly thrilling about FITE is the opportunity it provides to give that lever a multiplier effect." JoinFITE.org is powered by Kiva.org and funded through a startup grant from Dermalogica.

Grassano and Wurwand, who spoke during a webcast today, when a joinFITE short film was unveiled (http://joinfite.org/join-fite-movie-premiere/), said FITE has the backing of an expanding and impressive list of strategic partners from the worlds of business, finance, communications and entertainment. The FITE campaign will enable them to leverage their own resources, products, marketing and communication channels to help thousands of women achieve financial independence.

The strategic partners announced today include the upcoming film documenting Muhammed Yunus' ToCatch a Dollar, Eileen Fisher, Lifetime Networks, Seventh Generation, Dansko, Terracycle, Mary's Gone Crackers, Step Up Women's Network, and Geena Davis, Julia Ormond, Isobel Coleman and Nicholas Kristof and his best-selling book Half the Sky. 

The targeted areas include developing areas in the United States and 56 countries in Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The concept of microcredit for entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional financing was developed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist. Seventy percent of people living in poverty are women. While research has shown that women who are financially independent can be the greatest agents of change in their communities, only 2 percent of all international aid money goes to women. The joinFITE campaign has as its initial goal helping at least 25,000 women start or grow a business in the next two years. Microlending helps provide access to the financing they need to do this, but the demand for microfinance services, specifically for women, remains largely unmet.

A novel aspect of the campaign is its engagement of retail consumers as microlenders. Dermalogica, for example, will contribute $1 every time a consumer goes to the joinFITE.org Web site and enters a code printed on FITE-themed packaging that the company is using for five of its best-selling products. The resulting micro loan is made available to a designated entrepreneur within hours. 

"We know the collective impact of consumer action and socially responsible business practices can create sustainable and far-reaching change," said strategic partner actress Geena Davis. "Together, we can maximize our effort to empower women and girls around the world."

"Empowering women tends to lead to faster economic growth," said strategic partner co-author of Half the Sky and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

Information on the FITE microlending campaign is at joinFITE.org. joinFITE can also be followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joinfite and Twitter @joinFITE.

About joinFITE


joinFITE is the first global open microlending platform designed to engage innovative technology and consumer action on line, offline and through novel strategic partnerships. The campaign, joinFITE -- Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship -- specifically benefits women entrepreneurs through economic empowerment to alleviate global poverty. joinFITE.org is powered by Kiva and targets low-income women in the US and 56 other countries.

About Kiva.org


Kiva.org, a nonprofit organization headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's first microlending Web site. Its mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Since its founding in 2005, Kiva.org has enabled more than 500,000 to loan more than $177 million to 400,000 entrepreneurs around the globe.

About Dermalogica®


Dermalogica® is the leading professional skin care company that provided the startup grant to Kiva, to create joinFITE as an open platform. Dermalogica products are currently sold in over 80 countries at select skin treatment centers on the recommendation of a qualified professional skin therapist in addition to the brand's concept spaces in Santa Monica, CA; New York, NY; London, England; Berlin, Germany; Auckland, New Zealand; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Mumbai, India and online at Dermalogica.com. Dermalogica® is made in the USA, with its global operations based in Carson, just south of Los Angeles. To learn more about Dermalogica® and the brand's concept spaces, please visit www.dermalogica.com.

About Eileen Fisher


Eileen Fisher creates beautifully simple clothes designed to move with real life. With pure shapes and fine fabrics, they create sophistication, comfort -- and style that lasts. It's widely known Eileen Fisher started her company with $350 and a vision. Eileen will tell you it was much more. Find out how we support women entrepreneurs at www.eileenfisher.com.

About To Catch a Dollar


To Catch a Dollar, a 2010 Sundance Film Festival selection, documents the birth of Grameen America and the effort to bring Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus's revolutionary microfinance program to the United States. The film features stories of women borrowers from around the world - with a focus here in the United States. It depicts the genius of the Yunus model, and its promise for America. To learn more about the campaign, please visit www.tocatchadollar.com.