Helping Small Businesses Go Green

With a $7,000 microloan, Santos Renderos was able to green his trucking operations and continue working to support his family.

In early 2010, thousands of California truckers scrambled to meet new California state emissions standards that required truck drivers to buy a new, modern-engine truck, or retrofit their current truck with an engine filter, in order to reduce pollution.

Opportunity Fund committed $1 million in financing to help drivers pay the $12,000 - $19,000 price tag to clean up their engines and stay in business.

As the year continued, we saw similar demands from other types of businesses needing to adhere to stricter environmental standards in industries such as drycleaners and nail salons.

Paying for expensive equipment that reduces pollution has high upfront costs, which poses a problem for small businesses that don’t often have the collateral or credit profile needed to qualify for a bank loan. 

Opportunity Fund has stepped in to ensure that these small businesses can access the capital they need at affordable rates. In 2010 alone, we’ve made green loans to 48 entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, totaling $644,150. 


Microfinance USA – A Great Success, now on to New York in 2011

Microfinance USA attracted over 700 attendees to San Francisco in May 2010. Practitioners, investors, researchers, and students attended plenary sessions, panels, and career workshops over two days. Attendees also experienced microfinance first-hand by touring local microenterprises; tasting locally-prepared cuisine at the “Taste of Microentrepreneurship” reception; and hearing directly from entrepreneurs at the first-ever Kiva Lender-Borrower meet-up.

California First Lady Maria Shriver kicked off the event in a plenary discussion with Premal Shah, President of Kiva, and two Opportunity Fund borrowers, Amanda Keppert and Erik Mantsch. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the second day of the conference with a rousing speech in support of savings and asset-building work.

"It was fun, inspiring, educational and great!"

"The speakers were engaging and experts in their fields, attuned to the needs of the audience."

"Real people, candid discussion."

Microfinance USA will convene in New York City May 23-24, 2011. The new location will make it easier for individuals, organizations, and funders on the East Coast to take advantage of the opportunity to engage with domestic microfinance and deepen the movement nationally.


Saving for Citizenship Pays Off for Afghani Refugees

The Rahyab family fled Afghanistan and lived as refugees for twenty years before landing in California in 2003. With support from our Saving for Citizenship microsavings project, Seema, Rahmat, and their son Abdullah finally feel at home in the U.S., now that they have each become a citizen.

Launched in 2008, Opportunity Fund’s Saving for Citizenship project is the first of its kind in the country and marks another microsavings innovation we’re bringing to the field.

Citizenship is a valuable financial asset, unlocking employment and civic opportunities that can have a profound impact on naturalized immigrants, yet the costs to apply for U.S. citizenship can be prohibitive (close to $700). Saving for Citizenship helps provide a path to U.S. citizenship for qualified low-wage immigrants, while preparing these new Americans to become good financial citizens.

As Abdullah told us, "We wanted to make our home here after living in turmoil for so many years. Becoming a citizen is part of the dream we’ve realized to finally feel like we’re home."