The District’s Department of Small and Local Business Development works with Kiva — a San Francisco-based international nonprofit which facilitates microloans to small businesses — to provide District firms financial resources to start, operate and expand.
“We know that small businesses have problems with access to capital,” Kristi Whitfield, the director of DSLBD said. “Kiva’s no interest microloans loans are appealing to small business owners because of the terms and we are happy to partner with them to help D.C. businesses.”
ValuePenguin, a business-oriented website, defines microloans as a loan for $50,000 or less and notes banks are generally unwilling to provide smaller loans amounts due because they donate profit off of loans that size.
Microloans are common in third world nations but are becoming increasingly utilized in the U.S. to deal with certain businesses, such as those owned by females, people of color or those located in low-income communities, according to ValuePenguin. Kiva operates in 80 countries and five continents. Kiva’s website reported it has four million borrowers, 1.9 million lenders, $1.61 billion in loans and a 96.2 percent repayment rate.
A Kiva borrower applies for a loan online to Kiva. Whitfield said District entrepreneurs who are interested in Kiva loans can go to the DSLBD website to start the process.
After completing the application, the loan goes through the underwriting and approval process. After those processes are completed, the loan becomes available for lenders to support.
The lenders crowdfund the loan in increments of $25 or more. When the final goal of the entrepreneur has been reached, the fundraising ends.
Tishelle Ogunfiditimi owns Haute & Polished Designs in the Fort Totten neighborhood of the District and has been operating for four years. Ogunfiditimi said she found out about Kiva through the DSLBD.
“I visit the agency’s website on a regular basis and happen to find out about it,” she said. “The agency highly recommends businesses apply for Kiva and I decided to do so.”
Ogunfiditimi decided to give Kiva a try because asking for financial assistance from family and friends proved to be difficult and the city’s banking institutions appeared to be unapproachable to her.
“It is hard for a Black woman to get a traditional loan, even if the Black female has good credit,” she said. “When I looked into Kiva, it attracted me. I liked it had no high-interest rate for the $15,000 I was looking for and I have three years to pay it back.”
Ogunfiditimi filled out the application and started the crowdfunding process. She admitted to being surprised at the support she received.
“People came out to support and I was pleased with that,” she said. “I was able to get what I needed. I endorse Kiva for anyone who needs a small business loan but don’t feel traditional banks will help them.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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