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Native American Health Center Helps Aspiring Entrepreneurs Start Businesses


The Native American Health Center (NAHC) based in Oakland, California noticed many of its clients had the potential and drive to start their own businesses, but they were struggling to secure funding. So to help Natives in the San Francisco Bay Area find seed money, NAHC assumed the role of Trustee on Kiva Zip, a site that allows the public to make direct loans to entrepreneurs in Kenya and the United States, reported the Huffinton Post.

NAHC hopes the new platform will help improve the economic health of the roughly 80,000 American Indian and Alaska Native residents of the Bay Area.

NAHC's first endorsed borrower of Kiva Zip is Crystal Wahpepah, a member of the Kickapoo Tribe raised in Oakland. Wahpepah was struggling to get her Native American food business off the ground. So the Center's staff helped her every step of the way—with food industry skills training through the Bread Project, and by connecting her to La Cocina, a food business enterprise incubator supporting disadvantaged women. NAHC additionally provided coaching and technical assistance as Wahpepah created her business plan.

When she promoted her business proposal on Kiva Zip, her $5,000 loan request was met by 41 lenders in five weeks—one of the fastest fulfilled requests to-date. Those investments gave birth to Wahpepah's Kitchen, a Native American food catering businesses. The financial support helped her purcahse a van for transportation, kitchen use, necessary food permits and catering supplies. Now she is even ready to hire her first three part-time employees.

Wahpepah's culinary aspirations don't stop there. "My dream is to make my Native community and my family and children proud by being the first Native American woman entrepreneur to have a restaurant in the SF bay area," her Kiva Zip story states.