Micro-lending launch

A call has been put out to all entrepreneurs in the Okanagan who need a little help, and all those that want to give a little help to come out and support the next generation of successful business.

On Saturday April 12, Canada's first peer-to-peer micro-lending chapter will launch in the Okanagan.

From 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at the Bean Scene in downtown Vernon (2923 30th Ave,), Community Micro-Lending Okanagan will be holding its first startup night.

Aspiring entrepreneurs, lenders and other interested community members are invited for an evening of brainstorming, budgeting, and sharing the realities of the small business life.

“This is the first ever event in Vernon, we plan on having hopefully 10 or 20 people from the community, potential borrowers and potential lenders. We are interested in having anyone from the community that is interested in supporting micro-lending or receiving loans,” explained Linda McGrew, Okanagan Chapter Leader.

Micro-lending is a concept being celebrated world-wide that allows peer to peer lending to support small up and coming businesses that need a little financial boost.

The typical model that exists on websites like kiva.org is a peer to peer online micro-lending program that allows those from the developed world to micro-lend to people who are a less fortunate.

Typically in those situations people lend small amounts, $25 or $50, that enables small businesses to get up and running in places like India and Africa and it has shown to effect positive change.

McGrew says the basic concept in the Okanagan is the same but a little more money is needed.

“$25 or $100 is not going to get a business up off the ground here so what we say is micro-lending is between $500 and $5,000 and what we do is the same thing as a bank or any other lender,” explains McGrew.

The group provides a potential business with a loan and that business is profiled on their website.

“Then people from the community go on the website and learn about all these different entrepreneurs out there and they decide on who they are interested in supporting.”

Interested investors can then lend whatever amount of money they are comfortable with lending and then over the next five years the lenders receive there money back with two per cent interest.

“So it is not an incredible investment but rather a feel good investment that allows them to support local entrepreneurs,” adds McGrew.

McGrew, Business professor at Okanagan College is working with Landon Orr, a fourth year Okanagan College Business student to lead the Okanagan chapter and both are partnering with the original Community Micro Lending Society in Victoria.

Lisa Helps, founding Executive Director of Community Micro Lending in Victoria is happy to see the initiative growing beyond Victoria.

“We created this organization with the plan of other communities picking up the model, shaping it to their local circumstances and running with it. We’re thrilled to announce the launch of the Society’s first chapter,” said Helps.

Through an online platform, Community Micro Lending gives loans to people who have a good idea and the ability to carry it out, but who don’t qualify for credit at a bank.

“We have a pretty niche market, a target market, people who are not on social assistance and don't have access to the bank of mom or dad or who would not be able to get a bank loan. So our target market is people with great business ideas at any age and at any point in their life who have gone through a business plan with us and cannot get a loan at the bank,” explains McGrew.

She also feels that as someone who is currently working on her doctorate in sustainable business this concept allows promising game changing businesses to thrive.

“I believe that business has the power to transform economies and people and everything. You know business has sort of a bad rap, we have certainty seen businesses ruin the environment and ruin social structures and there still are sweat shops and child labour,” says McGrew.

“But I feel if you look at it a different way and you empower people to look at it in a different way businesses can really change things for the better.”

If you are considering attending the April 12 event McGrew wants to add that there is no reason not to.

“There is no risk involved at all. It is an opportunity for people to make connections, connections with other entrepreneurs, with people who are thinking of getting involved and other people in the business community.”


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