Entrepreneurs Find Funding In Small Doses


For those seeking an alternative holiday gift, microloans are one way to give. And, little known to many investors, some microlending agencies offer relatively low-risk investment opportunities that can pay 2 to 3 percent interest, offering an opportunity for a modest return coupled with a chance to help budding entrepreneurs.

Some agencies accept tax-deductible donations, starting from $1. For investors, some opportunities are available with investments as small as $20. In both cases, the microlending organizations pool the money – sometimes together with funding from foundations or the Small Business Administration – to lend to disadvantaged individuals. For seasonal gifts, donors can also buy products made by businesses funded by the agencies.

The goal is to help recipients – both in the United States and abroad – achieve financial stability by building their own business rather than relying on handouts.

This kind of financial empowerment is a “panacea,” said Wendy Baumann, president of the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., a microlending agency. “If individuals are sound, they can provide education and health coverage for their family … and don’t need to be handled through welfare.”

In the U.S., 260 microlenders have assisted some 116,000 entrepreneurs so far this year, according to Elaine Edgcomb, a microfinance expert at the Aspen Institute. Over the last five years, microlending agencies awarded $1 billion to more than 1 million participants, according to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.

Photo by jenn_jenn.

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