By Charlotte Makoff, KF16, New Orleans

“To Connect People Through Lending to Entrepreneurs Across the Globe” is one of Kiva’s best tag lines. Indeed, “Connecting” is key to Kiva, to microfinance loans and to repayment, especially in this high tech world of Twitter, Facebook, Groupon and the Worldwide Web. All of the Kiva borrowers in New Orleans are online, from the youngest in her twenties to the oldsters in their 60s. A lot have smart phones to check their email and Facebook pages. Unlike the Kiva borrowers in developing nations, there is no need to explain “the internet.” When I meet with a prospective client I walk them through the Kiva website. I go to Kiva.org and explain “crowd sourcing,” i.e. that their loan will actually be funded by around 250 people from different parts the world who want to loan and connect with them after reading their Kiva profile. The response is always positive and many of the borrowers want to make a connection to the lenders. One borrower, Renee, specifically asked me to write all of her lenders a thank you note and a progress report on her loan. The Kiva site is built so that the borrowers cannot directly write to the lenders. This is what I wrote on Renee’s behalf:

Feb 1, 2012

20120202-125731.jpgRenee says Thanks to all of her Kiva Lenders.
Dear Lenders,
Thanks for helping me take my construction company, Dorsey Bryant, to the next level. Things have been going really well. I have a contract to install 2,500 mini blinds in Section 3 government housing that is being constructed here in New Orleans. I have hired three Section 3 employees to assist me, and I have moved my home based office to a commercial space. Thank you Kiva.
This picture was taken today at Good Work Network, where I met the founder and CEO of Kiva, Matt Flannery.
Sincerely,
Renee
If you would like to contact me my email is renee@dorseybryant.com. I would love to hear from you.

Renee specifically asked me to write in her email address so that the lenders can directly reach her. Renee is proud to be a Kiva Borrower and is very thankful for her loan.

Another Kiva NOLA borrower, Michelle, who paints murals and paints fine art, wanted to connect with her lenders. In her borrower’s profile she asked if I could insert a link to her website mondomurals.com. I could not put in a clickable link (attention Kiva product engineers), but I was able to post the following:

20120202-130559.jpgMichelle has been an artist her entire life. She studied art at the University of New Orleans and New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. She has done set dressing for major motion pictures, has been a stylist for Mattel Toys, has done music video styling and has been a scenic artist for all of New Orleans local theaters.

In 2008, Michelle started Mondo Murals & Design, LLC. She’s been painting specialty murals in businesses and private homes. She also has many fine art paintings for sale in several galleries in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Michelle is now branching out and printing her art on home decor and gift ware items. With her Kiva loan, Michelle will be able to reproduce her art on mugs, aprons, matted prints, coasters, trivets and other items. To view some of Michelle’s work go to www.mondomurals.com.

On Mardi Gras day, Michelle can be found winding her way from Uptown to the French Quarter with “Mondo Kayo Social & Marching Club,” a New Orleans salute to Carnival across the tropics. Revelers in colorful handmade costumes dance to Caribbean, Latin and African beats blaring from tiki floats. Michelle enjoys Mondo Kayo so much that she named her business Mondo Murals & Design after it. Mondo means “world,” and Michelle’s goal is to paint her murals all over the world.

Because of the mention of Mondomurals.com, several lenders found Michelle on Facebook and have become Michelle’s Facebook friends. One person was so impressed with what she saw on Mondomurals.com that she commissioned a painting by Michelle. This is the painting that inspired the Kiva borrower to commission a similar painting by Michelle:

20120202-132927.jpg
When Michelle was raising funds on Kiva, I sent her the link so she could watch as new lenders from around the world were making her $25.00 loans. She wanted to connect with each of them to say, “Thanks,” but realized that she couldn’t. To remedy this, Michelle will be sent a Kiva gift card, so that she can also be a Kiva lender. Based on this, I think every Kiva borrower in New Orleans (or wherever the borrower has good internet access) should be one of their own lenders, so that they can access the lender pages and see exactly what their lenders see. Then the borrower will be able to access their repayment page, the journal entries and be able to make contact with their Kiva lenders. After all, connection is what it’s all about!

A bigger idea is to create even more connections with a KivaNOLA marketplace, so that all of the goods and services by the Kiva NOLA entrepreneurs can be offered online with the click of a few buttons. You want to buy a dress from Ampelonartist L3C or Sidity Fashion Boutique? Click here. You need an electrician in New Orleans? Try Spark Electric, Troy Rollins or RCP III. Click here. You want great food at your party? Click here: for wings from Avenue Quick Stop; African food from Golden Feather; pastries and cookies from One Smart Cookie. Instead of supporting borrowers by just lending, lenders can also support by patronizing. For the borrowers, instead of Kiva being a place to have access to capital, it will also be a place to market and stay connected to the entire Kiva community of lenders and to cross-market to each other and to the world.

Charlotte Makoff
Kiva Fellow | New Orleans

Charlotte is a Kiva Fellow in KF-16, the 16th Kiva Fellows Class, with ASI Federal Credit Union and is now living in New Orleans. Charlotte has lived in India, Japan, and has built houses with Habitat For Humanity in Ethiopia, Zambia and India.

For more information about Kiva, click here. To read about ASI Federal Credit Union, click here. You can also follow Kiva New Orleans on facebook, join the Kiva New Orleans lending team.


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