Growing up my family was big on ‘the road trip’. Every summer we would load up whatever large car we owned and we would set out on a good ol’fashioned American road trip. I’ve seen the world’s biggest prairie dog, stayed in a light house on Green bay, gotten stuck in a snow storm in New Mexico, and I can tell almost every state’s license plate from 20 feet way.

Family Roadtrip to El Dorado Lake, Kansas (1994)

Sadly it had been a while since I’ve been on a good road trip, but now at ACCION USA as the Kiva intern I feel like I’m on a constant road trip. Everyday is a new client in a new city with a new story. It has impressed upon me that US microfinance is a giant map and every small business is another destination waiting for a visit. Plus, Kiva is now opening its doors to more US partners and the access that lenders will have to these destinations will be even greater–expanding the scope of the microfinance road trip.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Ask the Kiva walker, Jonathon Stalls. He is currently walking across the US to raise awareness for Kiva. I spoke with him as he made his way through Nevada, and he talked at length about the conversations he has had across the U.S. about microfinance.  He reiterated that people in smaller communities understand better than anyone what it means to be given a chance with just a little capital. Ideas like microfinance and Kiva reinforce what he described as keeping ‘small town America alive’.

Let’s be honest the American dream is all about being able to support yourself and make your own way. Why shouldn’t microfinance be a part of that process? At ACCION USA we provide for all entrepreneurs through our online application. Anyone from around the country can apply for one of our loans. While it’s a slow process, everyday more efforts are made to reach out to different entrepreneurs in even the smallest community and lend a hand.

And as US microfinance continues to extend its fingers into more communities, it will expand outside of our urban centers and cover small towns few people have ever heard of but are none the less essential to the fabric of the US.

The amazing thing about the microfinance road trip is that you quickly learn that you can be in New York City (population: 8,391,881) or Monowi, Nebraska (population: 1) and entrepreneurs need the same thing– access to capital. However, what truly ties US entrepreneurs is a drive to succeed in the name of ‘Americanness’, that intangible cultural idea that ties all Americans together.

The ‘Americanness’ of the road trip lives on, but in the current economic climate it has morphed into staycations and short road trips. And as you partake of your choice of economical vacations think about the small businesses you pass– in your hometown or driving down Route 66 — and consider what microfinance could do for them.

By Sarah Warfield swarfield@accionusa.org. Sarah is the Kiva intern at ACCION USA and is currently pursuing her masters at School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.


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