Kiva City Milwaukee: It All Started from the Launch

Terry needed a printer, a website, more sergers and sewing machines, and cutting mats for her MKE Fashion Incubator. It is a creative venue where she offers private lessons, public classes, and workshops in sewing, alterations, hemming, and sergers using as well as co-working space for other aspiring designers.

Iris had a business plan for her home-based sewing and crochet business Virtuous By Design (VBD). She was hoping to purchase professional sewing machines and supplies to grow her sewing services. She also wanted some capital to develop her branding and website.

Making Connections, One at a Time

On February 17th, 2015, Milwaukee officially became Kiva Zip’s 11th Kiva City in the United States. The two fashion entrepreneurs met at the Kiva City Milwaukee Launch as they were fundraising for their respective $5,000 0% interest Kiva Zip loans. And the rest is history.

Virtuous By Design’s facebook status a couple days after the launch

Terry and Iris at the MKE Fashion Incubator

Both of their loans were later fully funded! Terry has used part of her Kiva Zip loan to purchase a printer, 3 sergers, and 11 sewing machines, which are not only used for her classes and workshops but also for renting to other designers working in the incubator. In addition, the MKE Fashion Incubator’s website is now up and running. Along with Gretchen, a seamstress, Terry just finished a sewing project for a reversible swimsuit designer. Currently, they are working on baby carriers with Brenda, another designer. Both Gretchen and Brenda are instructors at the MKE Fashion Incubator.

With her Kiva Zip loan, Iris bought an industrial sewing machine and a blind hemmer, which have allowed her to do more alteration and custom work. She has just finalized VBD’s logo and labels and is having her website live next month. Speaking about her Kiva Zip experience, Iris shared that it is a great platform for budding fashion entrepreneurs like her to get a microloan because not a lot of people believe in the profitability and impact of a fashion business. With an untraditional background in higher education, according to her, “Kiva Zip pushed me to really believe in my business idea, put it out there, and give people a reason to support my dream.”
For Iris, Kiva Zip is also a great way to connect with people. Her 122 lenders are from all over the States and as far as Kenya, Germany, and Taiwan. She is thrilled to update them on her business’s progress in the coming months. And who would have thought she would now be renting a studio space out of Terry’s MKE Fashion Incubator? The space has not only enabled her to serve alteration and custom clients but also opened up the opportunity for her to teach a beginner sewing class and private sewing lessons. Moreover, the relationships she has formed with Terry and other local designers in Milwaukee are invaluable both personally and professionally.

Bringing Fashion to the Community

On June 17th, 2015, Terry, Iris, and the MKE Fashion Incubator collaborated with the Kohl’s Design It! Lab at Discovery World in its Junior Fashion Designer Summer Camp.

From Left to Right: Gretchen, Linh (Milwaukee Fellow), Terry, Linda (Terry’s Friend), Mary (MKE Fashion Incubator Instructor), Lauren, Addie, Meghan (Discovery World’s Educators), and Brenda

20 girls from third to fifth grades came to the MKE Fashion Incubator, all excited to learn more about fashion, design, and how to sew and make their own skirts.

Terry instructing summer campers how to make a skirt (Photo Courtesy of Discovery World)

They had fun and got very creative! (Photo Courtesy of Discovery World)

Meghan Langmyer, Kohl’s Design It! Lab’s Education Coordinator, mentioned this was a fun educational program for the summer campers and they look forward to further collaborating with the MKE Fashion Incubator in the future.

Got the itch to learn how to sew and make your own skirt? Sign up for a class with Terry or Iris.

Learn more about Discovery World and the Kohl’s Design It! Lab here.

Want more updates from Kiva Zip in Milwaukee? Follow us at Kiva City Milwaukee and @KivaZipMKE and make a loan to support a Milwaukee entrepreneur here.

About the author

Linh Nguyen

Born and raised in Hanoi, Vietnam, Linh holds a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Ohio Wesleyan University. Upon graduation, she worked as an external auditor with Deloitte and Touche in its Chicago office for two years, where she developed keen interests for the nonprofit sector and retail industry. She is excited to help microentrepreneurs in the States while further exploring her interests by joining the Kiva Zip program in Milwaukee. Linh has recently returned from her six-month volunteer trip with United to Benefit Ecuadorian Children International (UBECI), a great organization that supports street-working children in the markets of Quito. She enjoys learning Spanish and taking Latin dance lessons when she finds herself missing South America.