Howard Schultz for one. Yes, the founder and CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz has taken this challenge up himself with an idea incubated at Starbucks to provide loans to small businesses using Starbucks stores as the store front for micro-lending to small business.
Oh, no. Starbucks would not become a bank. No, they are in the business of selling coffee . But they do have 7,000 locations throughout the US and tens of millions of customers who just might be up to the task of donating to the effort to free up capital for small business. If our banks won’t do it, maybe the people will.
It’s a form of crowdfunding if you will. The idea is that Starbucks would collect donations from customers. Those who would give $5.00 or more, would get a red, white and blue wristband. It would be a symbol of Americans helping Americans. Of course, Starbucks needed to find a partner who could administer the micro-lending program. The resourceful team at Starbucks came up with the ideal match, the Community Development Finance Institutions, or CDFI’s. These non-profit organizations specialize in lending the underserved communities, where the lenders know the borrowers quite well and the default rates are extremely low.
New York Times op ed writer Joe Nocera gave a shout out to the Starbucks initiative in his column on October 18th. This initiative is to be called Create Jobs for USA, and the marketing of it will be paid for by the Starbucks Foundation. What I really like about this initiative is that people can participate for a very small donation. I hope Create Jobs for USA will be opened up to other retailers where people can donate. And let’s not stop there. The text messaging contributions to the Red Cross and other organizations during the Haiti disaster was a fast and easy way for people to donate $10. I say, let’s get the capital back in the hands of the people running small businesses again and get this economy growing. It’s the most practical way to create new jobs.
Importantly, the donated funds can be leveraged up to 7 times according to Mark Pinsky, who heads Opportunity Finance Network, one of the larger CDFI funds. This means that $20 million donated can raise $140 million in funding. Now this is really a solid beginning.
We are so lucky to have entrepreneurs like Howard Schultz who can energize a marketplace with out of the park ideas. I hope this one takes off. It’s scheduled to be launched in November. Save up your spare change, folks, and go down to the nearest Starbucks store. We’re about to engage in crowdfunding to get America moving again.