Madison becomes a 'Kiva City'

In a development that could impact all types of early-stage businesses and startups, Madison has officially become a “Kiva City” as part of an international microlending/crowdfunding loan program designed to boost startup businesses. The designation became official Monday night as the city held a Kiva launch event at the Sylvee to help spread the word among potential lenders and borrowers, alike.

For several years, Madison Gas and Electric, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., the state of Wisconsin’s largest microlender, and the city of Madison have been collaborating to make Madison a “Kiva City” where a more democratic form of microlending is a key feature of the entrepreneurial scene. Their work has born financial fruit, as the designation became official from Kiva, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that enables people to lend money via the internet to low-income entrepreneurs.

The Kiva program features zero percent interest and no-fee loans between $500 and $10,000, and lenders can be citizens that provide loans as little as $25 to borrowers. The Kiva designation is expected to accelerate the pace of Kiva lending here, which prior to the launch amounted to 11 loans in Dane County for a total loan volume of $73,000 and 65 loans statewide for a loan volume of $402,000.

Several Greater Madison businesses were hand to tout the support they received from Kiva microloan program, including:

EleBalloons LLC: Balloon creations are the special gift of owner Mayte Garcia, who once posted on Instagram pictures of balloon creations she made for her brother’s baby shower and unexpectedly began to receive requests for her to do balloons at other events. This is how EleBalloons was born.

Giant Jones Brewing Co.: Owners Jessica and Erika Jones operate an independent, woman-owned craft brewery that makes “big beers for everyone” from 100% organic ingredients.

Gurke Consulting: Gurke offers business consulting designed to help organizations create a workplace culture in which people can be their best selves, using protocols that lead to more efficient meetings and better decision-making.

Kate & Company Gifts: This venture restores old furniture using two all-natural paint types — milk paint and chalk paint — and offers the paint for resale and holds furniture restoration classes.

Lushlife Vegan Bakery: This 100 percent, animal-free and plant-based vegan bakery specializes in vegan cake and prepares special orders for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and showers.

The Ugly Apple Food Cart and Catering: Owner/Chef Laurel Burleson works with local farmers to minimize waste by using their overstock “ugly” produce, and she serves fast and fresh breakfast all day.

Slide Gourmet Potato Chips: Owner and serial entrepreneur Christine Ameigh, also the owner of Christine’s Kitchen, a shared commercial kitchen, stepped up when the chips were down. Ameigh’s potato chips — hand packed, deep fried in canola oil, and served with a sprinkle of sea salt — started on the cart and were such a big hit that she decided to make them available for resale.

Wisconsin Mujer/Midwest Mujeres: A strategic marketing, outreach, and engagement consulting agency. Araceli Esparza, founder of Wisconsin Mujer, is equally fluent in English and Spanish.