The other day in the Mission district at Kiva headquarters in San Francisco, I converged with three micro enterprises, on just one corner. A young man selling fresh oranges, a Popsicle and ice-cream cart vendor, and another man with a tall stick of cotton candy- $2 each. Although this coincidence is quite novel, it does explain another, larger phenomenon. Perhaps the true impact of small businesses in the U.S. is underestimated. AEO, the association for Enterprise Opportunity, says that 87% of all businesses in the U.S. are microenterprises, businesses with fewer then 5 employees.
As a fellow, Kiva has given me the opportunity to research U.S. microfinance as they look into expanding into the U.S. market. The Mission district for example is one of the most culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods in the U.S. There exists an interconnected community of businesses, many of them reminiscent of microenterprises I’ve seen traveling in the developing world or even on the Kiva website for that matter. It’s made me second guess why I hadn’t come here to study Spanish and Latin American culture- unarguably I would have had the most diverse experience possible.
In San Francisco, Denver, Omaha, Detroit and New Orleans there are all types of fascinating microenterprises. Businesses owners with retail shops, cosmetics sales, arts and crafts, janitorial services, and food vendors- just to name a few. Many of these businesses are using microfinance to get started and to get ahead. The backbone as U.S. businesses are sometimes referred to is asking for some reinforcement in a time of hardship. It may be microenterprise that helps tone the future of business in the U.S. Lets see.
Over the coming months of my Kiva Fellowship, I will continue to research U.S. microfinance on many different levels in several U.S. cities. Take a look at the video I made while in San Francisco’s Mission district. I will be continuing my research in New York City, so stay posted for more on U.S. microfinance.
Link to Video-