As of May 1, West Allis has been designated as a Kiva City, meaning small businesses will have access to additional capital.
The City of West Allis has allocated $100,000 and made a three-year commitment to fund administration of the program and matching funds for West Allis businesses that secure loans through the crowdfunding site kiva.org, said Wendy Baumann, president and chief visionary officer at the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp.
Milwaukee became a Kiva City in 2015 with $140,000 in matching funds from late Milwaukee entrepreneur and early-stage investor George Mosher and the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. WWBIC, which administers the Milwaukee program, has now dedicated part of employee Renee Lindner’s time to running the West Allis program.
“The city approached us and said, ‘Hey, how does Kiva work? We think a Kiva presence in West Allis would be really helpful,’” Baumann said.
“They knew that it was something that was tried and true in different areas and that they wanted to bring it as a tool to their business owners,” Lindner said.
Business owners in West Allis are eligible for zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 from Kiva, with the amount depending on length of time in business and social lending network success. Kiva loans are often given to startups or small businesses that need an extra piece of equipment, funding for a marketing campaign, or something else to help them jumpstart the business, Baumann said. The business must first raise money from friends and family on kiva.org before it is eligible for matching funds.
Lindner said she began doing outreach to main street businesses in West Allis this week, including Eden Garden and Pets, Urban Joe Cafe and Hawkins Clock Center, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Several asked for additional fliers to share with nearby business owners.
“I was actually really inspired and heartwarmed by the reactions that I got from the folks,” she said.
One West Allis business that has already received a Kiva loan is The Crimson Club, a nightclub opened by Jeff and Jennifer Krueger in September 2017. The pair raised a loan directly through Kiva.org to fund a marketing campaign and signage ahead of their opening, Lindner said. The hope is to bring the Kiva loans, now with matching funds, to more West Allis businesses that may not qualify for traditional loans.
The greater Madison area was also designated as a Kiva City in the first quarter, with $250,000 raised to get that program off the ground, Baumann said. WWBIC and a working group for Kiva Madison are still working to secure matching funds.