Civic News

You can now lend money to Philly businesses with Kiva Zip

The City of Philadelphia has taken an especially hands-on approach with the lending program, housing the local Kiva Zip program manager within the Commerce Department.

One of the few days of the year that ground fireworks are legal in the First State is almost here. Check out your options.

Last year, Delaware legalized a few types of fireworks on July 4 and New Year's Eve, as well as, in an amendment to the fireworks code signed in June, on the third day of Diwali in October or November. Fireworks have been on sale for a couple of weeks now at supermarkets and pharmacies, which is the easiest way to make sure your personal fireworks show is legal. Here's a breakdown of your options:

  • Sparklers — You can find the old-fashioned, 10-inch handheld sparklers just about anywhere fireworks are sold, but there are several varieties, including extra long sparklers that burn for three to four minutes and "morning glory" wooden sparklers wrapped in tissue that can burn in different colors and/or give off colorful smoke.
  • Spinners — Spinners, a type of ground firework, are small and cheap, but put on a nice little show, sometimes with whistles, sparks, flares and/or and crackles, and often go briefly airborne. Ground Blooms are the easiest to find, usually sold in packs and resembling stubby firecrackers. Some, like the Whirlwind, have a disc shape. If you venture to a state line fireworks warehouse, you'll find lots of novelty spinners like the Saturn Ring Eruption and Dizzy Bees. Don't last long, but are fun.
  • Ground fountains — Usually sold as cones, bricks or cylinders, these come in different sizes, with the larger ones lasting a minute or more. These are good for driveway displays (some shoot sparks pretty high, so don't set them off under trees). Although not explosives, they can make loud popping sounds. These are the most fun, but can leave a mess.
  • Smoke bombs — Small ones resemble a cherry bomb (which are not legal in Delaware), larger ones look like ground fireworks. As the name suggests, they give off colorful smoke rather than sparks or flares. Since they don't produce light, they're better in the daytime.
  • Snakes — No sparks, flares or crackles, but these little black tablets are fun little "science experiments" with kids (these mini fireballs used to be backyard playthings in the '80s). Light them, and the ash makes a "snake" that grows before your eyes. What's not legal:
  • Explosives — No firecrackers, M-80s, cherry bombs etc. (Wolf Snaps, which pop when you throw them, aren't firecrackers or fireworks and are legal.)
  • Anything that flies into the air — No bottle rockets (which are also firecrackers), no helicopters, no fireworks where the actual cylinder leaves the ground more than a few inches.
By the way, the allowance of ground fireworks and sparklers is a three-year test period, so play nice. You can check out Delaware's full fireworks code here.

With the help of the Barra Foundation, the City of Philadelphia is helping local businesses get startup capital. Not startup venture capital — just good old fashioned small business loans, but these come with zero percent interest.

The loans come through Kiva Zip, a crowdfunding platform where people lend money to a business and get paid back over the course of the loan term, which could be anywhere from six months to two years. It’s all done through PayPal. A platform from San Franciso-based nonprofit Kiva, Kiva Zip is a way for small businesses to get loans from somewhere other than a bank. It’s also a direct way to support the local economy.

Right now, you can fund three local businesses on Kiva Zip, including a South Street clothing store and a King of Prussia clothing line. So far, Kiva Zip Philadelphia has lent $52,000 to 13 businesses, according to Kiva Zip Philadelphia manager Alyssa Thomas. Sixty-nine percent of those loans went to businesses run by people of color, she said.

Lend money

Philadelphia is in the process of becoming a “Kiva City,” which means fundraising and organizing resources in order to make the Kiva model sustainable, Thomas said. Kiva Cities must have a full-time staffer (that’s Thomas) and a financial backer that will match initial loans that are made. One of those backers is the Wayne-based Barra Foundation, who was also behind a $110,000 grant to the Department of Making + Doing. The city will host a Kiva Zip Philadelphia launch event on Dec. 2. Other Kiva Cities include Detroit, New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

The City of Philadelphia has taken on an especially hands-on role by housing Thomas at its Commerce Department. In other Kiva Cities, the manager usually works out of a nonprofit partner organization, Thomas said. The way that Philly has taken ownership of the Kiva Zip program is progressive, she said.

Through a spokeswoman, Deputy Mayor and Commerce Director Alan Greenberger said that Kiva Zip is “just one more way that we are working to bring more funding opportunities to business owners in Philadelphia.” (StartUp PHL is another.)

David Grimes, founder of Armour, is using Kiva Zip to finance his clothing store. (Photo by Instagram user @thebrookladelphian)

Instead of doing credit checks or asking for collateral, Kiva Zip works with “trustees” to vet businesses on the platform. Trustees are local community organizations that find businesses who could use Kiva Zip and who vouch for them. Local trustees include Washington Avenue makerspace NextFab, Center City arts coworking space CultureWorks and neighborhood community development corporations like the New Kensington CDC and Germantown United CDC.

Businesses that have used Kiva Zip in Philadelphia include food-related businesses, salons, landscaping companies and urban farms. Thomas said that often, when lenders get repaid, they keep their money in Kiva Zip and lend it elsewhere.

Companies: Kiva, CultureWorks, NextFab
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