Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a stop in South L.A. this morning to celebrate a small business — Café 22, a healthy food eatery across the street from L.A. County USC Medical Center — and welcome a new financing opportunity aimed specifically at small business to town: Kiva.
Kiva is a non-profit service that connects donors with needy entrepreneurs around the globe. They don't make the loans; they facilitate the relationships. As its president (and former PayPal executive) Premal Shah said, they're like the Match.com of microfinance, enabling small-scale philanthropists to get money into the hands of businesspeople who have a tough time getting loans from big banks.
To do this, Kiva works with "field partners" — lending organizations around the world. Kiva takes businesses, individuals, and often in the developing world, women's labor collectives, and posts their pictures and business needs online, along with a loan amount. People can then use Kiva's website to contribute money, which the lendees then pay back over time. In the developing world, these loans are typically very small, and they're funding by people making $25 donations which they have the option of "reinvesting" after payback — or re-loaning to a new business.