As tough as many have it today in the U.S., we are still blessed in ways citizens of other countries cannot imagine. Consider giving to them if you can.
Microcredit started as a way to help foster entrepreneurship in poverty stricken countries. A logical modern interpretation of the Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
Organizations such as Kiva and Heifer International are great examples of how lending money or providing farm animals lead to sustainability for impoverished people. As tough as many have it today in the U.S., we are still blessed in ways citizens of other countries cannot imagine. Consider giving to them if you can.
I first wrote about Prosper.com a couple of years ago. Prosper was created as the first people-to-people lending marketplace to make consumer lending more financially and socially rewarding for everyone. It works on an eBay auction like basis where lenders bid on loans of interest to them. Some of the amounts loaned are as small as $50. The successful bids are aggregated to create the necessary amount to fund a specific loan. It is currently closed to new investors and borrowers as it is in a required "Quiet Period" as part of its filing a registration statement that should improve its ability to continue its unique brand of micro loans.
Now the need for microcredit in the U.S. is becoming more popular. This AP wire story published on MSNBC, Recession ups U.S. demand for microloans – Would-be borrowers turn to Third World-style lending system, features how a couple used microcredit to raise money for their art restoration start up. They worked with ACCION USA to successfully launch their business. It is an inspiring story. The Audeamus blog that focuses on covering social responsibility published this informative post in June 2006, Microcredit Sources in the USA. Despite the age of the post, most the links look like they will be viable to follow.
If you have a good idea for a business and are cut off from traditional lines of credit, or find what is available to be usurious, then these resources would be a good place to investigate. Just because the loans are small, don't take anything for granted. For the best and quickest results, approach getting a loan from one of these lending sources as you would a large bank. That is, have a believable, achievable business plan backed up with good data.