Katie Hunt-Morr manages our Values & Impact team, charged with making Etsy better for the world, and making the world more like Etsy. She works on improving the company’s ecological footprint, increasing our community engagement in innovative ways, and ensuring Etsy’s company values are a part of everything we do.
Bob Harris, like millions of others, had lent money to several people through Kiva.org. He knew about his borrowers from Kiva’s site, and understood the way in which his loans were affecting their lives. But Bob decided to do something few of us lenders have even considered — he went on a global trek to visit his borrowers.
Hearing about Bob’s journey inspired me to reinvigorate my Kiva account and got me thinking: it was great that my rolling $500 loan was helping a few dozen people, but Etsy has the potential to reach tens of millions of community members — exponential impact through exponential reach.
If you haven’t heard of Kiva, they are a non-profit that connects people who need small loans with ordinary folks who want to make a personal impact through lending. These loans help to end poverty by enabling entrepreneurs worldwide to start or grow their own businesses. It’s microfinancing through a safe, easy-to-use mechanism. Microfinancing is the granddaddy of crowd-funding and has proven to be an incredible connector between people around the world.
Kiva’s new project, Kiva Zip, differs from traditional microfinancing in that it facilitates direct, borrower-to-lender transactions. It’s still important that lenders are vetted, though instead of this happening through a bank, it is done by a Trustee — a member of the community who signs up to be a vouchsafe for borrowers. The Trustee isn’t on the hook financially, but their reputation depends on their lenders repaying their loans.
A community-based system that facilitates entrepreneurship? Clearly an ideal fit for Etsy. We know that small loans can make a big difference when it comes to Etsy sellers and Teams growing their businesses, and we also wanted to facilitate members of our community helping other artisans in the world.
All members of the Etsy community can contribute to the Etsy + Kiva partnership. Here’s how:
Etsy sellers can get a Kiva Zip loan. Loans are 0% interest and can be used to purchase supplies, new equipment, training, or even Search Ads. First-time borrowers can apply for loans in any amount under $1500. You pay loans back over time, as the investment you make in your business reaps returns.
Furthermore, everyone in the Etsy community can become a lender on Kiva. Whether you’re a buyer, seller, Etsy employee, or even getting a loan yourself, you can make a loan for as little as $25 to an artisan in need of support. Let’s be clear, this is not a donation. Statistically, you’ll be repaid almost 99% of the money you lend out (pretty impressive for two strangers exchanging money over the Internet from across the world). Bob Harris compared the interest rate he was getting from his bank (.039%) to keeping his money in a Kiva account, perpetually loaning it out. In one case he would make 39 cents for every hundred dollars invested, on Kiva he’d lose a dollar for every hundred dollars, but change hundreds of peoples’ lives. He decided it was worth the $1.39.
We felt it was high time to integrate our community with Kiva’s. Kiva is working with their artisan borrowers around the world to help them open shops on Etsy. Etsy Teams are becoming Trustees to help vouch for Kiva borrowers in their communities. Already, the Etsy Little Rock team has shown us the power of the program.
We’d love for you to participate! Give a loan. Get a loan. Become a Trustee. Grow your business. Change lives.