Entrepreneurs in Tacoma now have access to a new microloan program to grow their businesses. In 2021, Spaceworks Tacoma partnered with Kiva and the City of Tacoma to offer 0% interest microloans to underserved entrepreneurs in Tacoma. This pilot program establishes Tacoma as the first “Kiva Hub” in the Pacific Northwest and aims to support at least 25 businesses and attract $175,000 in investments in its first year.
“We’ve long recognized that capital can make someone’s business dreams a reality, but that barriers exist for accessing traditional business loans,” says Michael Liang, Spaceworks Director, “Kiva microloans can unite a community and empower our local, home-grown businesses.”
Kiva, an international nonprofit, connects people through lending to alleviate poverty. Kiva enables everyday people (lenders) to pool small contributions to provide financial access to entrepreneurs across the globe. Since its beginning in 2005, Kiva has enabled over 2 million lenders to provide $1.5 billion worldwide.
Kiva lenders provide more than capital, they tell small business owners that they believe in them. With as little as a $25 loan, anyone can help a borrower and support the growth of new businesses. Lenders are motivated by impact, so while they expect to be repaid, they are not looking to make interest on their loans.
Loans range from $1,000 to $15,000, with 1 to 3 years to pay them back. The process requires no minimum credit score, no collateral pledges, or U.S. citizenship documentation. These crowdfunded loans fill a critical lending gap for businesses that are too young, too small, or too innovative to receive loans from traditional lenders. Additionally, traditional lenders prefer to make large loans due to high processing costs and require borrowers to have established credit or collateral. This eliminates many small or new businesses from qualifying for these loans, especially BIPOC, women, and low-to-moderate income business owners.
Since the March rollout of the Spaceworks microloan program, 5 Tacoma businesses have been fully funded, totaling $25,000. 17 more are in the queue and finalizing their applications. Of the 5 borrowers, 4 are Black-owned businesses and 3 are women-owned businesses.
“With the Kiva loan, we were able to make the necessary renovations that allowed us to open our storefront to the McKinley community,” says Lakeisha Farmer, owner of Parable Tacoma. Lakeisha and her two sisters were the first recipient of a Kiva microloan, raising $15,000 in less than three days.
Kiva works best when many stakeholders come together. “The benefit of a local microloan program is that you can also visit and support the businesses you lend to,” says Liang. “Tacoma is a great place for entrepreneurs, and that’s because of the people who live here.”
To become a Kiva borrower, lender, or community trustee (an organization that endorses a borrower), please visit www.spaceworkstacoma.com/microloans or email David Combs, Capital Access Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Since 2010, Spaceworks Tacoma, a program of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, has provided business training, public art programming, and creative activation of underutilized spaces throughout Tacoma and Pierce County.