PoverUp Kick-Starts Microfinance One $200 Ice Cream Outing at a Time

Friday, June 3, 2011

You probably know that a little money in the U.S. could go a really long way in a poor country. But when a Westchester, New York high school student saw that a $200 5-year-old birthday party outing to the movies with friends was equal to the amount of the typical microloan, a light went on in her head.

Charlie Javice, a half-French equestrienne who took early admission to the Wharton School (class of 2014), used that insight to co-found, with her brother Elie Javice (who will graduate from Wharton and Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in 2015), Wharton classmate, Celia Lewis, and Wellesley College student Hillary Clevenger, PoverUp – an online network that lets “socially minded students learn, connect and invest in microfinance and social businesses.”

As Javice told me in a May 16 interview, the thing that really kicked her into action was her summer 2008 experience volunteering in a border refugee village in Thailand where she realized that a little money – she bought 50 donuts for $1 – could go a long way to helping poor people start businesses that would lift them out of poverty.

PoverUp touches on a wide variety of stakeholders and Javice’s goal is to make them all better off. Here’s how:

  • Students. PoverUP wants to connect students around the world with each other and with opportunities to consult and intern for microfinance institutions and social businesses.
  • Professors. PoverUp offers professors a chance to access students who can help them do social-impact-related research.
  • Microfinanciers. PoverUp helps microfinance operators to get the capital they seek to help their projects. Javice pointed out that PoverUp’s “open platform” can help close the $250 billion gap between projects’ capital needs and what microfinanciers currently provide. And PoverUp helps lift the recipients of these investments – micro-entrepreneurs who live on less than $2 per day- out of poverty.
  • Individuals. PoverUp gives people interested in microfinance a chance to “invest” – people who give, say $200, hope to get repaid by the project to which they lend and to enjoy the satisfaction of helping a worthy cause.
  • Corporations. PoverUp gives companies – such as Goldman Sachs Group (GS) and Revlon – access to potential future employees engaged in supporting microfinance and social business projects.

Source: Forbes (link opens in a new window)