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Idea Forge: Grassroots Micro-Financing for Columbus Entrepreneurs

Reese Neader Reese Neader Idea Forge: Grassroots Micro-Financing for Columbus Entrepreneurs
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Inspired by a dream, literally, Near East Side resident Tamela Walker embarked upon a culinary journey to combine the crunchy saltiness of a tortilla chip with the luscious sweetness of drizzled chocolate. She called this succulent treat Torlitas. Tamela worked tirelessly to take Torlitas from a mere dream, to a part-time business, into a full-time career.

Her dream came closer to reality when Torlitas was featured on the popular ABC daytime talk show “The Chew” in January 2013. Yet Tamela still struggled to gain access to small sums of traditional funding that would transform Torlitas from a simple treat to a business.

In January 2013, Forge Columbus identified Torlitas as the perfect candidate for Columbus’ first ever Kiva Zip campaign. In less than 30 days, Forge Columbus and Torlitas ran a successful $3,000 grassroots micro-lending campaign to help Torlitas purchase necessary equipment, rent a certified kitchen space, and to promote the brand and develop retail partnerships for product placement on store shelves.

And in just seven days, Columbus’ second Kiva Zip campaign raised $2,000 to help local food startup Willowbeez Soulveg secure mobile food licenses, a portable water heater, insurance, and registration fees for local festivals. Throughout the year, you’ll now see Willowbeez Soulveg sharing vegetarian and vegan soul food across the city.

What is Kiva Zip?

Kiva Zip is an innovative micro-lending program that uses mobile and electronic payment technology to enable direct, 0% interest loans to financially excluded and socially impactful entrepreneurs. The loans are crowdfunded on Kiva Zip’s website, where anyone with an internet connection can lend money to a borrower of his or her choice. Lenders can lend as little as $5 and all loans must be repaid within 2 years.

The primary purpose of Kiva Zip is to expand access to capital for local entrepreneurs. Throughout Columbus there are entrepreneurs with great products that are not able to leverage traditional lending sources. Kiva Zip loans are made based on character and trust, rather than credit score or collateral.

As Columbus’ first Kiva Trustee, Forge Columbus seeks out and vets local entrepreneurs in need of funding, endorses their Kiva loan application, and provides advice, mentoring and business services to ensure they are able to successfully repay their loan and continue to build their business.

Transforming Columbus into a Kiva City

Forge Columbus is currently executing a strategic plan to transform Columbus into a “Kiva City”. Kiva Columbus is a partnership of local community groups, financial institutions and Kiva Trustees like Forge Columbus working together to connect local and global Kiva lenders to entrepreneurs that they know and trust in the community.

Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Newark, NJ, and most recently, Pittsburgh have established themselves as Kiva Cities.

Forge Columbus plans to make our city next! There’s a spirit about Columbus. A spirit of support and collaboration, a pride and affinity for our local businesses. Columbus must continue to build its reputation as being a place where community-driven businesses can thrive and grow. They improve our economy, create jobs, and add vibrancy to our city.

To learn more about Kiva and Forge Columbus as a Kiva Trustee, visit https://zip.kiva.org/trustees/621.

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