Helping Entrepreneurs Around the World Through Matter to a Million

by Lisa Conover, Senior Manager, Living Progress & HPE Foundation
Jul 28, 2016 9:25 AM ET

Every day Elisa, a single mother of two, walks through the city of Tulcán, Ecuador, selling sheets, quilts and blankets to raise enough money to feed her children. It’s an extremely hard life but she has successfully grown a micro-business and someday hopes to be able to set up a small shop so she doesn’t have to walk to sell her wares. I’m privileged to have been able to help Elisa through Matter to a Million, a partnership between the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Foundation and non-profit, micro-lending platform Kiva. 

Through the program, each year every HPE employee receives several $25 credits from the HPE Foundation to lend to Kiva borrowers. This year, more than $2.1 million in loans were made to thousands of entrepreneurs around the world. The loans made through Kiva help farmers, salespeople, fishers, and other business owners grow their businesses and help their communities, and the numbers grow every day.

The program has struck a huge chord with employees by providing an easy, inspiring and rewarding way to invest in entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds. I normally choose to give to individual women who have children. But employees can choose to support a huge variety of entrepreneurs—couples with families, single parents, groups of people who have formed cooperatives. They can choose to help people looking to grow their businesses, or switch to clean energy, or provide safe, stable shelter for their families.

Because the program provided multiple loan opportunities, I was also able to support another hard working woman. Niyati has four children and lives in a small village in Falaketa, India. She and her husband rear dairy cows and sell milk in their local area. But the money they earn isn’t enough to meet their household expenses. Niyati asked for a Kiva loan to buy another cow so they can increase their inventory and grow the business. Her dream? To earn enough money to build a concrete house. 

Thousands of HPE employees like me are huge believers in Kiva and its ability to give people an opportunity. Kiva believes that “dreams are universal but opportunity is not.” Small loans to entrepreneurs empower them to take control of their lives and make a better life for themselves, their families, and, ultimately, their communities.

We were honored to have Premal Shah, President & Co-Founder of Kiva, speak on a panel at HPE’s Discover 2016 event in Las Vegas recently. Mr. Shah spoke about disruptive social innovation and about the genesis of Kiva.  The lending model that Kiva showcases highlights the importance of technology and its role in disrupting how we think about solving some of the world’s most challenging problems.  It connects people from great distances so that society is working together to help both individuals and communities prosper. 

Ultimately, Matter to a Million is one way that HPE employees help to drive Living Progress—uniting people, ideas and technology to solve the world’s toughest challenges.

It is humbling to think of all we take for granted while there are people in the world who do not even have the basic necessities. I’m extremely grateful to the HPE Foundation for giving me the opportunity to help these remarkable women.