Essential Pittsburgh
3:45 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Community Backed Micro-Lending Helps Homewood Indoor Bike Park

The 80,000 square foot warehouse houses many ramps like this one, where kids and adults can bike.
Credit The Wheel Mill

Since the early 2000’s more than one million small businesses worldwide have been funded through the online micro-lending program known as Kiva.org

The loans help revitalize local economies and make it possible for the average person, rather than banks, to fund innovative ideas and businesses. 

Premal Shah, President and co-founder said Kiva is a non-profit that provides loans to many different people at 0% interest, often people who can't qualify for a bank loan.

Shah was in Pittsburgh to garner support for the KivaZip program, a new micro-lending approach which gives community groups the opportunity to vouch for small businesses they see as an asset to their neighborhood.

"Everyday 3,000 small businesses get rejected from a bank loan," Shah said. "This is where the Internet can play a role in almost providing a starter loan. The Internet community like you and I, and the whole system depends on someone vouching for that small business' character."

Harry Geyer, owner of The Wheel Mill, an indoor mountain biking and BMX park in Homewood is currently repaying a Kiva Zip loan.

The Wheel Mill used Kiva along with another crowd funding website in order to supplement an already existing bank loan. Mountain bikers, BMX riders and children come to the indoor park to ride on unique terrain.

Activities at The Wheel Mill include a BMX gate, if bikers want to race against each other, unicycling, and a foam pit if riders are a little nervous about trying new tricks.