116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Loan program ‘is for real’
One year in, Kiva Iowa provides loans to dozens of Iowa business owners
By Rob Merritt, - NewBoCo
Oct. 31, 2022 5:45 am
As the founder of Rainbow Lake Farm in Chelsea, Zachary Brown had big ideas for how to expand the operation. But he needed a loan.
In Cedar Rapids, Meggie Hounyovi was looking to bring her clothing design business, Megglam Boutique, into its own storefront in Lindale Mall.
In Denver, Iowa, Hanna Nuss needed help getting a brick-and-mortar location for her online gift shop, Up-Gift.
These were just three of the Iowa business owners who got a boost in 2022 thanks to successful loans through Kiva Iowa.
Kiva is an international not-for-profit, founded in 2005, with a mission to connect people through lending.
With as little as a $25 loan, anyone can help a borrower start or grow a business, go to school, access clean energy and realize their potential.
The Iowa branch of Kiva launched in 2021, and has funded more than $226,000 in loans to 34 borrowers across the state already.
“We’ve got a lot of amazing trustees who have bought into the program, and I’ve been able to have a lot of meaningful dialogue with business owners and lenders across the state,” said Kaitlin Byers, capital access manager for Kiva Iowa.
“Over the past year, we’ve really built a lot of credibility and shown that this program is for real.”
Finding a match
Byers said Kiva Iowa had a lot of big wins in 2021, but one of the biggest was forming a Matching Loan Fund with Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust this summer.
CRBT’s Matching Loan Fund aims to disperse $100,000 in matching funds to under-financed business owners, providing a dollar-for-dollar match to Kiva’s community-backed loan program, which already features zero interest and zero fees.
The new partnership also grants Kiva borrowers access to a longer-term banking partner as they grow their business.
“We are incredibly excited to team up with NewBoCo in support of diverse and vibrant small business owners across the state of Iowa,” said James Klein, CRBT president.
“As a community bank, this type of financial inclusivity is at the core of our mission.”
So far, Kiva Iowa has served an incredibly diverse range of businesses, including education, health, communications/media, crafts, agriculture, restaurant/caterers, arts, retail, food production, technology, clothing and cosmetics, Byers said.
More than two-thirds of borrowers are female.
Black, Afro-Carribbean, African or African-American make up 67 percent of lenders, with Latino or Hispanic American at 11 percent and white, non-Hispanic or Euro-American at 23 percent. Lenders come from all over Iowa, with 21 different cities represented so far.
From farms to storefronts
At Rainbow Lake Farm, Brown wanted to install four acres of native prairie, as well as building a high tunnel greenhouse, in an effort to expand his farm’s offerings. So he began seeking a $13,500 loan through Kiva in early July.
By the end of the month, the loan was fully funded.
“This loan will give us the tools and infrastructure to be profitable this year so we can keep reinvesting in this project,” he said. “Kiva gets the community to become more aware of our project. And the fact that it’s crowdfunded, and there’s no fees, is pretty amazing.”
Founded in 2019, Megglam Boutique is a clothing and accessories store that specializes in handmade African wear, jewelry, clothing and accessories for women, men, and children.
All the designs are Hounyovi 's creations. As an African-American woman from Benin in West Africa, Hounyovi said she wanted to express her love for her culture through fashion.
Megglam Boutique opened its new location at Lindale Mall in October, also following a Kiva loan.
“What I really love about Kiva is the way it connects you to so many other people,” Hounyovi said. “ I think more small business owners need to know that the Kiva program exists because it can make a big difference.”
Up-Gift also opened a brick-and-mortar venue in Denver thanks to a Kiva loan. Hanna Nuss said it’s making it possible for her to live a dream.
“My passion comes from proving what is possible,” she said. “I love living it all out loud in my home state of Iowa.”
For Byers — who once owned and operated her own business, and knows the challenges that can bring — Kiva Iowa has more than lived up to expectations since its 2021 founding.
“This role has been so great for me because not only have I been able to help people, I’ve also built long-term relationships with them as their businesses grow,” she said.
To learn more about Kiva Iowa, apply for a loan, or support the many Iowa businesses currently seeking funding, go to newbo.co/kiva.