The Arizona Microcredit Initiative, a student organization of Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, is entering its 11th year as a nonprofit helping underserved entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses through advisory services, micro loans and business instructions.
The initiative, which is also a student organization of the WP Carey School of Business, was started in 2011 by three honored students after winning $4,000 from the ASU Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.
The initiative was originally inspired by an organization called Elmseed at Yale University and focused strictly on microcredit. In 2012, the organization expanded to eight members and received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. That same year, the initiative won a $50,000 grant from the Pakis Foundation and launched workshops for the local small business community.
The organization’s vision statement sums up its raison d’être: “AMI was created with the vision of an Arizona where neither difficult experience nor a lack of resources can stand in the way of passionate entrepreneurship. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we are dedicated to this original vision by providing underserved entrepreneurs with access to business instruction and capital.”
Over the years since its inception, the initiative has continued to grow, receive funding, and innovate to provide services throughout the greater Phoenix area.
“The staff’s passion for the community and our mission is the secret to our successful operations. Additionally, our alumni remain deeply involved in the organization and continue to provide support and guidance to current leaders of the organization,” said Kiran Ramakumar, executive director of the Arizona Microcredit Initiative and junior at Barrett, The Honors College, studying Supply Chain Management and Business Data. analytic.
Monet Tam, a senior honors student who, like Ramakumar, is studying supply chain management and business data analytics, said the initiative is unique in that it is a student-run that provides free consulting services and business instruction on over 40 topics, in addition to low-interest loans.
The organization supports entrepreneurs in three main areas: loans, advice and education.
Small business loans
The Arizona Microloan Initiative offers microloans of up to $5,000 to underserved local entrepreneurs. With competitive interest rates suited to applicants, these loans allow clients to grow their businesses.
The organization’s Phase I loan is ideal for anyone with a great business idea, entrepreneurial spirit and fund allocation plan. The loan offers up to $1,000 with 7% interest compounded annually and no credit score required to apply.
The initiative’s Phase II loan is designed for the entrepreneur with an existing small business looking to purchase new equipment or supplies to help with expansion. This loan can range from $1,001 to $5,000 with an interest rate of 5% compounded annually, and business documents must be applied.
Local businesses at any stage, from start-up to an existing business, can receive personalized advice. Consulting capabilities include product development, pricing strategy, advertising, sales promotion, lending/financing, and web development. Consultation services are free.
The initiative develops a team focused on customer needs and works directly with them to improve strategy and address business challenges.
“As students, this is an incredible experiential learning opportunity as we work on the ground with real clients,” said Zain Sidhwa, chief operating officer of the Arizona Microcredit Initiative.
The initiative has created three manuals to equip and guide small business owners. The organization also offers 40 educational blog posts with each topic focusing on key business questions and solutions that have worked for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the past.
The Arizona Microcredit Initiative works with city-affiliated partners, entrepreneur support partners, and financial partners.
Its partners include the Gilbert Sun News, Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, City of Scottsdale Department of Economic Development, City of Tolleson, FABRIC, ASU Changemaker Central, Local First Arizona, SEED SPOT, and Kiva.
One of the initiative’s newest clients is HerRights, a nonprofit dedicated to ending gender-based violence and facilitating social justice through empowerment tools.
Tanu Ghosh founded HerRights after a well-publicized December 2012 brutal assault on a woman in Delhi.
Ghosh, who said she “realized that gender issues need to be addressed systematically and that the root causes are the same, and the solutions need to be similar no matter where you are,” approached the Arizona Microcredit Initiative to help him build and grow his organization.
“AMI has been more than helpful for a small nonprofit like ours,” she said. “They’re like guiding stars who will do the research for you, which a small no-overhead organization didn’t have the bandwidth to do. They didn’t stop there – on everything from the mission statement, organization design, to passive income generation, to intern assignments – they kept us on our toes through hands-on coaching sessions. work to get the actual changes made – all for free. Their material was always high quality, precise and targeted.
The Arizona Microcredit Initiative helped HerRights structure its organization, identify and set up fundraising channels, and implement passive income opportunities. With support from the initiative, HerRights seeks to expand its impact through research, development workshops, facilitation resources and more in the Phoenix area and abroad.
“As AMI now enters its second decade of service, the organization looks to continue the impactful work of clients, increase our visibility in the Phoenix area, and continue to grow the impact of the organization,” said Ramakumar.
“Our motto is ‘Take the Lead’, and we instill this in every member to find opportunities to expand the reach of the organization while making tangible contributions to our customers and the community. We hope to continue a tradition of providing high-achieving ASU students the opportunity to give back, learn great skills, and then go out into the world and make a difference.
Students can apply to join the Arizona Microcredit Initiative. Companies interested in obtaining services can log on to www.azmicrocredit.org/contact.