NEW YORK — Etsy, a popular online marketplace, and Kiva, a nonprofit microfinance organization, have entered into a partnership to provide financial support to artisans worldwide. Kiva’s online program allows artisans to connect with lenders to alleviate global poverty. Microloans as little as $5 allow lenders to provide new opportunities for artisans, which are particularly helpful in poverty-stricken areas. Etsy’s online market provides Kiva artisans with access to more than 60 million unique visitors a month. By connecting lenders and buyers with artisans, Etsy and Kiva are making the most of their combined services to reduce poverty around the world.
Kiva provides interest-free loans to independent business owners by connecting them with a community of lenders, allowing them to build a creative, profitable business, which in turn helps them increase their income, provide for their families, and work their way out of poverty. Etsy describes its mission as creating a people-powered economy and the website offers a vast network of commerce for Kiva artisans to sell their handmade goods, vintage items, or craft supplies. Etsy also provides a place for Kiva artisans who use the website to connect with other business owners through its Etsy Teams. Katie Hunt-Morr, Etsy’s manager of Values and Impacts, lauded the support for this kind of partnership in a recent blog post. She describes Kiva’s mission as an excellent fit for Etsy’s marketplace: “A community-based system that facilitates entrepreneurship? Clearly an ideal fit for Etsy.”
Kiva’s pilot program, Kiva Zip, allows direct borrower-to-lender transactions for Kiva artisans in Kenya and the United States. Every Kiva Zip borrower is backed by a Trustee, who doesn’t handle the money directly, but rather endorses the borrower and has their public reputation tied to the repayment record of borrowers they personally endorse. Lenders choose their borrowers on the Kiva Zip website, and once a loan is fully funded the money is sent directly to the borrower, which reduces transaction fees. In fact, Kiva Zip loans are currently offered at a zero-percent interest rate, and Kiva Zip borrowers pledge to pay back the loan over the course of the loan terms through regular payment installments. Lenders may then choose to withdraw their money or re-lend it to another artisan. Kenya and the United States are the first countries to utilize the Kiva Zip lending process as part of the pilot program. Kiva chose Kenya because of the prevalence of M-PESA mobile payment technology, and the United States because it is home to the nonprofit’s headquarters and many small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Former President Bill Clinton also touted the nonprofit’s success and ingenuity at a recent Kiva event in Little Rock, Arkansas. “We’ve got to figure out some way to get the money to people who … have the courage to start their own business, who are willing to risk failure, because that’s what makes this economy go,” he said.
– Georganne Hassell