For the past four months, I have been serving as a Kiva Zip Fellow in Denver, Colorado. As a fellow in the US I was required to work independently without the comfort of a home office or co-workers. The Zip fellowship is in and of itself, very entrepreneurial. First came research, then networking, then meetings, then events, then more networking. I’ve met so many fascinating people and have come to know so many amazing organizations doing crucial work in my own backyard.
The work of one organization in particular has really resonated with me, that of Mi Casa Resource Center. Mi Casa was founded in 1976 and has been providing support to ensure the economic success of Latino families in the Denver Metro area. Mi Casa provides after school programs, business classes, as well as other resources. The program that Kiva Zip has been working with is an entrepreneurial training program taught in both English and Spanish. Students are required to graduate from the program, they then become eligible for a Zip loan.
We have lent to three borrowers endorsed by Mi Casa, all of which are starting their own businesses. One is starting a catering and food cart business, one is opening her own hair studio, and one has launched his own construction company. These borrowers are self-employed entrepreneurs with skills that provide new opportunity for minorities. With the help of Mi Casa and Kiva Zip they have created readily available jobs to people in their communities. Instead of a top down approach to job creation, these borrowers are creating jobs from the bottom up. Jobs with dignity that require specialized skills, jobs that they can be proud of.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending one of the classes at Mi Casa. The classes are held in the evening and every week one of the students provides refreshments for everyone. I can’t describe how humbling it was to sit in that room. Every student was attentive and asking questions, participating, eagerly scribbling notes as if the information was about to just slip away and be lost forever. It was quite the departure from what I experienced at my traditional four-year public university. For these people, it was real – at the end of the program they will launch their businesses and it’s sink or swim.
Job creation is such a hot button issue these days and there is no universal solution. But seeing the Zip borrowers in person, seeing their drive and their passion to aim higher is encouraging if nothing else. With the right resources and bit of direction, creating a job for yourself and those around you is within reach. I can say confidently that Kiva Zip is giving entrepreneurs in the United States a chance to follow their dreams and it’s giving people an opportunity to find dignity and acceptance among our lenders. I’m passionate about this work and I am excited to see what the future holds for Kiva Zip and Mi Casa Resource Center.
You can visit Mi Casa’s trustee page at: https://zip.kiva.org/trustees/136