Lily Vail

Kiva in Columbus & Lily Vail

I recently met Lily Vail, the Program Lead for Kiva in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve known Kiva for years as the icon for social lending abroad, making loans accessible for businesses and projects that were outside the realm of traditional bank loans… and I love their vision which is “We envision a world where all people hold the power to create an opportunity for themselves and others”.

But learning that Kiva has expanded to the US, especially as far as my home city of Columbus, Ohio was a bit of a shock. I understand a $500 loan can make a huge difference in starting a business in a rural area of a third world country, but that really isn’t going to do much in the US.

“Actually,” Lily explained, “in the US, Kiva is a pure peer-to-peer lending program. In other countries, we still partner with local institutions for financing. Abroad the average loan is around $500, but in the US it’s closer to $5,000 — so it is a different mindset. When you lend in the US, you’re not necessarily going to bring someone out of poverty or even make a huge boost in their business. But what you do is increase their access to resources, you increase their community, their social capital, and that business’s confidence to move forward and access other lending sources.”

Bake Me HappyToo Good Eats, and North Country Charcuterie are some examples of companies which have used Kiva to help take their business to the next level.  (If you love good food — they’re worth checking out!)

Lily walked me through her fascinating story attending LIU Global, an alternative education program run through Long Island University which sends students abroad to work on experiential projects abroad for three and half years.  After this, she worked on a social initiative in Brazil before joining Kiva and landing in Columbus at the beginning of 2017.

And now she’s helping entrepreneurs and small business owners in Columbus to access funding that would otherwise be unavailable!

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