Displaying posts categorized under Kiva Zip Series.


Jamie Glover works as a currency trader from 9:00 to 5:00, but in his free time he makes unique pickled pepper relishes and runs Glover’s Pepper Sauce.

After his first six months in business, Glover was almost ready to “throw in the towel” on the part-time business, thinking he couldn’t take it any further without giving up his day job. Feeling stuck, he “went to Jonas [Singer, co-founder of Union Kitchen] in a moment of desperation. … and said ‘I’m going to have to quit [my business]. … I’m going to have to take a break.’”

That is when Glover found out about the Kiva Zip loan program and learned that Union Kitchen could act as a trustee to vouch for his ability to repay a loan. Glover received a $5,000 Kiva Zip loan in April of 2014. Since then, he has been able to advance his business while still holding down a full-time job.

Before the loan, Glover had spent months steadily making a stockpile of his pepper relishes at Union Kitchen without a steady stream of sales matching the pace of his production. He describes his first three months in business as “merely trying to get people to buy something they didn’t know they needed.” Glover estimates that he gave away about 500 bottles of his product in his first six months of business, mostly to area chefs and restaurateurs. It takes some time for those free samples to translate into sales. “For every five ‘no’s, there’s a guy who says ‘Oh, that’s great!’”

“Kiva was a saving grace,” he says. “I think the program is kind and fair, and it’s much needed. … It allowed me not only to cover a few months of rent here at Union Kitchen, but also enabled me to go ahead and sign up for all the festivals I wanted to be a part of this summer.”

Glover envisions his pepper relish as “a gourmet sauce for the everyday, blue-collar guy, or the everyday sauce for the white-collar guy.” “My primary goal,” he explains, “is to be a condiment on the table at restaurants. … I wanted to make something to peppers what ketchup is to tomatoes.”

Slowly but surely, Glover has been able to make progress toward his ambitious goals for Glover’s Pepper Sauce. Eventually, he wants to “manufacture enough so that I can sign on with a distributor who can distribute … [the product] in restaurants. And then I [can] make enough so that I can grow from 10 Whole Foods to be accepted to all 42 in this region. Regional success would be a lovely living. I wouldn’t need to go beyond that. But,” he adds, “it would be really, really fun to think that ‘Wow, this is something that could be on restaurant tables across the country.’”

Video footage of our interview with Jamie Glover will be available soon on Kiva Zip’s website.

Read more Kiva Zip loan stories from Union Kitchen members here.

Los Verracos

Wesley Tashir-Rodriguez, the man behind Los Verracos Foods, received a Kiva Zip loan in May 2013. Los Verracos is a catering company founded by three friends in 2009 and dedicated to “making culturally authentic foods from Latin America and the Caribbean” that frequently involve pork.

More than a year after the loan, Tashir-Rodriguez isn’t exactly where he dreamed he would be. For one, he’s no longer a member of Union Kitchen. He had to slow down and take a step back, realizing the limitations of running his business as it is now—a part-time operation. A government health policy employee by day and caterer by night (and during all his days off), Tashir-Rodriguez still aspires to one day dedicate his professional life full-time to his food business.

For now, he’s grateful to be able to keep the business going and acknowledges that the Kiva Zip loan made a difference. “I wouldn’t have been able to keep the business going past … a month or two without it,” he says.

After moving to DC in 2010, Tashir-Rodriguez began selling his food at the (now defunct) DC Grey Market and quickly developed an enthusiastic following. Even after gaining some recognition and becoming a member of Union Kitchen, he struggled to keep the business afloat on a limited budget and worried about paying the rent at Union Kitchen each month. He still had “no steady stream of income” for the business, noting that even something as simple as bad weather could cost him money in potential food sales at outdoor events. Still, being a member of Union Kitchen “opened up a lot more doors…to develop the business.” So, when Jonas Singer, co-founder of Union Kitchen, told Tashir-Rodriguez about the Kiva Zip loan program, Tashir-Rodriguez seized the opportunity to secure funding for Los Verracos that would enable him to both pay the rent each month and expand his operations.

