A few years ago, we noticed that there wasn’t a great way for food truck owners to enter the business and build a food truck, or to exit the industry by selling their food truck. In an effort to solve this problem, we created the Roaming Hunger Marketplace. Since then we’ve talked to countless foodies about their dreams of starting a food truck business and becoming a small business owner. And we’ve gotten all types of questions, from the best place to build a food truck to how to get financing.
Our answer to the “how to finance your food truck” question has usually been go to your local bank and talk to someone that can know you and trust you. Of course, whether or not you get a loan depends on your credit score and financial stability. We knew of other options, depending on food truck costs and owner experience, but not of better ones. Until we got a call from Kiva.
What’s Kiva, you ask? We didn’t know either, until they told us about their interest free loans to food trucks. That got our attention pretty quickly. Then they told us credit scores don’t matter. And then we almost hung up the phone. Our curiosity, however, was greater than our incredulousness.
We kindly asked them to explain themselves. How does it all work? Who have you given a loan to? What’s the catch?
In response, they sent us the information below, including examples from real food truck owners that successfully used Kiva to finance starting a food truck or getting money to continue operating.
Kiva is a nonprofit dedicated to economic empowerment; it offers 0% interest loans up to $10,000 to entrepreneurs in the US, crowdfunded through Kiva’s community of 1.5 million lenders around the world. Many of these lenders lend locally and become entrepreneurs’ new customers, brand ambassadors and fans.
Kiva is able to offer 0% interest loans because its lenders care first and foremost about supporting local small-businesses. Lenders are not looking to make a profit on their loans, and instead want to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop their own businesses. Kiva has shown that this model works by lending $15 million to U.S. entrepreneurs over the past five years.
Through Kiva, lenders are able to choose which borrowers they want to lend to directly, and once the loan is repaid, lenders simply re-lend their funds to other entrepreneurs. This system enables lenders to form a personal connection with the borrowers they choose to fund.
Food entrepreneurs in particular have found Kiva as a good source of capital for their young and growing businesses. The company has helped over 1,000 food entrepreneurs raise $6.5 million to date. What’s more, food entrepreneurs have a 97% success rate when publicly fundraising on Kiva.
Example One: Drums and Crumbs
To share their passion with people around the Bay Area, Rachel and Arthur founded Drums & Crumbs, a catering company and food truck specializing in Southern fried chicken.
They started out catering farmers’ markets and winery parties in the area. To bring their food to a wider audience and generate more regular income, they decided to start a food truck.
However, the build-out of their food truck took longer than expected. Additional costs, on top of delayed income, started to add up. As their savings dwindled, Rachel and Arthur realized that without food truck financing, they might not be able to afford to run the truck they had spent multiple months building.
The owners of Drums & Crumbs needed to raise funding in order to carry out their growth plan.
Arthur recently said in an interview: “I would encourage any small business owner about to launch a business in food or other industries to look into Kiva as it is a really great way to raise money through your community for working capital.”
Arthur and Rachel raised $5,000 to cover working capital and expenses for their first six months of operation. They shared their story with the Kiva community, and over 120 lenders contributed to their successful fundraising.
Arthur commented on the benefits he’s seen: “Kiva has been very helpful in getting us off the ground…to help us raise some working capital when our truck was being constructed. Since the truck construction has been completed, we’ve been off to a good start, and Kiva has provided a lot of good resources in terms of marketing and financial assistance in getting our business off the ground.”
Beyond the initial loan, Kiva helps entrepreneurs graduate towards larger loan amounts from other organisations. Kiva reports repayment rates to Experian, enabling businesses to develop their credit score in preparation for future loans. When their business is ready for another loan, entrepreneurs can approach traditional channels equipped with a better credit score.
Arthur is preparing for further growth and aiming to “take advantage of some of the other resources Kiva has in terms of building a broader working capital base to help fund our day-to-day finances and also look towards expansion.”
While Arthur and Rachel were perfecting a long-time favourite dish, Kiva entrepreneurs Maria and her husband Tichin were concocting inventive ways of bringing traditional Puerto Rican flavours into ice creams, including Tembleque ice cream, a mix of coconut-milk and cinnamon, based on a Christmas dessert of the same name.
Example Two: Cool Hope Ice Cream
While operating their food truck, Cool Hope Ice Cream, Maria describes facing early food truck funding requirements: “I encountered a few challenges to gather the funds necessary to expand my food truck’s kitchen and modernize the interior design of the truck.”
Maria and Tichin joined a local organization called Food Truck Republic. Maria expressed her gratitude towards this group of food truck owners: “We felt lucky to have found a place in such a close knitted community. As part of the support given by Food Truck Republic, they introduced us to the wonders of Kiva!”
Maria recalls this introduction as a timely intervention in an otherwise challenging market: “In a time where personal and business loans are at a low, in terms of approval, Kiva came into our lives. Now what seemed as a strenuous process became a family activity.”
Maria is describing a depressed lending environment at many traditional lenders. Still recovering from the recession, banks have become more risk-averse, and are rejecting loans from “riskier” segments of the population. This includes small businesses who, with little collateral and less of a proven track-record, are frequently rejected.
Crowdfunding is not a guaranteed solution either, as the majority of crowdfunding campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo fail. However, 90% of campaigns that made it onto Kiva’s public website have reached their goal.
Maria was able to rapidly raise funds through Kiva by connecting with her community: “I poured my heart and soul in order to share with the Kiva community why I love this industry and why they should love it too! First I shared the Kiva link with my family. Then sure enough I shared the profile with the Kiva community and they responded! I am FULLY funded […] Thank you Kiva Community.”
Kiva’s community is one reason Kiva stands out from other crowdfunding sites. Where successful campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo require raising the vast majority in funding (typically 70-80%) from the borrower’s own network, the Kiva community typically provides 70-80% of the funding.
What’s more, Kiva is not just a resource for raising capital, but it also enables borrowers to increase their social network to include lenders who take an interest in their business. Through Kiva, many borrowers find mentors, advisors and even customers.
Though securing food truck financing is a challenge, there are resources available. Success stories from entrepreneurs like Arthur and Rachel and Maria and Tichin demonstrate that it’s possible to build a thriving business and share your passion with those around you, whether it’s fried chicken or innovative ice cream!
To hear from more Kiva borrowers, check out Kiva US Stories . If you’re interested in learning more about Kiva or applying for a loan, visit borrow.kiva.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org to take your first step in joining thousands of other entrepreneurs who have grown their businesses with Kiva.
When Applying For A Kiva Loan
There are 6 key factors driving the quality of your application: :
- Loan amount: You are able to select the loan amount and repayment term — up to $10,000, paid back up to three years. Consider the guidelines here when selecting an appropriate amount, noting that Kiva reserves the right to determine the loan amount you will qualify for, taking the risk and social impact of the loan into consideration.
- Photo: The photo is the most important part of your application, it’s the first thing lenders look at when deciding who to make a loan to.
- Personal story: Allow lender to get to know you. Write two paragraphs to give lenders background on your story and your goals.
- Business description: In two paragraphs give your lenders an understanding of why you started this business and what your business does. Be personal and talk to the core of what your business represents — to you and your community.
- Loan use: Include a specific breakdown of how you will use the loan and how that will make an impact for your business.
- Social media: Include all social media links associated with your business. Think beyond Facebook and Twitter, include your Yelp page, your Instagram handle, your Etsy store. We use these links to verify your business exists, so make sure the links work!To learn more, check out www.kivaushub.org/your-application.
If you’re feeling ready to move forward with a Kiva loan, be sure to check out our article How Much Does A Food Truck Cost? for your next steps in the process.