"First rung on the financial ladder:" Global non-profit helps small businesses in Wisconsin

MILWAUKEE -- As our world becomes more and more interconnected, Milwaukee businesses have found a new source of funding -- an online community that connects companies with much-needed capital.

Akilah Young

“I started telling everybody I know with a small business -- try it," said Akilah Young, who started Canfield Cleaning Services.

Kiva started as a non-profit organization providing zero-interest, crowd-sourced loans to small businesses in developing countries.

“Kiva is a Swahili word for unity," said Gwen Benner, a Kiva trustee and small business advisor.


Kiva launched a U.S. division about five years ago, and began funding projects in Wisconsin in February 2015.

“A year-and-a-half later, we are already the eighth-largest market in Kiva U.S., out of 15," Benner said.

“Any citizen in the world can go onto the Kiva site and find a business that they feel they want to support," said Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative president Wendy Bauman.


It’s important to note this money is not donated, it’s a loan. And Kiva reports a repayment rate above 97%. But it does not require the credit or background checks of a traditional bank.

“For many people, it is the first rung on the financial ladder," said Benner.


“I was a little excited, a little overwhelmed, and a little in disbelief," said Young.

Young experienced that range of emotions when she became the milestone 100th borrower in Wisconsin to get a Kiva loan. It took her all of 48 hours to receive $2,000 to support her cleaning service.


“It will go towards equipment. I’ll be able to get around more and offer more services," said Young.

Young has also donated money to other businesses through Kiva, knowing full-well how beneficial that financial boost can be.