The Kiva Zip loan appealed to him because it had “no interest and flexible terms.” He also appreciated that Kiva Zip “would work with you as best as possible to meet your needs” and loved the ease of receiving funding via Paypal and being able to repay the loan via Paypal.The $5,000 loan “alleviated some of the pressure of having to scrounge to find resources to pay rent … and grow the business.”  With the loan money, Tashir-Rodriguez “was able to pay for graphic design … rebranding of [the] logo, stationery,” as well as other promotional materials, like banners.

However, he soon found that the business was growing too quickly and that he wasn’t able to keep up with demand due to his full-time job. He decided that he could’t afford to leave that job, so he has had to scale back Los Verracos. Today, Los Verracos is still a part of the DC food community and regularly participates in local markets and events. “I was on the path of … hiring staff and really growing the business,” he says. And he would like to be on that path again, one day, in five to ten years.  His immediate “desire is to keep catering and hopefully get back into [Union] Kitchen, if possible.” Longer term, the “goal would be to be on a good financial footing to be able to have a successful business that employs people and provides good food, which is the bottom line.”

Video footage of our interview with Los Verracos Foods’ Wesley Tashir-Rodriguez will be available soon on Kiva Zip’s site.

Nadine, Nutrition Synergies

A trained chef with an MBA, Nadine Bailey-Joyner, known as Chef Nadine, developed the concept for Nutrition Synergies LLC, a company that takes a “three-pronged approach to wellness,” including cooking classes, nutritional counseling, and chef-made, healthful desserts.

Chef Nadine had been laid off from a steady job five years earlier and lacked the capital to officially launch her business. Willfully defying the basic tenet she had learned from entrepreneurial theory, to never start a business without any money, she committed herself to making Nutrition Synergies a viable business, sometimes relying on family for loans and shopping at thrift stores for necessary equipment.

She kept looking for a way to transition her nutrition education business concept from a passionate pursuit into “a full-fledged business.” “I was … just winging it,” she says, “trying to live the dream.” “I saw an opportunity to create a legacy,” Chef Nadine explains, “I really wanted to do something in the community to help underserved population learn about nutrition. … to connect with them on a wider level.”

In April of 2013, Chef Nadine applied for a Kiva Zip loan of $5,000 with Union Kitchen acting as a trustee for her. “When we posted my loan [on Kiva Zip’s website] … it was funded in 11 days, and it [was] funded from every continent”

“I went out one day and I saw where … [the emails] had started, ‘So and so gave you X amount of dollars for your loan.’ … I came in that evening and my computer screen was just full [of emails]! I thought someone had hacked my computer! … I sat there, and I just cried. … You know, it’s weird when people don’t know you, but they connect with you somehow. … I was blown away. So, that experience was and still is one of the most incredible things … that has ever happened in my professional life.”

Chef Nadine considers Kiva Zip a “lifeline” for her and many others like her who can’t get loans from commercial banks because it enabled her to establish her business. “I would not have been able to secure a business license without my Kiva loan. I would not have been able to get my branding, my business cards without my Kiva loan. Kiva is a lifeline. So many people will think it really doesn’t mean much because $5,000 to some people doesn’t mean much. But to a person who really doesn’t have money, $5,000 if you spend it properly, really is your lifeblood.”

Although she was initially concerned about her ability to repay the loan, Chef Nadine has been able to repay the loan “with relative ease.” But not every day is easy for her. “I’m still a struggling artist, if you will. … There is no such thing as overnight success.”  Still, Chef Nadine is full of hope and enthusiasm for her business, and describes her life now as “wonderful.”

“I’m charting a course. I was able to take a course for entrepreneurship [and] to write a business plan. I think, right now, I’m going through the rigors of being a new business, but it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened. I really think that, within the next five years, I’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the community, in terms of touching the underserved and helping them with their nutrition. … This whole nutrition thing is so simplistic if you start at the table and teach people how to take their own nutrition … one plate at a time and make themselves healthier, and their families healthier.”

