Etsy News Blog

Microfunding for the Big Picture: Etsy Little Rock and Kiva

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These days, it’s easier than ever to connect with like-minded individuals around the world to bring ideas into reality. People can lend financial support to projects with the click of a button, and crowd-sourced funding sites aggregate individual contributions to achieve astronomical sums in record time. This movement is disrupting the status quo by decentralizing wealth and making opportunities accessible to entrepreneurs and creators around the world. Sounds pretty good to us.

We couldn’t be prouder when the Etsy Little Rock team recently made headlines, featured as a trustee for a program called Kiva City in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bill Clinton attended the launch event and spoke to the enormity of the movement in a compelling speech about how the work of the local Little Rock community is making notable headway toward building a foundation for a new, more robust and versatile economy.

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“We’ve got to figure out some way to get the money to people who… have the courage to start their own business, who are willing to risk failure because that’s what makes this economy go,” he explained.

There are many sites and organizations aimed at connecting people and projects with funding. One of the most well-known is the non-profit Kiva, whose mission is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiva enables anyone to lend money to help create opportunity around the world through a global network of microfinance institutions, called field partners.

In the fall of 2011, Kiva launched a pilot program called Kiva Zip, enabling lenders to make zero-interest loans directly to entrepreneurs. To extend the microfinance model to small businesses across America, Kiva additionally developed a location-based program called Kiva City. With Kiva City, financial institutions partner at a local level to facilitate the loans, while community groups and civic leaders serve as “trustees” to build awareness among small business owners, refer them to the program, and vouch for them to receive loans.

Amber Estrada of LatressOntheMenjay, the captain of the Little Rock team, was first approached by Kiva this past winter. At that time, Kiva was laying the groundwork for the March 15 launch of Kiva City Little Rock and wanted the team to get involved so that local Etsians could take advantage of the community-sourced no-interest loans to build their businesses. Once the team became an official trustee, they contacted all their members about the news and put the call out on Facebook that they were looking for borrowers to endorse. So far, three Little Rock team members have been awarded loans through the program. Ximena Loya, of ximenaelle, one such member who was endorsed by the team actually reached her fundraising goal during the launch event! Both Brandi Marazitt (MyBlueMorpho) and Macy Madison (MyNextExHusband) have also received loans since the event, and Emily Young of Princess Puddle Duck is well on her way.

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Etsy Little Rock team leaders Brandi and Amber with Bill Clinton.

“It was so encouraging and uplifting to see Kiva and small business owners (including our Etsians) work towards taking their small businesses to the next level, one microloan at a time,” gushed Amber. Besides Little Rock, Kiva City has also launched in D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, and New Orleans. Learn more and apply to bring the program to your hometown here. You can also network with other Etsy members interested in participating in the movement by applying to join the Kiva Team.

In addition to Kiva, there are many platforms that can be used to collect funding for creative, innovative projects. Instead of a zero-interest lending model, however, companies like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow contributors to donate in exchange for non-financial rewards. Just last month, the Milliners of Etsy successfully completed a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo for a fashion show that took place in Three Oaks, Michigan on June 9. And on Thursday, June 27, Indigogo is actually hosting a free workshop called “How to Crowdfund Your Etsy Business” at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, which you can read more about in this announcement on the Toronto Etsy Street Team’s blog.

We also have an Etsy-curated page of Kickstarter projects that you can browse for inspiration. If you or your Etsy team needs financial assistance to pull off a project, now is the time to reach out and ask your community for help! We’ve even got some tips on getting funding for a team event right here.

Whether it’s to finance an international trip to an innovative conference or take a handmade lamp-building business to the next level, these creative calls for support help fuel a trend in resource sharing — where the value of innovation is made tangible, and connections between individuals are paramount. Our community certainly understands this desire for meaningful exchange. By taking control of the means of production and challenging traditional financial systems, we are all doing our part to transform the world into a more lasting and fulfilling place.

What other crowd-sourced funding platforms have you used? Do you have a fundraising success story to share? Tell us about it in the comments below!