Fund Lansing draws on established platform to help startups

Entrepreneurs in Greater Lansing will find increased opportunities for funding through a new program initiated by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.

Fund Lansing will leverage a global online crowdfunding platform called Kiva. The idea, says LEAP, is to increase funding for small business owners and startups across Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties.

"Adequate funding is a significant barrier for many of our regional entrepreneurs," says Tony Willis, Director of LEAP's New Economy Division. "It's one thing to get your idea molded and positioned for marketing, but without funding, even the best ideas can stall."

Willis says Fund Lansing is meant to fill that gap by opening doors to funding within the region and around the globe. The Kiva lending system, he explains, funds ideas by leveraging private loans and crowdfunding. LEAP is an approved trustee with an executed agreement with KIVA, and will help entrepreneurs with the application process, provide business advice, and assist in marketing private funding campaigns.

Ellis says the program involves a handful of simple steps. First, eligible borrowers apply for 0 percent interest loans for $500-$10,000. Approved applications move into a private fundraising phase in which the applicant asks 20 to 25 individuals in their personal networks to be the first lenders. After the private fundraising period, the loan goes public on the Kiva website and reaches hundreds of thousands of funders worldwide. Once goals are met, funds are distributed and repayment begins the following month.

One local municipality is taking the program a step further to make even more funding available to entrepreneurs in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. With LEAP's help, the City of Lansing through the Lansing Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) will extend Kiva funding to eligible Lansing small businesses by matching loan funds raised by Kiva dollar-for-dollar.

"Fund Lansing is a great opportunity for small businesses in the region, and it's outstanding to see such an enthusiastic reception right out of the gate," says Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP. "I want to congratulate and thank Mayor Schor for his visionary approach to capitalizing on this opportunity to further expand the program for Lansing businesses. We, of course, welcome additional proposals for creative implementations of Fund Lansing, and are looking forward to seeing this program grow."

Source: Victoria Meadows, Marketing, Communications and Talent Director, LEAP
Writer/Editor: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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