I came up with the idea for kelvin in May 2006 while hanging a picture with my wife in our tight condo. I had to haul the toolbox from our bathroom closet (because that’s where you keep a toolbox when you live in a condo…if you even have a toolbox at all). I needed a hammer, measuring tape and level just to hang this picture. It dawned on me that I could build a house with these tools. I only needed to tap a small nail into the drywall…clearly this was overkill. And that’s when the idea hit…why not invent a modern urban tool for modern urban living. One tool that could tackle hundreds of everyday jobs, like hanging this picture, with ease. It had to be super functional, compact, rugged, ergonomically correct and styled for urban living…not a construction site. kelvin.23 is the result.
But more than just a tool for life, I wanted kelvin to be a tool for change. The question was how. How can I use kelvin to help make the world a better place? I decided to focus my attention on helping to change the face of poverty.
As I look back through history, I see the incredible power of entrepreneurs as a force that has lifted communities, cities, and countries up from poverty and moved them to prosperity. And so as I looked for a sustainable way to help change the face of poverty, it became clear to me that the answer was in the free market, with local entrepreneurs. If we can support their ambition, they will grow. And when they grow, they will hire local community members, people who may have never worked before because there were no jobs. Yet now with these jobs, they can support their families. This, in turn, creates more jobs for more people. And so the cycle has gone, step by step, as communities, cities, and countries have lifted themselves to higher standards of living.
The challenge for an aspiring entrepreneur in a poor community is that they have very little access money. Some people need as little as $100 to buy bamboo, fabric, or fertilizer, but banks won’t lend it to them precisely because they are poor.
The answer is microfinance.
Microfinance is a new movement that is changing the face of poverty at an incredible rate. Web portal www.kiva.org connects everyday people like you and me to entrepreneurs in some of the world’s poorest countries looking for funding for their businesses and farms.
These are not donations and this is not charity. These are loans that people are to use and pay back. And although banks deny loans to the poor as they are considered “too risky”, the incredible reality is that the repayment rate is almost 99%!!! That’s incredible!
This brings me to how kelvin is going to be involved. We have joined with the global empowerment platform FITE (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship) as a microfinance partner. Our focus is to microfinance and empower women entrepreneurs and farmers and unleash their potential as a powerful force for change.
We will be collecting $5 from every kelvin tool purchased on our website between September 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011 and banking it for the FITE initiative. Then on January 1, 2012, we will disperse all the funds to FITE women as a symbol of fresh new energy for a fresh new year.
The goal for the first year is to collect and loan $50,000 and I hope that other kelvin customers decide to make some loans of their own.
Together, with our customers, we can be a tool for life and, more importantly, a tool for change.
Won’t you join us?