Video footage of our interview with Nadine Bailey-Joyner of Nutrition Synergies will be available soon on Kiva Zip’s site.


Bettina Stern, one half of the team behind Chaia, took out a Kiva Zip loan this April to help support the market-based pop-up restaurant that specializes in seasonally inspired vegetarian tacos. The $5,000 crowd-sourced, interest- free loan has already allowed Stern and her business partner Suzanne Simon to scale up their operations. Chaia’s co-founders soon plan to expand beyond their 10-by-10-foot tent, into the first of what will hopefully be several brick-and-mortar locations in the coming years.

Before receiving the Kiva Zip loan, Simon and Stern used personal funds to pay for most of their business expenses. “Doing the market in pop-up form was low-risk for us,” Stern says. “We didn’t know if anyone would want vegetarian tacos. … We thought that doing it in … a low-risk venture… would work. We incrementally put [money] toward it, as we needed it. Getting a Kiva Zip loan of $5,000 gives us a cushion if things go wrong.”

In its second season of operation, Stern explains that Chaia “is in the black” because “we have upped our market base so we have a steady stream of revenue coming in.” The business now operates much the same as it did prior to the loan, except on a larger scale.  With more people on staff, Stern says, “We’re making more, but we’re paying out more.”

Simon and Stern no longer rely on personal funds to run their business. “I really like the idea that we’re using our business funds for literally everything that we do — for our rent, for our materials, for our food, for our employees, for the use of anything. When we initially applied for the Kiva ZIP loan we weren’t exactly sure what we would use it for, but we’ve been leaning toward using it to buy a vehicle [for transport].”

With Union Kitchen acting as a trustee for her loan, the loan was fully funded only 12 days after it was approved and posted on the Kiva Zip site. “Jonas [Singer] was a terrific backer,” says Stern. The process was simple, and Stern feels “fully confident” in her business’s ability to re-pay the loan

“It was simple; it was easy; it was pleasant. I think we’ll turn around and do a larger loan, if we can. I was really impressed with people’s enthusiasm from around the world, really, to give us $5 or $10. It’s pretty great to know that people in Australia, [for example,] want to fund a business in DC.”

For now, the loan lets Simon and Stern “breathe a little bit, knowing there’s money in the bank. In case the you-know-what hits the fan, we have some coverage. It’s given us a freedom.”

The full video footage of our interview with Bettina Stern of Chaia will be available soon on Kiva Zip’s site.

Kiva Zip Logo

If cash is king, Kiva Zip is the handmaiden, making sure it gets where it needs to go. Union Kitchen became a trustee of Kiva Zip in 2013 and in the year since, we have connected 11 businesses with $35,000 in interest-free capital loans. This makes Union Kitchen one of the 10 most significant trustees in the world! A trustee is an organization that connects potential borrowers with Kiva Zip, supporting and vouching for the borrower and providing technical assistance.

Kiva Zip is a force of positive disruption. The online platform connects small businesses with individual lenders. Lenders give interest-free loans, which businesses can use for capital investments, hiring, building websites, putting down a security deposit for rent, or for many of the other cash needs an enterprise has.

Kiva Zip identifies trustees on the ground who work with small businesses, can provide technical assistance, and vouch for them as creditworthy. And that’s a critical point—Kiva Zip is crowd-sourced lending that doesn’t do the standard underwriting and credit checks, which perpetuate a system of preventing those with the greatest need from accessing capital.

Rather, Kiva Zip incentives borrowers and trustees to borrow and to repay. Borrowers and their lenders from around the world have a direct conversation, see photos of each other, and create a relationship that encourages the borrower not to disappoint their supporters. And trustees, as their borrowing businesses repay loans, can earn more slots to help businesses get loans and higher amounts of cash per loan to disburse.

In the coming months, we’ll work with Kiva Zip to share the stories of Union Kitchen Members who have borrowed through the program, showing how these loans have changed their businesses and lives.