Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Microlending for the Urban Poor

Since the subject of microlending came up recently in one conversation here (in the context of developmental aid to Haiti), I thought I'd direct your attention to this interesting article about how the microlending community is beginning to turn its attention to the U.S., and particularly to harnessing the hustle and energy of inner city entrepreneurs. If you have a further interest in that subject, check out what is perhaps the leading online microlending platform, Kiva. Then, should the spirit move you, please share your thoughts.


At 9:12 AM, Blogger Britta said...

Microlending is really brilliant and I think the only reason it hadn't been very visible here is that people more often turned to credit cards to borrow money for small enterprises. What's so good about it is that it pairs the loan with intangibles like external confidence in a venture and channels for mentoring. There are many, many microbusinesses starting on Etsy; you can read a good but possibly unsurprising piece about that trend here. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/17/fashion/17etsy.html Anyone who has covered entrepreneurs will not be surprised that it's an intense venture (which to me was a drawback of the article, as they treated the news that starting your own business is a 24/7 operation as a major discovery).

At 9:33 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for that great addition, Britta. And since we were once colleagues in covering that whole fascinating subject, it's easy to fall into the trap of assuming that the average person knows about and understands all that goes into entrepreneurism. But that's probably not the case. For all the hosannas our culture pays to independence and bootstrapping, the fact remains that those who start and run their own businesses--including sole proprietorships--are something of a different breed from those who have always been traditionally employed. Just different mental wiring, perhaps, and certainly a different appetite for risk.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Britta said...

There's a darkly comic scene in season 2 of The Wire where the second in command of a drug operation is trying to explain to his street dealers why he is changing the packaging color and product name after a rival operation has started to take market share. That is an *entirely* different appetite for risk amongst, ahem, entrepreneurs.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think it's high time that I stop being intrigued by what I hear and read about The Wire, and just get ahold of the DVDs and watch it. Lacking HBO, I've missed it entirely.

But the scene you mention brings up a concept that the article to which I've linked does discuss: how fine the line sometimes is between street hustling (in the non-criminal context of that term) and entrepreneurship. That's a subject that resonates with me, because I've often seen what can result from blending an understanding of the street (and the street smarts that come with that) and the suite, meaning executive suite. When you understand the language, culture and motivations/reward systems of both, all kinds of opportunities suddenly become possible that others just miss entirely.


Post a Comment

<< Home