Kiva City Louisville Fellow David Taliaferro speaks before Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Premal Shah, president of Kiva.org.
Kiva City Louisville Fellow David Taliaferro speaks before Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Premal Shah, president of Kiva.org.

The crowdsourced lending program Kiva City Louisville officially launched today, and a packed house gathered for a press conference announcing the program at eco-friendly home supply store Honest Home Co.

The event was attended by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, business owners who have received the loans, and officials affiliated with Kiva Zip, the parent organization for Kiva City Louisville. Premal Shah, president of Kiva.org, also attended.

Though the city became an official Kiva city today, the Kiva Zip lending platform has been used to make loans in Louisville since last February. The zero-interest loans are for entrepreneurs looking to expand or start a small business.

David Taliaferro, the Kiva fellow for Louisville — essentially the organization’s local head — explained what it means for Louisville to be an official Kiva city, just one of nine in the United States.

For one thing, official Kiva cities have a fellow, such as himself, who works to connect local businesses with lenders. Through such connections, he said, Louisville may see $150,000 in small loans. “It’s a big help for the city, a full-time person working with small businesses,” he said.

Another thing that differentiates Louisville as an official Kiva city is the creation of the match loan fund. This means that as of this official launch, every dollar loaned to an entrepreneur will be matched up to a total of $85,000 thanks to the generosity of several area groups, including: Stock Yards Bank & Trust, Metro United Way, the James Graham Brown Foundation, the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, and Access Ventures.

Another part of the official launch is the website at www.kiva.org/Louisville.

Louisville-area recipients honored at today’s event include Honest Home, Barefit Personal Training, and Root Bound Farms.

Kiva City Louisville helps small businesses by allowing them access to capital through crowdfunding that might otherwise be denied due to restrictive, post-recessionary lending standards. It’s a bit of a paradox: To grow a small business, you need access to capital, but capital is exceedingly hard to come by for many small businesses.

The Kiva organization seeks to bridge that gap by facilitating loans in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, both from organizations and from individual donors. The loans can be as small as $5. In addition to zero interest, the loans also have no fees.

In a press release provided by Kiva City Louisville, it said the Kiva Zip loan platform has so far crowdfunded loans to 16 Louisville-area entrepreneurs, with funds coming from 3,000 individuals from more than 10 countries.

“The concept of Kiva Zip is really simple,” said Mayor Fischer. “Help people do good.” He added Kiva Zip companies may not be able to get traditional financing but could grow into some of the great companies in the Louisville area.

This potential for growth also helps explain the incentive for a bank, such as Stock Yards, to want to give loans for which it makes no money. It is building business relationships that could grow far larger and more lucrative over time.

The parent company for Kiva City Louisville, Kiva.org, is the world’s first and largest crowdfunding platform for, as they say, social good. Kiva’s goal is to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty and expand economic opportunity. Since 2005, Kiva has crowdfunded more than $650 million in microloans to over 1.4 million entrepreneurs in 80 countries, with a 98 percent repayment rate.

David Serchuk

David Serchuk

David Serchuk is a staff writer at Insider Louisville. He is a former editor at Forbes.com, and an ex-reporter at Forbes magazine. He's written for NPR, CNBC.com, New York, Pittsburgh, Louisville and other publications named for places. He enjoys writing about business, music and other things as well.