For the EVOLution of Business

Empowering Inclusive Entrepreneurship at Kiva Rochester

Episode Summary

Kiva exists because they believe that "dreams are universal, but opportunity is not." They created a system of character-based underwriting to provide zero interest loans of up to $10,000 for entrepreneurs whose incomes and credit scores prevent them from accessing traditional loans. In the three years since Rochester opened its own Kiva office, there have been 82 loans totaling $423,500. Borrowers have an average credit score of 575 and median income of $35,000. Further, 1/2 of those loans have been to women and 3/4 have been to people of color. Tune in to this episode to hear how Kiva Rochester is building a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem, the inspiring stories of two current borrowers and their perspective on how to create more inclusive prosperity in Rochester. Amy Ventura is the Director of the Kiva Rochester program, where they are building a more inclusive and equitable economy in Rochester by connecting entrepreneurs with 0% interest microloans. She is an AmeriCorps VISTA alumnus, a board member of Rochester Young Professionals and RocCity Coalition and Co-founder of the Roc IDEA Connection (Inclusion, Equity, Diversity, and Action), which hosts monthly workshops for Rochester's future leaders on community change-making through a racial equity lens. Amy is also pursuing a certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania. Shappelle Thompson wanted to give better voice to voiceless and created OpenMic Rochester to fill a void when he felt that mainstream news outlets weren’t fully covering certain issues, concerns and problems in the community. Shappelle is committed to fact-based journalism that always seeks to get to uncover the truth, but OpenMic is not here to just tell the news. They're here to grow and better the Rochester community using information to properly empower and engage residents. Rochester is transitioning quickly but its future won’t include everyone without proper information and action. Rosa Marie Curtis began educating small children when she was just 10 years old, under the apprenticeship of her Grandmother who successfully operated a warm, loving, family-focused child care center for 30+ years. Rosa knew from a very early age, that she wanted to continue in her grandmother’s footsteps. Noting a gap in services for those in poverty, working overnight shifts or in need of last minute child care, and unable to find an organization that embodied her Grandma’s strength, virtue or wisdom, Rosa created Marvelous Mind Academy.

Episode Notes

Kiva Rochester Director Amy Ventura:
[3:30] What is Kiva and why we needed it in Rochester to create "more equitable opportunities for residents"
[5:40] What is "character-based underwriting?"
[8:50] The process of applying for a Kiva loan

Open Mic Rochester Publisher Shappelle Thompson:
[11:45] How Shappelle created of OpenMic Rochester
[16:00] How a Kiva loan helped grow OpenMic's business and mission
[20:15] The advantages of having a Kiva office in Rochester

Marvelous Mind Academy Founder Rosa Marie Curtis:
[22:15] How Rosa founded Marvelous Mind Academy
[24:20] The unique MMA business model: childcare for low-income workers
[25:45] Becoming a worker owned cooperative through OWN Rochester
(Listen to the episode with OWN Rochester CEO Kate Washington here:
[26:50] Connecting with Kiva Rochester as an opportunity for growth

[28:45] Why purposeful, community-focused businesses succeed on Kiva
Advice from Rosa's grandmother: "Your business won't grow until you find your WHY"
Amy: "We are always looking for businesses that are socially impactful. That's actually something that Kiva incorporates into their underwriting. There are certain businesses that are going to have greater impact on a community than others, however, they recognize that almost all businesses are going to have a positive impact on the community by generating revenue and hiring people."
[34:00] How Kiva Rochester addresses an underserved market and early wins so far (82 loans totaling $423,500. Borrowers have an average 575 credit score, and median income of $35,000)
[36:45] Beyond capital: building a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem
(Listen to the episode with the Venture Jobs Foundation's Denny DeLeo here: (
Consumer Credit Counseling (
Office of Community Wealth Building (
Rochester Works (
[40:15] Gaps for more inclusive prosperity in Rochester
-Connecting to the right resources
-Reaching people where they are with the right information
-Reintegration for the formerly incarcerated
-Building generational wealth
Shapelle: "Give a man a fish, he'll eat tonight; teach a man to fish, he'll eat forever; but teach him how to buy the pond, his whole family, and everybody eats. I don't want you to give me a fish. I don't want you to show me how to fish. Show me how to buy the pond...and that's what I want for everybody."
[46:20] How Rochester is setting the standard for Kiva programs across the US

Learn more about Kiva Rochester here:
Learn more about Kiva here:
Learn more about ROC I.D.E.A. (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action) events here: ( and
Learn more about Marvelous Mind Academy here:
...and check out Rosa featured on the INTERNATIONAL Kiva blog and newsletter for ""changing the childcare paradigm in Rochester" here:
Learn more about OpenMic Rochester and subscribe here: