Microlenders launch Central Valley effort

The Fresno Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) officially announced the launch of the Kiva and California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO) programs on Tuesday in Fresno.

Kiva is a crowd-funding lender organization based in San Francisco and CAMEO is a microlender network throughout the state. The Fresno CDFI, a subsidiary of Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, is the only authorized Kiva lender in the Central Valley.

For some small business owners like Mario Navarro, of the National Justice Training Center in Fresno, a Kiva loan is the only option to obtain financing.

Navarro had mortgage payments on two houses and could not get approved for a loan from a bank. He was directed by the Small Business Administration to contact the Fresno CDFI, which connected him to the Kiva program.

Through Kiva, Navarro was approved for a $5,000 loan to start his business, which trains veterans for necessary certification for employment with one of two major security contractors—G4S and ENA.

“The funding was used to kickoff the business while I was being vendorized by the VA to provide the training to the veterans that would come through the program,” Navarro said.

Navarro, a veteran himself, does not believe he would have been able to start his business if it were not for the Kiva program and he is grateful for what it has provided him.

“I was just a veteran with a goal, who was inspired to help other vets,” Navarro said.

More than $400 million in kiva loans have been made since 2005, with a default rate of 1.1 percent, according to a release from the Fresno CDFI.

“Hopefully more and more businesses who need small loans will come to CDFI for those,” said Salam Nalia, CEO of the Fresno CDFI.