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Local leaders, lasting impact: How Kiva U.S. engages community partners

March 26, 2020

Meet Misha...

Misha grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Surrounded by the creativity of the Motown culture in Detroit, her ambition was to become an artist. She spent a decade in New York, growing a business in jewelry design and working in the arts — all while raising two children as a single parent. Utilizing her experience in the arts, Misha began supporting her aunt and uncle with their dream of opening an art center in her hometown of Detroit. When her uncle suddenly passed away in 2013, Misha stepped into a leadership role on the project and returned home to help her aunt, Valerie Irwin, move the vision forward.

Transforming a local neglected, but historically significant urban home into an inner-city art center, Misha seized the opportunity to embrace and contribute to her community. The Irwin House Art Center and Gallery were incorporated in 2015.

The 100+ year-old home would need significant work. Misha approached a few local banks for funding, but none of them would lend to a single mother that didn’t meet their minimum business revenue or household income thresholds. Misha came across The Build Institute and began attending their business education classes. It was from the programming at Build that Misha found out about a Kiva loan.

With the help of Build’s staff, Misha applied for her first loan of $4,000 to complete construction on the Irwin House Gallery. She was backed by 61 lenders and endorsed by NYC Business Solutions, a Kiva Trustee. After 2 years, she came back to Build and Kiva for a second loan of $9,500 funded by 258 lenders to reconstruct the second floor of the center and launch an Artist-In-Residency program.

Since she started her small business journey with Build and Kiva, Irwin Art Center became a revenue-positive small business and Misha’s household income had increased by more than 30%. Misha had built up her credit score enough to be considered by more traditional lenders. Now a force in the revitalization of Detroit’s art community, Misha’s center includes a rotating schedule of exhibitions, artist talks, artist-in-residency programs, educational workshops and hands-on opportunities for all, including youth groups and seniors.

54 million American adults like Misha are financially excluded, which means they lack access to formal banking, credit cards or home and small business loans. Kiva’s position in the microfinance lending market is at the first step of the capital ladder, providing critical access to financing in this underserved area.

* “Data Point: Credit Invisibles,” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 2015

* “Disparities in Capital Access,” Minority Business Development Agency, 2010

* “Women-Owned Business Study 2019,” Biz2Credit, 2019

Kiva is a Plug-in Microfinance Tool

Kiva U.S. wouldn’t be an accessible financing tool if it weren’t for partners like The Build Institute.

The Build Institute acts as the local Kiva Hub for the city of Detroit, expanding access to Kiva loans and supporting all applicants from across the community. Build has an incredible reputation for providing world-class technical assistance. What Build doesn’t have, as a mid-size nonprofit, is risk-tolerant capital and a client management platform to lend to the high-impact startups and small businesses they serve.

The Build Institute partnered with Kiva initially in 2014 as a Trustee to provide easily accessible capital for their program’s graduating business owners. Since stepping up to become a Kiva Hub, the Build Institute has lent $593,950 to over 100 borrowers. In 2019, Build had a solid year, supporting 39 entrepreneurs with Kiva capital at an average loan size of $6,000.

“Kiva's underwriting model and broader mission has allowed us to connect entrepreneurs with capital who might otherwise be, and often are, rejected from mainstream lending institutions.” -- Evan, Capital Access Manager, Build Institute

Through the Hubs model, Kiva US enables technical assistance providers, city governments and CDFI’s to plug-in a micro-lending program anywhere in the United States. Kiva provides the risk-tolerant capital fueled by socially motivated lenders, the loan processing and underwriting platform, marketing tools and capacity building to communities that are looking to invest in creating a vast ecosystem of capital access to the hardest to reach borrowers.

Detroit is one of 22 communities that are host to Kiva Hubs.


Don’t just take our word for it - here are highlights about communities leveraging Kiva throughout 2019.

“Microlending Sparks Hope and Renewal in Rochester, N.Y.” - Rochester, New York

“Kiva US - KRON TV: Making It In San Francisco” - San Francisco, California

“In 2019, Greater Madison Small Businesses Got $100K In Microloans” - Madison, Wisconsin

“Standing Out in a Crowd: Business Start-Ups Get Boost with Kiva Tulsa” - Tulsa, Oklahoma

“How Kiva Boosts Black Entrepreneurs, One Loan At a Time” - National


For partnership opportunities, get in touch with us at USPartnerships@kiva.org.

To learn more about Kiva US, please visit KivaUSHub.org

To follow Misha’s business, check out IrwinHouseGallery.org and @IrwinHouseGallery on Facebook or Instagram!

For more on The Build Institute of Detroit visit BuildInstitute.org. To follow along on Facebook and Instagram, check out @Kiva_Detroit and @StartWithBuild.