Kiva business microloans review
Interest-free crowdfunded financing for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
With no interest or fees, Kiva’s direct business loans could be one of the cheapest small-dollar financing options out there. And with no time-in-business requirements, it could also help entrepreneurs turn an idea into reality. But while it’s free, it’ll take some time — and require contributions from your social network.
First, do I qualify?
To be eligible for a Kiva direct microloan, you must:
- Have friends and family contribute to your campaign
- Live in the US
- Be over 18
- Not be engaged in multilevel marketing, financial investing or illegal activity
- Not be in foreclosure or bankruptcy
- Not be under any liens
- Use your loan for business purposes
What is a Kiva direct microloan?
A Kiva direct microloan is a crowdfunded loan with no interest or fees. Kiva allows first-time borrowers to apply for loans ranging from $25 to $10,000 with terms up to 0.08 years. After that, you may be able to borrow up to $25,000. Kiva generally recommends applying for different loan amounts depending on your time in business:
- Businesses that haven’t started yet: Up to $1,000
- Businesses that have been around for 90 days or less: $2,500 to $5,000
- Businesses that are making revenue: $5,000 to $10,000
How do Kiva direct loans work?
Applying for a Kiva microloan involves setting up a campaign and having between 10 and 35 members of your social network contribute within the first 15 days. If your network can make those contributions, your campaign will become public and you have up to 30 more days to reach your goal. Kiva claims that over 90% of campaigns that go public reach their goal.
What makes Kiva microfunds unique?
Kiva isn’t a lender, but a platform that allows businesses to raise funding for a loan through its website. It’s not quite crowdfunding because you have to pay it back, but there are zero interest payments or platform fees.
Kiva loans are designed to help business owners who typically can’t qualify for funding get a loan. It doesn’t consider your credit score when you apply, is welcome to both new and established businesses alike, and doesn’t cost a cent to apply or repay.
What are the benefits of a Kiva microloan?
From its zero costs to its minimal eligibility requirements, here are a few perks of taking out a Kiva microloan for your small business:
- No interest or fees. Kiva charges nothing extra on its direct microloans for US businesses.
- All credit types accepted. Kiva uses criteria other than your credit score to evaluate creditworthiness.
- Startups welcome. You can get funding through Kiva even if you just have an idea for a business.
- No residency requirements. As long as you live in the US, you’re eligible for a loan — you don’t necessarily need to be a citizen or permanent resident.
- Small-dollar loans. You can borrow as little as $25 through Kiva — and without paying triple-digit APRs.
What to watch out for
From its difficult-to-navigate website to its long turnaround, consider these potential drawbacks before borrowing:
- Relies on your social network. If you can’t get enough of your friends, family and other members of your social network to contribute, you won’t qualify.
- Long turnaround. It can take you up to 45 days to raise the funds you need with Kiva. If you’re looking for something faster, consider an online business loan instead.
- Not ideal for large projects. Kiva’s maximum loan amount of $25,000 won’t be much help if you need financing for large projects like buying out another business or purchasing real estate.
- No customer service line. While you can call a phone number and leave a voicemail, Kiva recommends sending an email to get a quicker response. In other words, you won’t be able to get an instant answer to any questions.
- Hard-to-navigate website. Kiva’s website was designed with lenders in mind. It’s not always obvious where to find information for borrowers.
Compare more business loan providers
What does the Internet say about Kiva?
Kiva has a strong, though small online reputation as of January 2019. It gets an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) based on factors like transparency and advertising. However, it has no complaints or reviews from lenders or borrowers. And all but one of its eight Trustpilot reviews are positive, though it scores a 6.7 out of 10.
Most of the Trustpilot reviews are from lenders who were happy with how easy it was to help small businesses around the world. However, some warned that if the borrower defaults, you won’t get your money back.
How do I apply?
Before you get started, make sure you’re able to qualify. Kiva has an unconventional way of evaluating a business’s eligibility. In addition to checking off the age, residency and financial requirements, consider reaching out to your social network to see how many people would be interested in contributing to your campaign.
Setting up your campaign
Confident you can get the support you need? Follow these steps to set up your campaign:
- Go to the Kiva website and click Borrow in the main menu.
- Click Get started.
- Watch the short video and take the quick quiz underneath.
- Check off the minimum requirements and click Save and continue.
- Select the loan amount you’d like, the minimum you need and how you intend to use the funds. Click See if you’re eligible.
- If you’re eligible, enter your contact information and answer a few basic questions about your business before clicking Save and continue.
- Create a password and click Register.
- Follow the directions to set up your campaign — typically this takes between 20 and 30 minutes.
- Review and sign the contract before submitting your campaign application.
Private fundraising with Kiva
Got your campaign set up? You’ll have to successfully get between 10 and 35 people from your social network to lend at least $25 to your campaign. Kiva recommends sending out personalized emails to between 25 and 35 people in your network — assume some won’t donate. Don’t just stop at friends, but consider potential customers and other acquaintances who might be interested in your business.
Kiva recommends following up with a phone call after a few days as a reminder and to help borrowers figure out how to lend through Kiva.
Public fundraising with Kiva
Once your campaign goes public, Kiva recommends that you take daily actions to ensure you get the most donations. This includes:
- Uploading high-quality photos of you, your business and products.
- Posting on social media regularly.
- Posting in the Conversations tab on Kiva to attract lenders on the site.
- Reaching out to organizations that might be interested in contributing to your campaign.
After your loan is funded, Kiva will send the funds to your PayPal account within five to seven business days.
What do I need to apply?
Generally, you need the following to apply for a Kiva loan:
- A photo of you and your business. You must be in the photo, and it should also give a general idea of your business. Your face must appear clearly, and it should be well lit.
- Basic business information. Kiva asks for your business’s address, how long it’s been around and the number of employees.
- Business financials. You need to provide information about your personal credit score range as well as your business’s monthly income and major monthly expenses.
- PayPal account. Kiva only accepts repayments through PayPal, so you’ll have to set one up if your business doesn’t have one already.
I got the Kiva microloan. Now what?
Your first repayment will be due one month after the day your funds are disbursed. Kiva currently only accepts repayments through PayPal, so if you’re having trouble with your account, you might need to set up a new one.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact Kiva’s customer service department by going to the website, clicking Contact Us at the bottom of the page and filling out the online form. A representative should respond via email within 48 hours.
How to be a Kiva lender
Know someone with a Kiva campaign — or just interested in giving back? Anyone can lend funds in $25 increments by following these steps:
- Go to the Kiva website and click Lend in the main menu.
- Scroll down to browse by category or click View all loans. If you have a particular business in mind, you can search for it next to the magnifying glass symbol in the top navigation bar.
- Click Lend $25 under the campaign you’re interested in.
- Click Checkout now.
- Click Sign up for Kiva or allow Kiva to create an account through your Facebook page. Click Continue.
- Follow the directions to enter your bank account information and check out.
Keep in mind you won’t make money off your Kiva loan. But you also shouldn’t lose any, since borrowers are required to repay it. However, the risk remains that the borrower could default and you won’t get your money back.
Kiva is ideal for both small businesses looking for zero-interest loans, and entrepreneurs trying to get an enterprise off the ground. But with first-time loans topping out at $10,000, it might not be able to give you all the funding you need.
You can find other financing options by reading our guide to business loans.