Kyla O'Neill of IMPRESSED by nature discusses her experience with Kiva
and offers tips to others considering applying for a Kiva loan.
Taking the leap to invest in your small business is something a lot of us in the SF Etsy community struggle with, so I wanted to talk to a maker who has gone through the entire process of getting a Kiva interest-free loan, from application through repayment.
Some of you may know Kyla O'Neill from our SF Etsy shows. For the past eight years, Kyla has been creating gorgeous jewelry from pressed flowers, under the business name IMPRESSED by nature.
In this interview, we talk to Kyla about why she decided to apply for a Kiva loan and what she learned from the process.
- Kaelen Van Cura,
SF Etsy's Kiva Maven, and owner of Darling Marcelle
What was your main motivation for applying for a Kiva loan?
I started looking into external funding because I wanted to grow my business. In order to scale up, I knew I needed to streamline my production process and take some of the work off my plate. I felt that raising some capital would give me the freedom to expand my business and still have the money to support myself (my business is my main source of income). Initially, I explored traditional forms of funding, like bank loans, but they required annual revenue levels that I didn't have yet. I was pretty disappointed, but a chat with [SF Etsy Co-Captain] Rebecca Saylor quickly sparked new hope. She was confident that a Kiva loan would be a great fit for what I needed--and she was right!
Were you able to accomplish the goals you had with your loan?
Yes, I was able to accomplish my goals! I raised $10,000 and set out to use half of it for hiring production help and streamlining my process, a quarter of it for marketing, and a quarter of it to pay off business debt. When my loan was first funded, I spent the first quarter to help pay down business debt that I accrued from doing a number of expensive out-of-town wholesale trade shows. The shows were a successful way to launch my business into the wholesale world, which has created a solid foundation for my entire business to stand on. They are, however, very expensive and hard to keep up with, as many shows require commitment for the next show soon after the previous show ends, so much of my profit from the show went to paying for my next booth fee - it's a difficult cycle to get ahead of. The Kiva loan helped me make a dent in these debts, which were quickly accruing interest, unlike my Kiva loan!
The second quarter of the loan was used to fund marketing efforts to continue growing my wholesale business and increase exposure to my wedding offerings. For the latter, I worked with a marketing consultant to pitch my story to blogs and magazines in order to attract more wedding customers to my bouquet preservation package, and I was featured in a few publications!
The largest chunk of my loan I used gradually to hire ongoing production help. This was something I wanted to do for awhile but never had the extra funds to make it happen. Having the money set aside for this purpose allowed me to dedicate time to examine my process and see where I really needed the help. And once I hired help, not only did I have more inventory in the end, but it also freed me up to focus on other aspects of my business.
What was the hardest part of the whole process between application and repayment?
I have to say that the whole process was very straightforward and smooth. The hardest part was probably deciding that I was going to do it. I had a mental block about it at first. I was worried that I wouldn't get the support I needed to fund the loan. Rebecca [Saylor] was really encouraging, and I'm so glad because I was fully funded in just over a week. It was so easy with the support of the SFEtsy Team and the Kiva community!
Before your loan is live, create a game plan. Mine included drafting an email template to my personal network and another one to my business network. Once the private round was live, I shared it out to my networks and then kept updating them with my progress. I also added my loan link to my email signature and shared it out on social media a number of times.
Is there anything you wish you had known before applying for a Kiva loan?
The whole process was transparent and there weren't really any surprises. One of the things I learned as the loan was live was that there were times when Kiva donors would jump on and double your donations for a certain period of time. I think my mom noticed it first. I ended up reaching out to my network again to encourage them to donate during that time to maximize their contribution. It might have been helpful to know about that possibility in advance and ways to take advantage of those moments.
What advice would you give to people considering applying for a Kiva loan?
Be clear about your goals! Your friends and family will probably contribute no matter what, but I think having a business story and clear goals for your loan helps to attract other lenders. Don't worry about not getting funded! Of course, there's no guarantee, but the SF Etsy and Kiva communities are so strong, and they'll both help you prepare to maximize your chances. Tap your personal and business networks to support you! Like any good campaign, you have to do the work to gather support. Before your loan is live, create a game plan. Mine included drafting an email template to my personal network and another one to my business network. Once the private round was live, I shared it out to my networks and then kept updating them with my progress. I also added my loan link to my email signature and shared it out on social media a number of times. I was pleasantly surprised when so many from my network chipped in--they all expressed how excited they were to have a tangible way of supporting my small business. Personally, I found it easier to ask for support by emphasizing that it's a loan and you will get your money back.
Kiva loans are such a unique opportunity for small businesses to raise capital without the risk of large interest rate loans--I highly recommend considering one for your business!
To learn more about applying for a Kiva loan, contact our SF Etsy team
After hearing what Kyla had to say about her Kiva experience, would you consider applying for a Kiva loan? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.
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