Mirza Tihic: Director of Program Support Services at IVMF
The Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) has been a trustee with Kiva Zip since Kiva Zip introduced its crowd-funding program in the USA. Kiva Zip's goals are to help entrepreneurs access the financial services they need, lower fees and interest rates to make borrowing affordable, and cultivate community between borrowers and lenders.
Similar to Kiva Zip, IVMF's goal is to create social value for our veterans and military families. The goal of IVMF is to develop and implement impactful programming, cultivating actionable research, conducting policy analysis and providing technical assistance positioned to address the social, economic and public policy challenges facing the veterans' community.
The partnership between IVMF and Kiva Zip has allowed 10 veterans to raise a total of $46,000 in micro-loans and positively impact their businesses and their community. So far, the repayment rate of IVMF endorsed loans has been 100%. Due to these extraordinary outcomes, IVMF has been identified as one of their top 5 trustees.
I was recently asked, what are some factors that contribute to the success of vet-repreneurs (veteran entrepreneurs) that participate in the Kiva Zip program? The answer lies in the fine marriage of the veterans' character and Kiva Zip's goals, layered with the education, mentoring, and technical assistance provided by IVMF and our partners:
- Kiva Zip helps entrepreneurs access the financial services they need. While microfinance has helped millions, many people have been left out including the veteran community, especially those struggling financially. By making lending easy on the internet, and tying loans to borrowers' character rather than their credit scores, Kiva Zip aims to reach the world's most marginalized entrepreneurs with the financial tools they need to succeed. Borrowers that read IVMF's endorsement for each of veterans will read the following for each veteran: "Applicant is a military veteran, who has the character associated with former military members, representing moral values and good citizenship".
There are only few programs that look at the character of a person when considering program participation. Giving a loan to somebody means that you trust them to pay that loan back. We have entrusted these same veterans our lives and our freedom when they were in the military, it only makes sense to trust them that they will pay these loans back. Kiva Zip has recognized this and was eager to include IVMF in its USA efforts from the beginning.
- Kiva Zip makes borrowing affordable by offering no fees or interest rates. Because Kiva Zip operates online and uses mobile payment technologies to move money, it's able to slash the cost of making microfinance loans. These savings are passed along to borrowers in the form of lower interest rates. In fact, Kiva Zip loans are currently offered at 0% interest with no fees.
In order to qualify for these 0% interest loans without fees one needs to have a sound business plan. All vet-repreneurs that have been endorsed by IVMF are graduates of entrepreneurship programs offered by the Whitman School of Management and the IVMF. The military/veteran character mentioned previously is reflected in the hard work and efforts that have gone into their business plan, business development, and usage of Technical Assistance Program and resources that IVMF offers within its entrepreneurship programs. One of these programs is Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), which in 2011, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the "10-Best" entrepreneurship programs in the United States, whose emphasis is on 'entrepreneurship', not on veteran entrepreneurship.
- Kiva is all about forging connections between lenders and borrowers on opposite sides of the world. Kiva Zip strengthens these relationships even more by letting people send messages back and forth, including words of encouragement, updates from borrowers as they succeed, and notes about how loans have helped businesses thrive. This has allowed great exposure for our vet-repreneurs to tell their story, share their efforts, share their experiences, and show how they have leverage their military skills, experiences, and character to create both economic and social value within their communities. On the other hand, it has allowed the communities around the world to give back to these veterans and serve those who have served.
The partnership between Kiva Zip and IVMF is just one of many example of IVMF's effort to bring together resources and leverage these to create a sustainable impact within the veteran community, to serve the veteran community, and to empower them to continue their mission of serving our nation.
Tihic oversees all post-engagement support of veterans and military family members who have completed training through the institute's portfolio of entrepreneurship programs. He is charged with developing and expanding the IVMF's current portfolio of resources to aid program graduates in their transition to business ownership to create an even greater focus on post-engagement support. He oversees all aspects of the national EBV-Technical Assistance Program (EBV-TAP), which helps Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities and Veterans' Families program graduates realize and accomplish their professional and personal goals by providing mentors and corporate resource providers to help launch their businesses. In addition, he interfaces with IVMF education program managers, external program directors and stakeholders to further post-program support of veterans and military family members engaged with the IVMF.