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Business microloans help entrepreneurs grow their dreams

Business microloans help entrepreneurs grow their dreams

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Cleaning has never been a chore for Courtney Boston, who became familiar with a broom and a mop at an age when young girls would rather play with their dolls than dust or sweep.

“I love to clean. I clean my house every day,” said Boston, who prefers to be called Shay. “It was something that was passed down from my mother. Mother made me move the beds. We cleaned the walls and the baseboards.”

Now, as a mother of four, she still hasn’t lost the passion for cleaning. After a brief stint of nursing studies and working to assist people with disabilities, Boston hasn’t let any dust settle under her feet.

She decided that doing windows, cleaning carpets, washing laundry and helping other people do their unpleasant chores would become her new professional mission.

So she established Shay’s Cleaning Service and is celebrating her one-year anniversary as a company with commercial and residential clients in Kenosha and Racine.

From banking to baking

Robin Shiels, a former bank loan department employee, was no stranger to baking.

Cakes, cupcakes or party cookies always had her special creative, culinary touch.

After years in the banking industry, Shiels launched her own business, Robin’s Nest Cakery, several years ago after testing her dream at the Kenosha HarborMarket.

Working both the outdoor and indoor markets, she built a clientele and eventually opened a 600-square-foot brick-and-mortar shop downtown.

Earlier this spring, Shiels relocated to a 1,300-square-foot shop at 5537 Sixth Ave. She now has more space for baking, decorating her baked goods, teaching cake decorating classes and providing in-store get-together sessions with customers.

Benefiting from Kiva

What do Boston and Shiels have in common?

Boston, a startup entrepreneur, and Shiels, a seasoned business owner, have received a business boost by using Kiva, an online, crowdfunding mechanism designed to provide microloans to business owners who sometimes could be turned away by traditional lenders.

Not to be confused with GoFundMe, Kiva is a worldwide network of people who want to help people realize their business dreams. Borrowers often become lenders themselves once their financial needs are met.

Kiva, a funding system that began as a global source for under-served prospective entrepreneurs, provides zero interest loans of up to $10,000 to people who need just a slight financial boost to get their business projects moving forward.

In Wisconsin, the Kiva program is aligned with the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. Locally, the applications can be made to Kiva of Greater Milwaukee.

To receive a loans, business owners must apply and make a compelling appeal, explaining why they need the funding.

They then must get 20 people — friends, neighbors, relatives or whomever — to commit to a small loan of $20 or more.

Once they’ve established their viability and trust, their appeal is made over the worldwide Kiva network.

After the loan is granted, the borrower makes monthly payments.

People helping people

“It’s people who want to help others,” Shiels said. “People want a good story and want to help people.”

Shiels has received two Kiva loans. Two years ago, she received a $4,000 loan to purchase a new industrial oven and refrigerator. She paid it back within a year. Last December, she received a $10,000 Kiva loan that helped her finance her move and provide for expansion.

While some of her lenders were local, Shiels said “140 people lent to me to get the $10,000. Dollars came from countries across the globe including Poland, Germany, England, Swedan and Turkey.”

Boston, who moved with her family to Kenosha from Arkansas, used a $1,000 loan to obtain the supplies and materials she needed to launch her business.

Since launching Shay’s Cleaning, she has expanded her client base to include more commercial customers, including the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store and the office of a title insurance company in Kenosha.

Some of her residential customers include those who are physically unable to do much cleaning.

For Boston, a cleaning business is only the start of her career evolution. Her desire to help others has her considering her next big dream.

“My ultimate goal,” she said, “is to start a homeless shelter and help people get jobs and homes.”

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