You'll remember the story of the fishes and loaves. Depending on who you talk to – it was two fish and five loaves or two of each but the crux of the story is that this meager amount of food fed 5,000 hungry worshippers with enough left overs to fill several baskets.
Areminiscent of the Grimm's Brothers?
Well, I personally don't think so, but let's look at a more recent example and you tell me what you think.
The story of the Grameen Bank is now the stuff of legend, and it is closely intertwined with the history of the idea of microfinance itself. Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi who earned a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States and who came up with the idea after a devastating flood in his homeland in 1974; he loaned some $27 to 42 families to help them sell small items to make it through the crisis, and two years later started the Grameen Bank.
The bank targets women from the poorest households. Today, with branches in more than 75,000 villages, or more than 90% of all the localities in Bangladesh, it has about $500 million in outstanding loans to its seven million borrowers. Together, the bank and Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize last year, because the prize committee noted that their campaign to support society's poorest had boosted democracy and human rights as well.
The idea is that women in under privileged countries can apply for a loan to start a business, expand their business or purchase supplies necessary to enhance their business. You can visit Kiva.org for details and a listing of who wants money for what – but be quick. Most loan requests are filled within minutes of posting.
These women are taking small amounts of money – amounts we'd spend on a dinner for 6 without batting an eye – and creating a business successful enough to REPAY the loan and provide services and goods enough to support their village.
Pictured above is Sylvia Mwia Kithuku from Kenya. She has a hair salon and wanted to expand her product line and offer more services. She asked for $700. We – a group of women business owners in Akron – banned together to provide her the money she needed to grow her business. We now have the opportunity to communicate, encourage and join in her success.
Most businesses in the United States, when needing additional capital, think in terms of tens of thousands of dollars. But here, a mere $700 will be enough to help this entrepreneur take her business to the next level.
I invite you to check out Kiva. These entrepreneurs have stories that will inspire and humble you.
For more information about Micro loans, check out this article from Wharton.