Victoria mortgage broker Chelsey Taporowski got her start with the help of a loan from Community Micro Lending

Victoria mortgage broker Chelsey Taporowski got her start with the help of a loan from Community Micro Lending

Opportunity knocks for Victoria entrepreneurs

Online feature of micro loans program allows business people to connect with financiers, mentors

Three years ago, Chelsey Taporowski was barely making ends meet.

A single mother, she was studying for her mortgage broker’s licence and working as a server at night, struggling to find time to spend with her kids.

When she came across Community Micro Lending, Taporowski tapped in to a support base and an affordable way to take control of her professional life.

“I took a small loan, but it was enough to give me the confidence to allow me to quit my job as a waitress and put some time into building my business,” she said.

The made-in-Victoria micro loan program gives local entrepreneurs a boost by providing low-interest loans and peer mentorship, creating community networks in the local economy.

Lenders can browse online about budding entrepreneurs and contribute in $500 increments with a guaranteed two-per-cent return.

“We posted two loans – $5,000 each – on a Wednesday and they were filled by the following Monday,” said founder Lisa Helps, who is also a City of Victoria councillor.

Last month, the non-profit unveiled a revamped website that allows donors to make automatic online contributions, and there are plans to expand the service across Canada, Helps said.

“It’s quite a simple concept. I’ve got money, you need money, I’ll lend you a little bit of money so you can create a sustainable livelihood for yourself,” she said. “A lot of people said this is never going to work here, this is more suited to the developing world. But it happened.”

Three years later, Taporowski’s business is thriving. She praises the program for the way it connects lenders with entrepreneurs, encourages regular meetings and accountability and provides a comfortable and accessible way to take out a loan.

“Being in financing now, I just feel like the creative financing aspect is so much less intimidating, especially when you’re a vulnerable position like being a single parent,” she said. “Being able to take some risk without relying on (government) subsidies is big.”

For more information on the program, visit communitymicrolending.ca.

dpalmer@vicnews.com