John Ledford is making an impact on the lives of small business owners worldwide. The president of Ledford Financial, which predominantly serves business owners and entrepreneurs from its base in Orlando, Florida, initially connected with entrepreneurs in need of financial loans through Kiva, a micro-lending Web site allowing individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world. “I was fascinated with the concept of micro-lending and came across kiva.org in my research,” Ledford recalls. “I made a loan for $100 to see how it worked out. It turned into a half dozen loans.” In 2007, he established a formal program with Ledford Financial in which 1% of monthly revenues would be allocated to business owners featured on Kiva. “Each month an intern would go on the Kiva site, review those looking for funding, and then take our budget and sit with me. We’d go over the list and allocate to the different people,” Ledford says. “Before we knew it we had thousands of dollars out there in micro-lends to people all over the world.”
In order to learn more about the needs of the entrepreneurs he was aiding, Ledford traveled to the Dominican Republic with HOPE International, a nonprofit organization focused on poverty alleviation through micro-enterprise. Ledford met with banks that support micro-funds, as well as with several local business owners in need of loans. “What amazes me is that for literally $100 we can give people all around the world access to capital required to start a business. It has the effect of radically changing their lives,” he notes.
Ledford reminisces about a woman in Honduras he had the opportunity to help. “She lives on the side of a mountain in a rainforest and travels weekly to the local city to the market and buys several bags of clothing. She transports them back to her home and spends the week selling the clothes door-to-door to her neighbors at about a 100% markup, providing clothes to those in her community.” Recently, Ledford had the joy of standing in the Honduran woman’s new three-room home that she had just built after starting her clothing resale business two years ago.
Taking the Next Step