Monday, January 28, 2013

Kiva SOUP for Social Entrepreneurs: Connecting local business owners to the Detroit community

Kiva Detroit joined forces this month with Detroit SOUP, a local organization that hosts monthly dinners to fund micro-grants for creative projects, to host the first ever Kiva SOUP for Social Entrepreneurs. Kiva Detroit, organized locally by Michigan Corps, selected four social entrepreneurs to present their ideas throughout the evening. At the end, attendees voted for which to support.

“The big intent of all of this is to continue building more connections within the community between people and entrepreneurs,” said event organizer Elizabeth Garlow. “We wanted to give these entrepreneurs a new network of supporters and champions for their business.”

Aware of the valuable work Detroit SOUP had been doing over the past three years, Kiva Detroit/Michigan Corps was eager to partner with them to better integrate both programs into the Detroit community. Of the record breaking 320 attendees, about 80 percent were new to the Detroit SOUP venue and process, and they all had a tough decision to make when it came to the four presenters. 

Each entrepreneur had only five minutes to describe to the audience how their business would benefit the community, followed by five minutes allotted for questions. 

First up was Amanda from Always Brewing Detroit, a pop up coffee shop that she hopes to turn into a permanent community space that features local food, art, and performances in addition to excellent coffee. As a special treat, Amanda served coffee at the event for attendees to sample. 

Next up was Sebastian, a student from Wayne State University who turned his dreams of opening an environmentally sustainable barbershop/salon into a reality called the Social Club Grooming Company.

From top left: Sebastian, Elias, Katie, Amanda

The third presenter was Katie from Motown Freedom Bakery, which produces allergy-friendly sweets and treats. A lifelong allergy sufferer herself, Katie plans to spread these delicious baked goods to all of Detroit and brought in a sampling for Kiva SOUP attendees to enjoy. 

The final presenter was Elias, who after years of financial hardship, is opening his own Pro-Windshield Repair franchise in Detroit. 

Each presenter was chosen by the Kiva Detroit Advisory Council from a pool of applicants that had been nominated to apply for a Kiva Detroit loan. The Council looked at a number of factors during their deliberations including the impact of the business on the Detroit community, the type of loan required, and the specific funding needs detailed by the applicant.

In the end, it was Amanda from Always Brewing Detroit that won the $1,770 grant for her growing business. She seemed to have struck a chord with the Kiva SOUP audience by offering a business that filled a gap in the area. 

“Amanda talked about how she was not just building a brick and mortar space, but how she was building a community, and that Always Brewing Detroit was about bringing people together in a very underserved area of the city where there are no other community gathering spaces. She is building a space where people can come together not just for coffee but for conversation, art, and live music,” said Garlow. 

With the money, Amanda plans to buy new espresso machines for her permanent coffee shop that will open its doors to the Detroit community in February. 

All four business owners are now well on their way to fulfilling their goals. In addition to receiving the grant, Amanda is also in the process of applying for a Kiva Zip loan. Elias, Sebastian, and Katie were able to fundraise for their own Kiva Zip loans during the event while promoting their businesses and getting support from the community.

Organizers from Kiva Detroit found that the event was a great way to find and engage more people who are interested in lending to entrepreneurs on Kiva. They have already received over 50 requests for a repeat event and experienced a surge of activity on the Kiva Detroit site and on the loan sites for the individual presenters. 

“It was phenomenal to see the community respond so positively to all of [the presenters],” Garlow recalled, “people were very enthusiastic and supportive.”

Be sure to visit Sebastian, Katie, and Elias on their Kiva Zip loan sites to learn more about their businesses:

Sebastian (The Social Club Grooming Company)
Katie (Motown Freedom Bakery)
Elias (Pro-Windshield Repair) 

Have questions about Kiva Detroit or Kiva Zip? Send them our way at