I set foot in Richmond for the first time, ever, about 5 weeks ago and it has certainly been a journey, and a great one to say the least. I was like a sea turtle that just came out of its shell and didn’t know which way the ocean was. I know that’s quite the cheesy analogy, but it just popped into my head and I’m sticking with it! Think of the ocean as the economic development landscape in Richmond, filled with tons of different organization, of different sizes, serving different people, and functioning in different ways, but all working towards the same goal, creating a booming and lively local economy where opportunity is at the reach of those who desire it. As the sea turtle needs to find its way into the ocean, I needed to find my way into the economic development sphere and into the organizations in that sphere. I must admit I found my way pretty quickly, not only with some research on my end, but also with the help of some amazing organizations here who helped me connect to all the other organizations who would find value in what we’re doing and would want to get involved. Capital One is a big supporter, not only did they provide me with a list of people to contact, but they’re also allowing us to launch Kiva City Richmond in their building and will be matching loans from borrowers in the area. When I arrived in Richmond, we only had one organizational Trustee from the area, United Virginia, who does amazing work in helping aspiring entrepreneurs build their business by providing technical assistance and business development services. Since then, I’ve spoken and met with dozens of different organizations who are all working collectively towards economic development and who have found value in Kiva Zip and have decided to jump on board the awesome and beautiful Kiva train. The array of organizations getting involved is quite amazing. It ranges from the Department of Economic & Community Development, who has been very active and supportive of our work here in Richmond, to a small group of crafty business people called The Richmond Craft Mafia, to small business incubators such as BizWorks and Advantech, to the newly opened Women’s Business Center, and these are just a few of the brilliant organizations I’ve had the pleasure of getting connected with.
Something very cool about being placed in Richmond is that this is one of the cities where we are launching Kiva City and it’s a big media event that will be held on the 29th of this month with the support from Capital One, Senator Warner, and Mayor Dwight Jones, who are big advocates for Kiva Zip and crowdfunding. At the event, we will have in attendance, all the different organizations in the area that are involved with Kiva Zip, plan on getting involved, or have been supportive and active in expanding our efforts here in Richmond. This means I’ll be able to literally physically see in person, all the hard work I’ve put into expanding the program here, and the results of my efforts, in terms of organizations engaged, and entrepreneurs helped, which in the end, is what this is all about.
I’ve come to find that Richmond is not only a beautiful place physically, with so much history and enchantment, but it has a very tight and supportive economic development community, where the same names keep being referred to me, everyone speaks very highly of each other, and they recommend one another to me. Richmond seems to be a great place for innovation and entrepreneurship, a place where you don’t see many chains but instead a beautiful array of local businesses, a place where the local small coffee shop owner has a close relationship with the head of a governmental department, a vibrant and booming city. In the five weeks I’ve been here, I have felt like what we’re doing really does matter, what we’re doing is impactful, and people really do care.
If you'd like to support an entrepreneur right here in Richmond, here is an inspiring young woman entrepreneur: https://zip.kiva.org/loans/1466
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Ana was born in Cuba, moved to Venezuela at the age of 2 where she lived for 8 years until moving to Miami. Growing up in Venezuela and visiting Cuba numerous times allowed her to personally experience the effects that inequality and poor economic development can have on people, communities, and countries. This perspective is what led her to dedicate her life to economic development in the nonprofit sector. She is one semester from graduating with a BS in Economics and a minor in Political Science. Ana spent a summer working for the UN Refugee Agency, primarily as fundraiser. Through her efforts, she was able to recruit countless sustainable donors and fundraise over $5,000. Becoming a Kiva Fellow is a dream come true, not only because of the unique experience she will gain, but also because she is a strong believer that microfinance is a truly sustainable solution to alleviating global poverty. After she finishes her undergraduate degree, Ana plans on taking a year off to travel and teach English abroad, or continue working in a nonprofit if given the opportunity. After, she plans to go on to Graduate School and get her Master's in Public Policy.