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August 25, 2006

Kiva: Microloans Made Easy

I think I've been living in the Seattle area long enough now that the general liberal vibe is starting to rub off on me. Not only that, it's rubbing off in a high-tech sort of way. I just made an online microloan of $25 to a man in Ecuador named Kl├ęber Villafuerte through a site call kiva.org.

Mr. Villafuerte runs a small business selling fabric and making clothes and is looking for a $700 loan to buy fabric, thread, scissors, a mannequin, and similar supplies. Kiva lets you lend small amounts like $25 to entrepreneurs like these via a local microfinance organization--Mifex in Mr. Villafuerte's case. As a lender, I'll make no interest on the loan and could lose my money altogether if he defaults, but Kiva so far has a 100% repayment rate and microfinance in general has something like a 97% repayment rate, so the low risk of a little amount of money is worth it, if you consider helping a poor entrepreneur get on his feet a good social investment.

A few months ago, I saw a program on PBS about microlending and wondered how I could get involved with something like that. I just saw a post on I Will Teach You To Be Rich about Premal Shah, one of the founders of Kiva. It can't get much easier to get involved than to go to a website, pick a business to fund, and make a payment through Pay Pal.

I should be repaid over the next 12 months. I hope the $25 dollars will do much more in Ecuador than it would in my bank account.

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August 24, 2006

Amazon's aStores

I took a few minute to play around with the new feature in Amazon's suite of Associates tools: the aStore. With a few clicks, you can set up a storefront selling featured Amazon products and specifically chosen browsing categories, filtered on whatever search terms you want. It also provides sidebar boxes with similar items, listmania lists, and the customer's wish list. Pretty neat.

It took me about 30 minutes to pick out my 9 featured products, narrow down the browse categories, and tweak the colors to come up with a store that matches my food blog. Check it out:

Blog: Throwing Food
Store: Throwing Food Store