FITE and KIVA – Making a Difference One Entrepreneur at a Time

January 7, 2011

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I know this blog is about "technology and writing and everything in between", so spare me a moment while I digress about something that falls under the "in between". I just invested in my first entrepreneur via FITE.org (A.K.A. Kiva.org) and I have to tell you, it feels great!  FITE (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship) launched yesterday as a division of Kiva, and focuses 100% on women entrepreneurs.  These two organizations scour the planet looking for entrepreneurs in less fortunate countries – who need a little bit of capital to make a big difference in their lives.  

After searching through many profiles I chose to sponsor Jeanne from Rwanda.  She's a young wife with four children between the ages of 4 and 11, in addition to having adopted three children! Her husband is a nurse, and she works from 7am to 7pm at her own business where she sells telephones and supplies.  Her shop is well known, but she needed a loan of $850 to expand her services and increase her profits.  (Mind you, $850 is a lot of money in Rwanda where the average income is just $1,000 a year.)  FITE posted her profile, prompting me and 23 other Kiva/FITE members to pool our money together and loan Jeanne the $850 she needs to expand her business. The entire $850 was raised in less than 12 hours!

Yes, it is a loan.  The entrepreneurs pay you back based on a repayment plan that is visible on their profile.  Kiva boasts a 98.9% success rate of entrepreneurs fully repaying the loans. So let's say you lend a total of $500 to 10 different entrepreneurs, within a year or so the repayments are placed back into your Kiva/FITE account.  You can withdraw the money, or loan to another entreprenuer to continue the cycle. This is a concept called microfinance. That's a fantastic idea, isn't it?  

There's more… 

Members (i.e. angel investors) represent 209 countries and total over 535,000 strong.  Folks just like you and me are pooling our dollars together to help others help themselves.  If that's not the spirit of entrepreneurship, I don't know what is! To date, members have loaned $185,099,974 to entrepreneurs all over the planet. Even better, 81% of those loans have been made to women entrepreneurs. (I've got puddles in my eyes while I'm typing this, so forgive any grammatical errors.)  No, the loan isn't going to help Uganda create the next Google, or someone in Cambodia offer leer jet services – but it will help a man add more sheep to his herd or a woman buy more yarn to expand her weaving business, add more bikes to a taxi service or plant more vegetables to market. 

My only regret is I do not have the vocabulary to justly describe what it felt like to reach out to the other side of the world to help a fellow woman entrepreneur. LitCentral has many shareholders, and an unbelievable network of fantastic people who have helped us along the way. Co-founder Michelle McCarthy and I have always said that we would pay our good fortune forward "some day", by investing in other entrepreneurs.  Well Kiva makes our intentions possible TODAY. You don't have to be a credited investor, you don't have to have millions in the bank – you just need an internet connection and PayPal account.  What's the ROI? Well let me ask you, how do you calculate being a part of something bigger than you, making a difference in the world's poverty fortune, circulating money and helping dreams come true??? 

Who was it that said, "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime."?  That's the spirit behind Kiva and FITE and I love it!  

  

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