Kiva Zip, a 0% interest, crowdfunded micro-loan program, has been in Detroit for 3 years and has had tremendous positive impact on small business owners. This program, now powered by Build Institute, fills a gap in Detroit for entrepreneurs trying to access capital to take their business to the next level, and creates community where individuals from Southeast Michigan and all over the world can have an active role in creating opportunity and rebuilding Detroit for as little as a $25 loan.
In only a few years there has been more $106,200 over 27 loans funded in Detroit and that number is growing every month. Build Institute has been the most active trustee endorsing over 12 loans totaling $48,350 and 100% repayment rate. Here are the stories of 3 Builders that used the Kiva Zip micro-loan platform and how it has impacted their business. For more info on applying, visit here.
1. Tell us who you are and what your business is.
Caitlyn Pisarski, Motor City Soap Company
I moved to Michigan from Wisconsin in 2008 for graduate school and was working at an environmental nonprofit when I established my business. I founded Motor City Soap Company in 2012 after my interest in sustainable living led me to attend a soapmaking workshop. I now work part time as an English language instructor in Southwest Detroit, a few blocks away from my new soap studio on Vernor in Hubbard Farms. As my business evolves so does my philosophy on the interconnectedness between work and community.
Motor City Soap Company makes handmade vegan soaps, lip balms and sugar scrubs. For years I had been aware of where my food came from and I grow nearly all of the vegetables I need for seven months of the year in a community garden. It was only natural to begin questioning the commercially manufactured products I was using on my body. My soaps are inspired by working people and are named after occupations like The Farmer, The Mechanic and The Nurse.
Bryant Owens, EverButter, LLC
My name is Bryant Owens, and I am the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of EverButter, LLC which is a family company that is owned by my wife and I and specializes in formulating, manufacturing, and selling all natural hair & body products, Natural Hair Coaching, and Hair Schooling Seminars. We focus on helping women build & strengthen relationships through hair by providing information about how to take care of their hair; to help them build the confidence they need to help and educate others about their natural hair.
Danielle Smith, Detroit Maid
Detroit Maid is a residential and commercial cleaning service for busy Detroiters. We provide vacancy cleaning, green cleaning, regular maintenance and more.
In 2012, I was commuting to Lansing daily for work while juggling family and social obligations. The last thing I wanted to do was clean. I finally decided to search for a cleaning service that met my needs in Detroit, to no avail. When I looked to suburban cleaners, merely 3-5 miles away, no one was willing to cross Eight Mile.
It was then that I realized I could put my cleaning skills and entrepreneurial spirit to use and create a business of my own—one that provides quality service while celebrating Detroit and Detroiters. Soon after, the first two team members were hired and we began to provide service to residential clients in Midtown and Downtown. We now have clients in every corner of the city.
2. How did you hear about Kiva? Why did you think the Kiva Zip loan was for you?
Caitlyn: I was first introduced to Kiva’s lending side by a friend years ago and became a lender in 2010. Then in 2013 I learned about Kiva Zip in a Build class, thanks to Delphia Simmons! I thought Kiva Zip was a great fit for me because I liked the idea of character based lending that was fueled by a supportive network of individuals. I needed funds to purchase carrier oils in bulk to bring down production costs and my first Kiva Zip loan gave me the chance to do this.
Bryant: I heard about Kiva Zip through my Build class, which was in the summer of 2014. One of the sessions was on funding and the different organizations that businesses can obtain funding through. As soon as I heard what it was, what type of businesses it was for, and how it worked, I knew I needed more information. I was intrigued by the Kiva Zip loan because it is a 0% interest loan, it is based on the company’s story, and it is a way to engage my own community for support in a non-threatening way. At the time, we had already launched our business and began bringing in sales, so our business fit the model of what Kiva was looking for.
We did a loan for $2000 for video and photo equipment that would allow us to build a YouTube channel and take professional photos of our products in house. This equipment would save us lots of time by not having to outsourcing our product photos and help us expand our reach by producing videos for YouTube.
Danielle: I became aware of Kiva Zip through the Build Institute’s Facebook page. I had built increased marketing into my business plan, but had not identified a funding source. When I learned about Kiva Zip it was perfect timing and just the right fit. I am now redeveloping my website and increasing outreach for our new social initiative, Clean for Good.
5. What was it like to crowdfund your loan with people from all over the world?
Caitlyn: My experience crowdfunding through Kiva Zip was exhilarating because people were investing in something I created and believed in. I was also humbled by the fact that so many people were willing to take a risk and invest in my business. I still have customers to this day who started as lenders during my first campaign and that’s a great feeling.
Bryant: Very Interesting!! Watching the loan gradually get funded from people I didn’t know was amazing. It made us feel validated and in what we were doing, and very grateful for their support.
Danielle: It was so exciting to see each lender’s story. I felt amazed at how many people from across the U.S and abroad saw value in our work and wanted to support it. It made me want to accomplish even more.
6. What has it been like since your loan was fully funded? How did Kiva Zip impact your business?