Microloan fund grows local business

Non-profit supports local entrepreneurs through loans under $10,000 with an annual interest rate of 10%

Though Charlane Simpson, 62, considers herself an artist before a businessperson, she’s managed to make a full-time job of the “entertaining aprons” she designs.

Simpson’s one-woman business, I’m Sew Excited, designs ornate, custom aprons for flower shops, cafes, wineries, and other businesses. Simpson got her start last year, with help from Victoria’s Community Microlending.

The non-profit supports local entrepreneurs through “microloans,” one- to five-year loans under $10,000 with an annual interest rate of 10 per cent.

Many of the borrowers, like Simpson, have little or no business experience, while others may have bad credit or a criminal record — factors a bank or credit union would consider high-risk.

“I needed money just to get started, to get fabric, brochures and cards, and I couldn’t have done it without them,” Simpson said. “I’ve been on social assistance since I was diagnosed with cancer (three years ago,) and now I’m finally working out of it.”

The loans are considered peer-to-peer, as a majority of the funds are provided in small amounts by individual investors from the community. Though donors take on the risk of a project going under, said Vu Ndlovu, executive director, Community Microlending uses “business mentors” to provide entrepreneurs with guidance. Simpson, for example, had little luck with selling aprons individually and was advised to find a niche in selling custom aprons to businesses.

“So far everyone has been able to keep up with payments,” Ndlovu said, “but when they start falling behind we work closer to help them get back on track.”

Community Microlending recently added an extra $10,000 to their coffers after partnering with the Victoria Microlending Association. The group had been supporting startups across the globe with KIVA.org, before learning that there was a need for micro investors in Victoria.

“With that extra money we can feed loans quicker, entrepreneurs can get started quicker,” Ndlovu said. “(Local business) is really key to community development, the local economy really is dependent on these businesses.”

Just Posted

Cook Street Marketplace closing after 32 years

Owner John de Jong says it’s time to pursue his love of music

Social media attack ads a ‘distraction from democracy’ says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps

‘Elections are won on the doorstep. Elections are not won on Facebook,’ says incumbent mayor

Esquimalt votes for pay hike for incoming council

Mayor’s salary jumps 16 per cent, councillors by 10 per cent

Saanich endorses plan for food production on Panama Flats

Coun. Dean Murdock wants next council to follow through on idea

Langford mayor upset with province over homeless camp

Camp Namegans moved to Goldstream Provincial Park campground on Sept. 18

64 cats seized from ‘bad situation’ now in BC SPCA care

The surrender is part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation with BC SPCA Special Constable

Woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart released from prison

Smart was 14 years old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by street preacher Brian David Mitchell

New York books editor out after backlash over Jian Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma, who was appointed as editor of the New York Review of Books in late 2017, no longer works for the publication

B.C. couple plans sustainable, zero-waste life in the Shuswap

Plan includes building a tiny house before the snow flies

Housing slowdown forecast to cool B.C. economy

Conference Board says pipeline, trade uncertainty affecting investment

B.C. hockey product eyes shot at Olympic spot with China

Fletcher is one of 24 who travelled to Shenzhen, China for the first official Olympic dev camp.

Are you feeling lazy? That’s OK – it’s just science

UBC study shows that humans are hardwired to prefer being sloth-like

LETTER: Who do we blame for the tragedy of Marrisa Shen’s death?

The B.C. girl was killed in a Burnaby park last July

Competition tribunal to hear B.C.-based case on airline food starting in October

The competition commissioner argued Vancouver airport authority had exploited its market position

Most Read