Hello! My name is Angela Rollins and I am the AmeriCorps VISTA / Assistant Program Coordinator for Kiva Rochester. Kiva Rochester is a program that works to connect local entrepreneurs to small business loans at 0% interest. Kiva’s mission is to eradicate financial exclusion, so our underwriting process looks at more than just an applicant’s financials. Instead, Kiva also looks at the applicant’s social credit – how much does their community support them and their business? What does their business contribute to the economy?
Since its launch in August 2016, Kiva has provided over $250,000 of small business loans to over 50 business owners. Fifty percent of Kiva Rochester loan recipients have been women, and over 70% have been minority owned businesses. Kiva loans are 0% interest and have no fees, meaning every Kiva loan saves the recipient an average of $1,000 in interest and fees. The goal of Kiva Rochester is to build wealth in the small business economy of Rochester and make starting your dream business achievable.
The Kiva program is operated out of the Office of Innovation and is administered by my AmeriCorps program supervisor, Amy Ventura, and two AmeriCorps members who serve as assistant program coordinators, myself and Elizabeth Ingham. AmeriCorps is a national program that places its volunteers in various anti-poverty or wealth building initiatives. My AmeriCorps program, Rochester Youth Year, uses a cohort model so that each member has great social support, and also provides many professional development opportunities. AmeriCorps is a one year commitment, and during my year I am working on succession planning so the next AmeriCorps member is well equipped to start where I leave off.
The Kiva Rochester team is partnered with over 30 local organizations working in the entrepreneurial space. We help entrepreneur’s polish up their applications and successfully fundraise for their loans. We also hold workshops and information events with our partner organization to get the word out about Kiva.
Since we are invested in the success, not just the funding, of our borrowers, we also maintain our relationships with entrepreneurs after they have received their Kiva loan. We invite Kiva Rochester borrowers to networking events, to be panelists, or to get featured in newsletters and other marketing opportunities. As borrowers near full repayment of their loan, we also connect them to other lending resources such as the City’s Business Development team, non-profit financial institutions, and commercial financial institutions.
As an AmeriCorps VISTA member I focus on making the Kiva Rochester program at City Hall sustainable and building its capacity. For example, I implement checklists and training materials to standardize our daily operations and I do outreach in the community to raise awareness about the Kiva program. I also manage our community partner relationships, our borrower data, and develop materials and processes to make the Kiva program more efficient.
In future blog posts Amy, Elizabeth, and I will begin to elaborate on the story of Kiva Rochester and highlight the businesses and people that make our work so worthwhile. We invite you to think about how you can help fight financial exclusion, whether it is through helping to crowdfund for one of our borrowers or working to expand Kiva to your city!
If you’re interested in learning more about Kiva Rochester’s 0% interest small business loans, email us at KivaRochester@CityofRochester.gov. We are always looking for new entrepreneurs interested in our loans, or community members that want to get involved!