Led by ASU students, the organization helps entrepreneurs start and grow businesses – Natural Self Esteem

April 13, 2022

The Arizona Microcredit Initiative, a student organization at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, enters its 11th year as a nonprofit organization that helps underserved entrepreneurs start or grow their ventures through consulting services, microcredit, and business education.

The initiative, which is also a student organization of the WP Carey School of Business, was founded in 2011 by three distinguished students after winning $4,000 from the ASU Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.

Kiran Ramakumar is Executive Director of the Arizona Microcredit Initiative and a junior studying supply chain management and business data analytics. Photo courtesy of Kiran Ramakumar
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Originally modeled after an organization called Elmseed at Yale University, the initiative focused solely on microcredit. In 2012, the organization expanded to eight members and received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. That same year, the initiative won a $50,000 grant from the Pakis Foundation and began workshops for the local small business community.

The organization’s mission statement summarizes its reason for being: “AMI was created with a vision of an Arizona where neither a challenging background nor a lack of resources can stand in the way of a passionate entrepreneurial spirit. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, we are dedicated to that original vision by providing underserved entrepreneurs with access to business instruction and capital.”

Over the years since its inception, the initiative has continued to grow, receive funding, and innovate to provide services throughout the Greater Phoenix area.

“Employees’ passion for the community and our mission is the secret of our successful business operations. Additionally, our alumni remain deeply involved in the organization and continue to provide support and guidance to current organizational leaders,” said Kiran Ramakumar, executive director of the Arizona Microcredit Initiative and a junior at Barrett, The Honors College, studying supply chain management and business data analytics.

Monet Tam, a senior honors college student who, like Ramakumar, is studying supply chain management and business data analytics, said the initiative is unique in that it is a student initiative that offers free consulting services and business classes on more than 40 topics in addition to low-interest loans.

The organization supports entrepreneurs in three main areas: credit, advice and education.

Photo by Monet Tam

Monet Tam, a senior studying supply chain management and business data analytics, is an AMI contributor. Photo courtesy of Monet Tam

Small Business Loans

The Arizona Microcredit Initiative provides up to $5,000 in microloans to local, underserved entrepreneurs. With competitive interest rates tailored to applicants, these loans allow customers to expand their businesses.

The organization’s Phase I loan is ideal for anyone with a great business idea, entrepreneurial spirit and fund allocation plan. The loan offers up to $1,000 with an interest rate of 7% compounded annually and a credit rating that is not required to apply.

The initiative’s Phase II loan is designed for entrepreneurs with an existing small business who are looking to purchase new equipment or supplies to support expansion. This loan can range from $1,001 to $5,000 with an interest rate of 5% compounded annually and business documentation must be requested.

business consulting

Local businesses at every stage, from foundation to existing business, can be advised individually. Consulting competencies include product development, pricing strategy, advertising, promotions, credit/financing and web development. Consulting services are free.

The initiative develops a team focused on customer needs and works directly with them to improve strategy and address business challenges.

“As students, this is an incredible experiential learning opportunity as we work hands-on with real customers,” said Zain Sidhwa, director of operations, Arizona Microcredit Initiative.

Business Education

The initiative produced three guides to equip and guide small business owners. The organization also offers 40 educational blog posts, with each topic focusing on key business issues and solutions that have historically worked for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The Arizona Microcredit Initiative works with community partners, business support partners, and financial partners.

Its partners include Gilbert Sun News, Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, City of Scottsdale Department of Economic Development, City of Tolleson, FABRIC, ASU Changemaker Central, Local First Arizona, SEED SPOT and Kiva.

One of the initiative’s most recent clients is HerRights, a non-profit dedicated to ending gender-based violence and promoting social justice through empowerment tools.

Tanu Ghosh founded HerRights after a widely publicized brutal attack on a woman in December 2012 in Delhi.

Ghosh, who said she “recognized that the gender issues need to be solved in a systematic way and that the causes are the same and the solutions need to be similar no matter where you are,” turned to the Arizona Microcredit Initiative to help them build and grow to support organization.

“AMI has been beyond helpful for a small, fledgling nonprofit organization like ours,” she said. “They’re like guiding stars, doing the research for you that a small organization with no overhead didn’t have the bandwidth to do. They didn’t stop there – from mission statement, organizational design to passive income generation and intern positions – they walked us through working sessions to make the actual changes – all for free. Your material has always been high quality, accurate and on target.”

The Arizona Microcredit Initiative has helped HerRights structure its organization, identify and establish fundraising channels, and implement passive income opportunities. With support from the initiative, HerRights aims to expand its impact through research, development workshops, outreach resources and more within the Phoenix area and abroad.

“As AMI now enters its second decade of service, the organization looks to continue high-impact client work, increase our visibility in the Phoenix area, and continue to increase the organization’s impact,” said Ramakumar.

“Our motto is ‘take initiative’ and we convey this to each member to find opportunities to expand the organization’s reach while making tangible contributions to our customers and community. We hope to continue a tradition of giving high-performing ASU students the opportunity to give back, learn great skills, and then go out into the world and make a difference.”

Students can apply to join the Arizona Microcredit Initiative. Companies interested in services can register at www.azmicrocredit.org/contact.

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