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- Bringing a Family Dream to Stores with Crowdfunding
Richmond, VA - January 14, 2014
Life changed in an instant for Elizabeth when her husband passed away. The mother of three was now the family breadwinner, a role she wasn’t fully prepared for.
“Something’s different about your whole focus to life,” she says of her husband’s passing.
Elizabeth, who lives in Charlottesville, Va., knew she had to work but she found that traditional forms of employment weren’t readily available. So she decided to rely on her own skills and pursue her dream of opening a tomato sauce manufacturing company.
“You have to believe in what you’re doing,” she says. “The passion I had for this business gave me the courage and strength to take that first big leap and say, you know what, I’m going to open up a business and tell everyone about it.”
She found help through Kiva City Richmond, an initiative by Kiva.org and Capital One that brings crowd-funded loans to entrepreneurs in the region who want to start or expand their business. Through Kiva City Richmond, anyone can lend $25 to an entrepreneur of their choice at Kiva.org/Richmond or become a Trustee and vouch for entrepreneurs they know and trust in their community.
Capital One matches every dollar lent to an entrepreneur in the Richmond region, up to $25,000. Kiva City Richmond builds on Capital One’s $500,000 matching loan fund commitment to Kiva to help entrepreneurs across the country with funding to start, sustain and grow their businesses.
Kiva opened up their crowdfunding platform to U.S. small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs like Elizabeth in several cities, connecting them to Kiva’s global network of one million lenders. With the support of Capital One in January, Kiva was able to bring its popular microlending model to D.C. This summer, again with Capital One’s help, Kiva launched Kiva City Richmond.
Elizabeth learned about Kiva through her Kiva Zip trustee, Community Investment Committee (CIC), an incubator that helps leverage community resources to provide capital and education to entrepreneurs having difficulty accessing funds from traditional sources.
She eventually chose Kiva to fund her business because of its zero-interest capital and its focus on community engagement.
“Kiva’s message of crowd-funding is so phenomenal and it’s just an extension of what I believe life should be about – the whole sense of community working together,” she says. “The fact that Kiva is choosing to do this without the interest is such a huge leg up for an entrepreneur. I’m able to use the money I’d be spending on interest and pop it right back into building my inventory.”
In May 2012, Elizabeth saw her dream turn into reality when she opened her manufacturing company called “The Happy Tomato.” She looks at the company as her way of sharing her family’s spirit with others and bringing families together around the dinner table for a meal, like she does at home.
In the future, she hopes to buy ingredients from local farms not only to keep revenues in Virginia but to also reduce shipping costs. She has already agreed to plant garlic seeds with a local farmer for next year’s harvest, a commitment that makes her feel proud.
Today “The Happy Tomato” has taken a big step by partnering with Relay Foods. Elizabeth’s $5,000 Kiva loan has allowed her to buy supplies and grow her inventory. One of her current goals is to get her products on the shelves in Whole Foods, giving her access to a broader Mid-Atlantic market.
“The loan allowed me to position the company to go into these stores,” she says. “It gives me financial independence, where you feel like you can be a part of society. Without Kiva, Capital One and CIC I couldn’t have done it – we’ve done it together.”
This year, Capital One also launched a pilot program to explore how customers could leverage their Rewards points to lend to small businesses on Kiva.org.
Tiffany Vlaanderen, Kiva