Kiva + Mela Artisans: Why Artisans are a Good Investment

Kiva surfaced over ten years ago as a microfinance platform that connects people in the States with entrepreneurs around the world, enabling one person to lend to another.

It was built on a simple belief: trust. And a yearning to connect with people halfway around the world.

Similarly the Mela Artisans story has been about connecting people over vast geographies. We do it through art. Kiva does it through finance.

Almost five years back, Kiva launched a new program, one that enabled small businesses like ours, focused on supporting artisans, to apply for small loans. These loans came with 0% interest. Basically, they were built on trust and generosity – what a novelty in finance.

We were one of the first companies to sign up for a small loan (under $6,000). To our amazement, the loan was fulfilled in a matter of hours. Hence, we’ve continued to work with Kiva to support our artisan groups. The reality is that artisan businesses are often overlooked by traditional lenders. The Artisan Alliance, a non-profit organization working to link artisans to international markets, will tell you all about it.

That’s why they set up this unique partnership with Kiva. And we’re grateful they did. We’ve now completed four loans through Kiva, supporting a variety of artisan groups, from the women weaving in Kashmir to the wood carvers in Saharanpur. The loan size has grown: our last loan was for $20,000 and again, completed in a day. Over 580 compassionate individuals decided to back our vision.

The Kiva loans have allowed for Mela to advance funds to artisans so that they can get paid prior to Mela getting paid. As our business grows and as we bring in more products into inventory to support our web customers and online partners, this becomes very important.

But Mela Artisans is not the only group utilizing this financing option. The Artisans Alliance has funded 28 loans for artisan businesses with Kiva. That’s nearly $250,000 from individuals around the world who chose to lend through Kiva.

Here are some of the other wonderful artisans that received funds:

Zhypara in Kyrgyzstan received $8,000 to buy wool. A female entrepreneur, she learned the craft of felt from her mother. Now she employs 12 other women who also make felt items for her shop, and she trains young women in the art. Passing on the heritage is key.

Tsultrim in China received $8,000 to support Tibetan artisans. Given the cultural tensions in the region, Tsultrim started a small business to employ women weavers who work with yak khullu, the softest part of the yak’s coat.

Olivia in Uganda received $20,000 to fund her artisan-based enterprise in Kampala. She employs 12 artisans who work with Ankole cow horns, a traditional art form in Uganda.

What inspiring company to be in. The artisan movement is clearly a global one and Kiva is helping all these lovely artisans connect the dots with finance and markets.

Here’s the kicker. Every single one of these loans has been repaid in full. The average loan has been about $8,400. And they’ve spanned 11 countries.

Bottom line: Artisans are a good investment.

(Artisan images courtesy of Kiva and Mela Artisans)

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