Many Happy Returns

Keenya Kelly knew she needed capital to build up her business Return of the Curls which provides African American women with education, training, and products to help them move away from harmful hair chemicals to embrace their natural hair. But she also recognized the difficulty in obtaining a big bank loan along with the necessity of building her business credit.

So she decided to start small and work her way up. In January 2014, Keenya took out her first Kiva Zip loan for $500 to pay her employees and develop her marketing. She repaid her loan ahead of schedule. She then started planning for her second loan for $1,000 to further marketing. Keenya received the loan in July 2014 and again repaid it ahead of schedule.

She’s now seeking a third loan. This $2,000 loan will help her develop brand awareness and increase Return of the Curls’ reach. It’s remarkable what these small sums of money have been able to accomplish so far.

Keenya has hired 4 interns. She’s been able to pay a designer to work on branding and marketing. She put a deposit on event space and successfully hosted a major Return of the Curls hair show in the Richmond, Virginia area. Each loan has offered positive returns for the business, but has also provided significant returns for the women she assists and the community as a whole.

Her Kiva Zip experiences have affirmed how much impact people can create when they work together. She greatly appreciates just how hard people work for the money they make and their complete willingness to invest it in and share it with someone they might not know. It also instills accountability, making her feel like she can “put a face of a lender to each dollar” rather than a bank building. And that inspires her to always make her repayments while actively working to make her business grow and thrive.

More importantly for Keenya, Return of the Curls has been able to successfully promote women’s empowerment and self-acceptance, sharing messages of love, faith, fashion, and friendship via its social media accounts and annual show. Return of the Curls has become “more of a way of life than just a hair show.”

Keenya’s currently fundraising—help fund her third loan here!

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Posted by Mary Jo Halder, Kiva Zip Fellow, Washington DC

Jan 12, 2015

Mary Jo grew up in small town Iowa, surrounded by the state’s lively political climate. She turned her interest in this area into a BA in Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, where she had the chance to intern with the Embassy of Mexico in Washington DC and travel to Nicaragua for a service learning class. There she visited an MFI and some of its borrowers, opening her eyes to the world of microfinance and the many benefits it can provide to borrowers, their families, and their communities.

Mary Jo later received an MSc in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and interned with the National Education Trust while in London. Combining her love of education and international politics, she returned to the University of Northern Iowa to teach political science courses. She has enjoyed sharing her experiences and helping students understand and think critically about pressing world issues, something she hopes to continue and build upon through this fellowship and an eventual PhD. Mary Jo looks forward to contributing to Kiva Zip’s ongoing work in Washington DC and helping educate others about microfinance.

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