116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In 2015, I started my own business in Iowa. There were a lot of wins. But also many obstacles.
My company, MarryMyCity, was a wedding gift registry that provided couples with curated items and experiences right in the city where they live.
I had the idea after spending loads of money on the same old wedding gifts from big-box stores. At the time I thought, “There has to be a better way to do this.”
MarryMyCity shifted the buying experience to make gifts more personalized. Instead of pots and pans, we offered date nights at a favorite restaurant, show tickets, cooking classes and even sky diving.
The biggest challenge we faced — similar to other start-ups — was expanding our business to other markets.
As a small business owner, the options available for accessing capital felt daunting and confusing and sparse, all at the same time. We believed in our business model and maneuvered a lot of different obstacles up to that point, but this next step felt out of reach.
Eventually, MarryMyCity folded.
For other Iowa entrepreneurs who may be in this same position, microloans from Kiva could be the game changer.
San Francisco-based Kiva is a global nonprofit micro-lending platform, offering loans that are zero interest, zero fees and range from $1,000 to $15,000. It helps entrepreneurs access affordable capital and small business resources.
There is a lack of affordable microloans available to small business owners and budding entrepreneurs. It’s difficult to get capital unless you make it to a certain size, with a certain revenue under your belt.
And if you’re a woman, a person of color, someone with a low or no credit score, it’s even more difficult.
To address this challenge here in the state of Iowa, NewBoCo partnered with Kiva to create a statewide hub. Also, Kiva users can lend as little as $25 to individual entrepreneurs, providing them affordable capital to start or expand a small business.
This region needs more capital to create new opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially those who are financially excluded or historically cut off from accessing traditional means of capital. That’s why, as a former entrepreneur myself, I was drawn to take on a new role as capital access manager with Kiva Iowa.
In my new role, I manage and grow the borrower pipeline in Iowa. I’ll help borrowers throughout the fundraising process, from coaching to answering questions to cultivating a lending community that’s made of individuals and local philanthropic and corporate lenders.
When a loan is approved for fundraising, it's first posted on the website in a 15-day private fundraising period. During that period, the borrower must recruit a given number of lenders from their personal network to lend as little as $25 to kickstart their fundraising.
Once the required number of lenders has been reached, the loan will graduate into a 30-day public fundraising period, where it will then be publicly viewable by our worldwide community of lenders.
That’s the last step of our social underwriting process and Kiva uses it as a means to assess creditworthiness. Instead of asking for collateral, we choose to rely on a borrower's social capital to determine whether or not they’re able to access a loan.
At NewBoCo, we intend to accelerate big ideas and offer resources to help entrepreneurs grow their business. This piece of the puzzle — access to capital — fits squarely into our mission.
Small businesses are the backbone of our communities across Iowa. Our partnership with Kiva further confirms our dedication to supporting the dreams of entrepreneurs across the state of Iowa.
When these entrepreneurs thrive, we all win.
Kaitlin Byers is capital access manager for Kiva Iowa; https://newbo.co/kiva.