RICHMOND, Va. -- A matching-loan program is working to help small business owners get on their feet and keep their doors open.
The Metropolitan Business League (MBL) is helping Richmond area businesses apply for Kiva loans, which are available at no interest or fees to the small business borrower.
Richmonder Tawann Scott followed her dream and left her online job at a mortgage company last October to open Marie’s Hair and Nail Supply off Brookland Boulevard.
"There was the contemplation going back and forth of should I do it? Should I not do it because of the pandemic?," Scott explained. "But it went not as smooth as I thought, but we made it open in time."
Because her business is less than six months old, it was hard for Scott to go to a bank for a loan because she didn't have a business history that’s often required.
"I had never been self-employed before," said Scott. "I worked from home for a company, so that was like a big hurdle that I had to you know, get through."
When she heard about the Kiva loan program through MBL, Scott jumped at the chance to get capital she needed to improve her shop.
In order to qualify, she first had to fundraise among friends and family to show she was personally invested because the loans are centered around crowdfunding. Then, her fundraising page opened up to millions of investors nationwide, and Scott received enough support to achieve her goal of $8,000 in just one week.
She used the funds to purchase products and shelving for her store, as well as marketing.
"Without it, I may not have the products that I need to sell," she noted. "My marketing maybe would not have flourished, so that would have put me in kind of like in a rut, so thank you for keeping us open."
Sharon Grooms, capital asset manager for the MBL, said the Kiva loans can range from $5 to $10,000, and the MBL is the only Kiva hub in Virginia — meaning they endorse small businesses like Marie’s Hair and Nail Supply.
"Any applicant in our footprint, which is Greater Richmond, really Central Virginia, we build a relationship with them," explained Grooms. "I get to know who the client is just by talking with them and finding out something about their business. And when we believe that they are ready, we endorse them."
Just a week after a small business reaches their fundraising goal through Kiva, funds are dispersed to them. The MBL also has a grant matcher, Virginia LISC.
"They match dollar for dollar, so once somebody donates $25 to your campaign, LISC, within an hour, their donation or contribution matches," she noted.
Grooms and the MBL's goal is to help keep Richmond's small businesses alive.
"It is so important to support your local businesses because they are part of your community," said Grooms. "They're the folks that you probably know. They're your neighbors, and they're providing a product or service that you will need. To support them, you don't have to go outside of your area to do that."
You do not have to be a member of the MBL to receive their help in applying for a Kiva loan.
The MBL is also getting ready to give out another $250,000 in grant money as part of its “We Care" recovery grant program.