I heard a lot of great things about Oregon before moving here for the Kiva Fellowship: it's beautiful, no shortage of live music and local food, Portland is where all the “coolest” people from San Francisco eventually move… However, as I set out to get to know Kiva’s existing Trustees (partners that make our work possible in and around the Portland area) I was not expecting the immense amount of enthusiasm and excitement for our work, community, and the Kiva Zip program. In just 11 months since the posting of the first Kiva Zip loan in Oregon, this incredible network has funded over $136,000 in 0% interest loans to Oregonian entrepreneurs – talk about community! In addition, to date, all Oregon loans posted to Kiva Zip have been fully funded.
Carolina and Diana are two Oregonian entrepreneurs currently fundraising for their business in Portland that I had the pleasure of meeting during the first month of the Kiva Fellowship.
As I walked into Mama Leo’s restaurant in Northeast Portland, I was instantly warmed by the sound of Latin acoustic music. A young girl seated us at a table in the back covered with tropical photos from the northern coast of South America. Owners Carolina and Diana soon joined us to share the history of how Mama Leo’s, named in honor of Diana’s mom, Leonor (known by her friends as ‘Leo’) and her delicious recipes, came to be.
Their restaurant, Mama Leo’s, opened its doors just nine months ago. After years of their children telling them how they wished there was a place they could go for authentic home-cooked cuisine, Carolina and Diana decided to experiment with the idea by operating a booth at a local festival. It was a success! Their customers, pleased with their meals, kept asking, “Where are you located?” With clear demand, the duo decided they would give their delighted customers a reliable source of authentic Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine.
The two single moms were neighbors in Venezuela before immigrating to the U.S. in search of more opportunity. According to Carolina, Diana is the one with the culinary talent, but the business wouldn’t be possible without Carolina managing the administrative, marketing and social duties required to start a business! They are the quintessential dynamic duo.
After Carolina heard from a friend about the wonderful technical assistance program offered by the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber, a Kiva Zip Trustee, the two business owners worked diligently with The Chamber to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality.
They are currently fundraising for a Kiva Zip Loan to allow more than two appliances in the kitchen to run at the same time! This unfortunately requires substantial electrical work, and will cost approximately $9,500. This improvement will enable them to reliably serve more customers. They are seeking a $5,000 Kiva Zip loan at 0% interest to help cover these costs. As a testament to the wonderful sense of community Diana and Carolina have cultivated, a regular patron of their Restaurant, Paula, will be hosting her birthday celebration at Mama Leo’s and has asked her friends only to make a loan to Mama Leo’s as a birthday gift.
Become part of this beautiful community supporting these two inspirational ladies, and Oregonian small business by making a loan here - https://zip.kiva.org/loans/2377.