Student group will help fund D.C. startups with microloans

With loans of about $1,000, some of D.C.’s poorest residents will soon get help from GW students to launch their own businesses.

A new GW microfinance organization is looking to fund D.C. startups, starting with another student-run group, Lemonade Day D.C., which teaches elementary and middle schoolers to be entrepreneurs through a simple lemonade stand. She said the group eventually wants to build up a fundraising base supported by GW alumni. Down the line, the students hope to turn their organization into a business, coaching and holding seminars on microfinancing.

“In D.C., people think microfinancing isn’t a factor at all because we are a well-established country and there are banks,” said Valerie Rodden, a junior and the president of Microfinancing at GW. “But there are so many people who do not have access to these banks, who do not have access to loans, and they could do a lot with a $1,000 loan, and it’s just not available to them.”

Student-run groups are increasingly bringing the micro-loan strategy to local entrepreneurs across the nation. Thirteen schools, including Georgetown University, now work with Lend for America, a national group that helps college microfinancing organizations get the funds for their loan programs.

With help from the new GW microfinancing group, Lemonade Day D.C. will bring twice as many students to take part in the program this spring, teaching them how to manage money and pitch their products. Last year, the organization gave loans of about $100 for lemons, stands and other supplies to about 1,000 students.

Junior Emily Massel, the founder of Lemonade Day D.C., said she was excited to help set up a microfinancing program at GW, which she said is key because of the high demand for small loans in the District.

“There are so many student organizations at GW. There’s definitely the opportunity to find this common ground and work with each other and help each other achieve our goals,” she said.

GW’s microfinancing group is still deciding which businesses will receive the loans.

“We believe every person deserves to have access to financial institutions and the knowledge to utilize these institutions,” Rodden said. “By providing these students with a short-term loan at a low interest rate, we are providing them with an opportunity to engage their entrepreneurial spirit in a low risk environment.”

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