Growing small businesses in Little Rock

    6:49 PM, Mar 15, 2013   |    comments
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    Video: Growing small businesses in Little Rock

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- People are stepping up when the banks are stepping back. That is what Kiva City is all about, and they are launching their non-profit small business initiative right here in Little Rock.

    Former President Bill Clinton called it a great opportunity for small business growth in the natural state. Kiva City is a non-profit initiative that expands the availability of microloans for small business owners. President Clinton has been behind this movement since it began last year.

    Basically, small businesses can apply for a loan up to $10,000. Then ordinary people from all over the world can lend them as little as $25. The money grows until they reach that loan amount. They use the money to further their business, then pay it back to the hundreds of lenders who helped them out.

    It's been 24 hours since some Little Rock small businesses started their Kiva City profiles and already they are seeing success.

    "We are an all gluten free ice cream store, and we use local ingredients," said Sally Mengel, Co-Owner of Loblolly Creamery.

    Loblolly Creamery on Main Street in Little Rock is a one of a kind ice cream shop, making their own waffle cones and milk shakes from scratch. Their unique business model sets them apart, but it also has it's challenges.

    "We are a little bit different than some traditional ice creams stores, so it's a lot harder to get funding because we do things differently," said Mengel.

    Co-Owner Sally Mengel said traditional bank loans are hard to come by. That's why she joined Kiva City Little Rock to raise funds to pay for solar panels for her ice cream truck.

    "It's a community involved business loan where people can give you a loan for as small as $25, and that will go into the bigger amount that you need and we pay it back," said Mengel.

    Loblolly Creamery needs $5,000 to purchase the panels and have already received $875 over the last 24 hours. Mengel said not only does she accept funds, she loans money to other small businesses. When they pay her back, she invests in another business, doing her part to keep the local economy going.

    "It's an even more fulfilling feeling than just donating money to someone and not seeing it again. You get to keep giving it and giving it and giving it, so that's really neat," said Mengel.

    Kiva City is hoping to help hundreds of businesses. So far, around 30 have signed up for Kiva. What's interesting is most banks require collateral or a credit base to get a loan but not Kiva. This is a character based company. They will talk to some local businesses that are willing to vouch for you instead of just looking at a credit score.

    There are currently nearly 70,000 small businesses in Little Rock and Central Arkansas that employ 330,000 people.

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