Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kiva borrower Efia Crandon on the power of micro-lending and motherhood

"But mommy why?"

This was Kiva borrower and Smucci Founder Efia Crandon's favorite question to ask her mother as a child.

"I always wanted to know why things were the way they were, if they could change and how," she says. "I used to drive her a bit crazy with all my questions." But no matter how many she asked, her mother always answered.

As Efia grew up, she realized that sometimes there isn't a simple answer to all the "why" questions in life. And when her brother, a police officer, died trying to save people on 9/11, there were no answers.

"I just knew I needed to be around people, to remind myself of the goodness of humanity," she says. "The whole city was searching for connections."

At the time, she was working for a cosmetics company in New York, a field that she was and still is passionate about.

"Applying makeup entails staring deeply into someone's eyes and looking closely at their face," she says. "It's incredibly intimate, and it's amazing what people will share with you when they sit in a makeup chair."

These conversations and connections helped her realize that part of caring for people is helping them bridge the gap between their inner beauty and self perception. This eventually became the heart of her own cosmetics company, Smucci Cosmetics, which she owns and operates today.

When she first headed out on her own as an entrepreneur, Efia realized that the curiosity her mother had nurtured was one of her biggest assets.

"Starting a business is all about learning -- lots of people will tell you no, or discourage you from trying," she says. "It's easy to get demoralized, but if you just keep asking why, then your idea develops and strengthens."

Now Efia herself is the mother of a three-year-old daughter. Throughout our interview with her, her daughter Brooke kept asking questions. Each time, Efia would politely stop the conversation to answer.

"Between the two of us, the nurturing flows organically back-and-forth," she says. "I encourage her to be curious and dream big, and she reminds me of the big picture and highlights my strengths and weaknesses."

Efia says being a mother has helped focus her vision for her life: to pursue her passion and honor the people in her life who have helped her along the way.

A firm believer in the adage that if you give, you will always have, Efia admits that sometimes you have to have faith in reciprocity. As a Kiva borrower, she told me that when she saw all the people who had lent her money to get Smucci off the ground, she was overwhelmed by a sense of connection and validation.

"I don't know them but they understood my vision, and their support pushes me everyday," she says. "When I find myself fighting doubts, I just look at all my lenders, and I'm reminded of all the people who found a way to make this happen."

The support of her mother helped Efia develop confidence in her potential and understand life in a way that enabled her to learn from hardships and take chances on her dreams. Now, with Kiva lenders' help, she's doing the same for her daughter.

Efia Crandon is a long-time Kiva borrower based in New York. This post is part of a May guest blog series honoring mothers, women, and the Kiva lenders who help them build brighter futures. Send questions and comments to