Musings on what it means to be an entrepreneur in the more developed world

Ever since I started with Kiva Zip in the US my sixth sense seems to have awakened…I see entrepreneurs…everywhere!

I think my understanding what an entrepreneur was had until now been quite limited. An entrepreneur is Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook. Or the guy from Google, or someone opening a restaurant. But how about the person selling soda from a pull cart in Downtown DC? Or the person that put a card in my mailbox saying “cleaner for hire”? No. I didn’t include them in the same definition – until now that is! So as I head to the food cart guy in my neighborhood, I walk past a professional looking farmers market stand, a less established lemonade stand, a guy selling the homeless magazine, a make shift sunglasses stall off the main street and a flower vendor. And it’s clear: we need to adjust our thinking about entrepreneurship. All of us, not just the banks who lend money.

The more people ask me why Kiva Zip, the more in my mind it boils down to this: we should see being entrepreneurial as a viable alternative to poverty and unemployment. Everywhere! What seems a normal occurrence in the least developed countries – to start something small to improve your life and livelihood, seemed to never translate in the same way to the countries we live in. In our ‘reality’ the way out of poverty and unemployment is lowering your expectations of what work you want to do! So the Harvard graduate is flipping burgers, the previous manager is now working in a factory and the factory worker is being a hired hand etc. We don’t see the option to reach for higher goals of starting your own small business as a way out that should be encouraged. Yes, people started businesses, but those are middle class innovators, not low income opportunist.

Kiva started challenging the perception that micro loans are best used only in the least developed countries by posting its first US loan in 2008. And now Kiva Zip is taking an industrial strength light and illuminating the need and reason for the shift in thinking clearly. The US entrepreneurs on Zip are truly industrious. Food stalls, pet sitting businesses, small startup NGO’s, child minders or medical supply distributes …there is no end to the opportunities the entrepreneurs are creating for themselves. And what they all have in common is that unlike the Kiva Zip Lender community, traditional financial services don’t believe their path is the right. They consider their new business too risky to support – no matter how good the business plan. Even some of the micro finance organisations see them too risky to lend to. For if you have not been in business for a year you are too high risk. If you don’t already have the professional looking stall then surely no one will want your product. The reality is that most small business startups are heavily in credit card and personal dept before they ever sell their first product. But what if you don’t have the credit card to start yourself out that way? What if you are just plain too poor, to recently out of jail or to new to the country to have the credit rating to even get a micro loan? Does that make your business idea less viable?

The banks think so…

But I am proud to differ – and support the Zip borrowers!

I invite you to find out what Kiva Zip as all about, and support what all the recent Kiva Zip borrowers all over the US and in Kenya are working on. You can find this new innovation from Kiva here:

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