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Women’s Business Development Center and Kiva Partnership Unlocks Alternative Capital Sources for Chicagoland Entrepreneurs

Contact: Gabriella Bomben

Women’s Business Development Center and Kiva Partnership Unlocks Alternative Capital Sources for Chicagoland Entrepreneurs

CHICAGO – The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is excited to announce a new partnership with Kiva, the world’s first personal microlending website. Through its unique network of microlenders, Chicago’s first-ever Kiva Hub will serve entrepreneurs and business owners who do not have direct access to capital from traditional lenders.

Founded in 2005, Kiva is the first step of the capital ladder, and it is one of the only small business loan providers that lends from $1,000 to $15,000. After submitting an online application, prospective candidates are reviewed and screened by a local Capital Access Manager. Kiva processes the information, and once an entrepreneur is approved, they enter a crowd-sourced funding phase that typically lasts 20-30 days. Lenders are repaid over time pursuant to a repayment schedule. The repayments go into the Kiva account of the lender, to either be withdrawn or contribute to more loans.

“At the WBDC, we focus on providing resources, information, and programming for the economic development of women- and minority-owned small businesses,” said Emilia DiMenco, WBDC President and CEO. “We look forward to our partnership with Kiva to deliver an additional source of capital to small business owners and entrepreneurs who have been previously denied for a loan or have issues accessing capital to grow their businesses.”

“Access to capital can be difficult for entrepreneurs at all stages of the business process,” said Lotika Pai, Managing Director of Access to Capital at the WBDC. “The WBDC’s partnership with Kiva will provide information and resources to business owners across the Chicagoland area who are struggling to gain capital.”

As part of the partnership, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Chicago will provide match funding to qualified small business owners who receive Kiva loan funding. LISC has offices across the country, working to support local initiatives in primarily low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

“Chicago’s small business owners are economic engines, building wealth for themselves, their families, and their communities.” said Caroline Rendon, Program Officer with LISC Chicago. “As a Kiva match partner, LISC Chicago is thrilled that the WBDC will become Kiva’s Chicago Hub. It’s a privilege to work with mission-aligned organizations to support local entrepreneurs as they fundraise and grow their businesses.”

The WBDC has always been an advocate for women- and minority-owned businesses, providing the information and resources they need to sustain and grow their businesses. The Chicago-headquartered organization’s network of business owners aligns closely with Kiva’s applicant demographics, of which 68% are female entrepreneurs, 66% are people of color, and 54% have a credit score lower than 650. In addition, Kiva applicants will have access to the WBDC’s no cost business advising.

“Under this set-up, the ownership of solving income inequality becomes a small piece of everyone’s efforts,” said Sarah Adeel, Businesses Development and Partnerships Lead at Kiva. “The local community is enabled to support their entrepreneurs, igniting a movement of ‘Empowering my Neighbor’ that has tangible and long-lasting impact.”

Since 2019, Kiva Hubs have expanded from two programs to over 40, helping applicants in the United States access more than 7,500 loans. In total, Kiva has loaned over $44 million to small businesses across 47 states. Through partnering with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), City Governments, Foundations, and Technical Assistance Providers, Kiva Hub programs offer affordable capital to entrepreneurs, providing critical assistance in solving the access to capital problem for thousands of financially excluded small business owners.

Learn more about how to get started at

Established in 2005 as the world’s first personal micro-lending website, Kiva enables everyday people to pool lending contributions as little as $25 to provide financial access to entrepreneurs in developing communities across the globe. After the success of the international model, Kiva recognized the need to tackle financial exclusion by supporting local entrepreneurs in the U.S. and started the Kiva U.S. program in 2011. Entrepreneurs apply directly to Kiva’s U.S. site to fundraise on the platform and are connected to millions of Kiva lenders to raise up to $15k, with no interest and no fee. It also enables local lenders to make direct loans, as little as $25 to entrepreneurs in their neighborhoods. Since its beginning, Kiva has grown to enable over 2M lenders worldwide to lend a combined $1.5B in 77+ countries around the world.

With residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America — great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. Since 1979, LISC has invested $20 billion to build or rehab 400,500 affordable homes and apartments and develop 66.8 million square feet of retail, community and educational space. For more information, please visit

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