Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teach a Man to Fish - Kiva

I once had a gift shop owner tell me that she invested $25,000 to start her business. I remember saying to her that I thought that was a lot of money. She promptly informed me that "Well, if you aren't willing to invest a lot of money, you're not an entrepreneur."

At the time I was already running my own business, an art business and the reason why I was in her shop was because I was selling my art on consignment in her store. I could never figure out how that qualified me not to be an entrepreneur. In my mind, anyone who ran their own business was an entrepreneur; I didn't consider large investment capital to be the chief qualifier (I mean don't you find people with lots of money are usually the least creative?).

(This is a real pheasant egg in its natural green colour, about 1 1/2" in size with real dried flowers inside and a ceramic bird)

My business was home based - in fact it was bedroom based! I worked at a desk in my bedroom and I had all my craft related items in little filing cabinets on some shelves (and every flat surface in the room). I even took over the bathroom as my painting/glazing area and my family never said one word about the whole corner of the bathroom counter that was dedicated to my art.

Just typing that, I realize what an amazing family I grew up in. They weren't so traditional and rules driven about how things looked that I couldn't learn and experiment with my little business. At that time I was making and selling Apple Head Dolls and Decorated Eggs (real eggs decorated like Faberge eggs - I'll blog more on at Easter).

My mother and I always were at odds over clothing. She grew up in the depression and so was pretty much a spendthrift. My sister and I became competent sewers and we would make a lot of our own clothing. But blue jeans were always a bone of contention with my mother. You couldn't really sew a pair that looked like store bought and my mother always refused to buy me a pair. Eventually as I hit high school Mom relented and I was able to purchase cheap jeans. Then when in Australia I saw this most amazing pair of jeans and I just had to have them. I knew that Mom would never agree to the high price of $35.00. (photo - my sister and I - me on the left wearing the jean skirt that I sewed myself).

When thinking how I might earn the money for these jeans, my first enterprise was born. I started to make feather earrings. In the evenings and weekends I'd work away putting together fluffy dyed feathers on hooks along with beads. I designed them so that they could attach to any pair of earrings. I sold them at school for .50 cents or 1.00. In a couple weeks I had my money and my jeans. I was 14 years old.

A few years later, I started making apple head dolls. My mother was the carver who would make the doll heads from apples and I was the body maker, using my sewing talent to create clothing for the dolls. From there I got into making decorated eggs where I would carve real egg shells, paint them and put scenes inside. Dad found out about a local craft show and called them and the following week we had a table at the craft show and I was selling my crafts. I was 18.

(This is a goose egg shell carved with a high speed drill in a filigree design and then pearls were glued on top).

I continued selling my decorated eggs for many years. I sold them mostly at craft and art shows initially but as time went on, I did more and more store consignments. I was featured in many newspaper stories and was frequently on the TV news, especially at Easter.

As time went on I stopped making the eggs but it wasn't long before I was into another entrepreneurial activity, this time as an Aesthetician. I went back to school at nights to get my certification and then I ran a salon from my home. I converted my living room into a salon and for many years I ran this business on a part-time basis while I continued to work full-time. It got me through some hard times. I really enjoyed the work but I was getting tired from the two jobs so eventually I packed away my equipment. (I'll wait for my retirement to start up again).

Currently, I'm working on a children's book that I've written which I hope will be published and I maintain web sites for non profit organizations that I support. And then there's beekeeping which I plan to start this spring... but that's going to be 'just a hobby'.

I think an entrepreneurial spirit is something you carry inside that just finds its own way to express itself, whether it's investing in a gift shop, creating and selling art or, supporting a great charity.

Have you ever heard of Kiva? This non profit organization really gets me excited because it's all about entrepreneurs in third world countries. It works by people giving micro loans to these entrepreneurs. So it's not a hand-out--it's a hand up! Kiva is a non profit organization that specializes in micro loans to people in impoverished countries all over the world. The loans are given mostly to women, to help them set themselves up as entrepreneurs in their own businesses.
As a sponsor, I can go to Kiva's website (http://www.kiva.org/ )and choose who I would like to give a loan to based on a profile of what the individual plans to do with the loan. I'm a big supporter of women, and agriculture so I like to choose families who are setting themselves up to raise cattle or women who are setting up fibre related businesses. The loans really are micro - you're only allowed to give $25.00, however you can support multiple entrepreneurs if you like.
All the people selected for loans must go through Kiva's interview and approval process before their profile is ever posted on the internet.
This is my most recent loan of $25 to Munavvar Hakimova in Tajikistan who is starting up a tailoring business- you can read her profile at: http://www.kiva.org/app.php?page=businesses&action=about&id=93762

The loans are paid back over a period of a time, usually a year or more. As the money is returned to my Kiva account, I can either take the money back or loan it again. Of course, I loan it again, a whole whopping $25.00!!!

What makes this so cool is that I am a partner in the loan along with other individuals from around the world, each of us giving the maximum of $25.00. Some loans are for $200 and others are for $2000. Businesses don't cost as much in third world countries as they do here.

Kiva was featured on Oprah a couple years ago and I've been a member since. They send me regular reports on loan repayments and keep me in touch with their progress. Don't you just love this entrepreneurial spirit? It's fabulous! Few things can make you feel so great as helping a person, a family, a village, to have a better life and education.

You should see this Kiva video about a woman in Nepal. You'll be amazed to see how one small loan of about $250.00 impacted an entire family and a village: http://vimeo.com/3323701?utm_source=jg&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=jg%5FKiva+Newsletter%3A+Changing+Lives+from+Kathmandu+to+Kabala+%28230280221%29&utm_content=barblindberg%40rogers%2Ecom

Thanks for reading this blog and I hope you consider a Kiva loan too. Unlike the gift store lady who put me down and criticised my home-based entrepreneurial ideals (she went out of business a few years later by the way), Kiva is a hand up to people who are trying really hard for a better life. You just can't beat that kind of sponsorship in my mind and what a great way to encourage another person in their entrepreneurial dream.

1 comment:

The Beneficial Bee said...

What a cool post about your talents and Kiva! Thanks for sharing. Jess