By Elyse Croce
On Friday, May 10, 2013, Michigan Corps launched Kiva Flint to encourage the Michigan Corps network and Flint community to come together in support of local businesses and community building. Flint has emerged as the first city that has embraced the Kiva City model founded by Michigan Corps in Detroit in June 2011. The initiative is using zip.kiva.org, a pilot program of Kiva.org, designed for individuals to browse through profiles and research the stories of local business owners and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Individuals passionate about Flint, near and far, can select business owners they want to support with a microloan starting at $25, contributing to an interest free micro loan for up to $5,000. Through Kiva, Michigan Corps aims to supplement the efforts already taking place throughout the city in support of small business and entrepreneurship. As we see it, it's all's about the community coming together in collaboration to support new developments bringing positive momentum to our state!
The air in the Flint Local 432
buzzed with excitement and anticipation as Elizabeth Garlow, Executive Director of Michigan Corps, kicked off the press conference announcing Kiva Flint. The positivity and overwhelming support made it clear that the "Flint community has come together in an incredible way," said Garlow. Registration to invest in companies via Kiva is free and was made easily accessible at the event itself, with lending stations set up all around. Among the individuals and organizations deeply engaged in launching Kiva Flint were: Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, Tracy Joseph of Metro Community Development, Jason Caya of the Flint Area Reinvestment Office, and Todd Lamb and Cathy Lancaster of Flint Club.
Flint Mayor Dayne Walling exuded a sense of optimism during his speech, saying, "Efforts like Kiva Flint are contributing solutions to all kinds of social challenges." Walling believes that Flint is growing and changing in new ways, but ways that are often overlooked. He feels that Kiva Flint is about networks, communities, and social innovation. Walling went on to say, "I see this platform as catalytic. It is possible for all of us to lend to social entrepreneurs in a tangible way." He ended his speech in a way that perfectly sums up Flint's hopeful future: "I don't know about you, but I believe deeply in Flint's future, and I know that we have the leaders and social entrepreneurs to make a difference." Kiva Flint launched with four local businesses, who began their fundraising efforts and were featured at the launch of Kiva Flint on Friday. They included Marcus Bieth of Mark 3, Graphic Design
; Kala Wilburn of Fannie Lucille
, Handmade Handbags and Accessories; Kristie Johnson of KristiesKare
, Senior Day Care Center; and Issa Ishaq with Max Beef
With roughly 75 people at the event, it was hard not to be proud of the progress Michigan is making. When networking with several business owners and budding entrepreneurs, the atmosphere was enthusiastic and hopeful. The passion, commitment, and drive for excellence exhibited by all of the attendees was electric. Not only were the business owners positive, so were the lenders. Crystal Pepperdine from Habitat for Humanity Restore was particularly buoyant about Kiva Flint, saying, "I think these ‘micro' efforts are so important. Community based, local micro philanthropy is the way we are going to rebuild and revitalize the city of Flint." As a blogger, it is comforting to observe such a strong sense of community and commitment. It made me proud to be a citizen of Michigan, in particular, Metro Detroit. The future of Kiva Flint is hopeful as we all look to launch forward at full speed.
From our early days, Michigan Corps has been thrilled by the opportunity the Kiva platform extends to make a difference in communities around our state! Launching Kiva Flint marks a significant milestone in our effort to invite Corps members and communities everywhere to come together and take action that is sure to produce great outcomes for Michigan.
- Elyse Croce is the Digital Communications Intern with Michigan Corps