Elon Offers Winter Term Microfinance Class


The Kuelap Fortress is one of the oldest manmade structures in South America.

For the second time in three years, Elon Microfinance Initiative is co-sponsoring a Winter Term study abroad course in 2015. The course, entitled Micro-Finance Sustainable Agriculture (GST 470) will involve in-class sessions at Elon and a 9-day adventure in Peru. Associate Professor of Finance Chris Harris is leading the class.

Students will meet on campus for the first week of class, then travel to one of the most diverse countries in South America for more than a week. Students will visit several farms that receive microloans, one of the largest waterfalls in the world, and the Kuelap Fortress which was built in the 6th Century AD, on the top of a mountain, using more stone than the Egyptian pyramids. This course is partnering with The Arbor Day Foundation, who is providing the funds for the micro-lending.

This course will be very unique in terms of the material covered, and based on the fact it is a course that is part of a larger lending program.  Professor Harris hopes to attract a diverse array of students from different academic backgrounds.

Elon Microfinance Initiative previously sponsored a class during Winter Term of 2013. EMI faculty advisor Mark Kurt led Global Entrepreneurship Ventures, a class that travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to form a strategic partnership with Nuestras Huellas, an Argentinian microfinance institution.

Students interested in the program should contact Dr. Harris via e-mail at charris24@elon.edu, or visit him in his office in room 202 at the Koury Business Center.

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Elon Microfinance Initiative Kicks Off New Year

(L to R) EMI executive board members Denis Dotson, Jill Hemmindinger, and Kristin Ruffe celebrate the start of a new season.

(L to R) EMI executive board members Denis Dotson, Jill Hemmendinger, and Kristin Ruffe celebrate the start of a new season.

The 2014-15 school year kicked off on September 11 for members of the Elon Microfinance Initiative. Now in its 5th year in existence, Elon Microfinance Initiative (EMI) is committed to developing awareness and funding for small business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide.

In the past, EMI developed connections with local and international microfinance institutions, including Slow Money NC and Nuestras Huellas in Buenos Aires, Argentina. EMI plans to grow these relationships this year and create new partnerships with MFIs in the United States and abroad. EMI plans to send students on a social business and entrepreneurship experience in Peru this January.

Senior Jill Hemmendinger is excited to begin her fourth year with EMI. “”Seeing EMI grow over the last three years has been really inspiring and reflective of the true spirit of microfinance. We are starting small and working our way up to making a huge difference in the Elon community and beyond,” she said at Thursday’s meeting. Jill also serves as EMI’s Vice President of Human Resources.

Other plans for EMI’s 2014-15 season include multiple microfinance documentary screenings, attendance at national microfinance conferences, and partnerships with other social justice and volunteer groups at Elon University.

“An upcoming series of events that EMI will be hosting in the future are movie nights featuring humanitarian themes including microfinance,” Jill added.  “This will help to raise awareness at Elon and engage students with our cause.”

Members of EMI are very excited to accept new and great challenges, and we are confident that the 2014-15 school year will be a year of education, engagement, and impact.

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Yeison Andres

Yeisson Andres

Yeisón Andres lives in the central Colombian village of Norcasia. Yeisón is a man who found his passion in the kitchen. A month ago, he initiated his project of selling food products, and today he is grateful for having found an entity that can provide him with a loan and trust him and his business.

He wants to take out a loan to buy a stove, tables and chairs to offer a new service to his clients and have something resembling a restaurant.

Thus far he only tends to the one location, but he wants to generate business and trusts in the flavor of his dishes. He asks that you support his business and collaborate in gathering the loan, as he wants to transmit in his dishes the passion and love he feels for this profession.

In support of Yeisón Andres and his business dreams, Elon Microfinance Initiative loaned $25 in September 2014.

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Elon Microfinance Places Third in Triple Impact Challenge

(L to R) EMI members Paige Edwards, Anna DeDufour, and Denis Dotson

(L to R) EMI members Paige Edwards, Anna DeDufour, and Denis Dotson

On Thursday, April 17, members of the Elon Microfinance Initiative competed in the Triple Impact Challenge sponsored by the Elon University Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. The Triple Impact Challenge is a competition designed for students to research social problems and provide entrepreneurial solutions to those problems. EMI members Anna DeDufour, Denis Dotson, Paige Edwards, and  presented their “Globes to Give Back” idea to help those in poverty. EMI placed third in the competition and won $200.

Scott Kelly, Instructor of Marketing and assistant director of the Doherty Center, believes strongly in the idea of entrepreneurship in a business education. “Our vision is to teach a systematic approach to solve problems in the world,” he said.  “We are excited about the opportunity to work with colleagues across the Elon campus.  As we increase the number of student projects (“shots on goal”) then we will see exciting results.”

The Globes to Give Back campaign is a program designed to raise awareness and money for those in need around the world. The globes, pictured below, can be purchased for as little as $1 from local restaurants, stores, and Elon University dining halls. These funds will be used towards Elon University’s Kiva team, which is designed to provide low-capital, low-interest loans to small business owners and entrepreneurs around the world.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 3.03.48 PM

Globes to Give Back is a campaign designed to raise awareness and money for microfinance and social business ventures.

“I wanted to come up with an idea that made it easy, simple, and not time-consuming for people at Elon and the local community to donate a dollar to KIVA” Paige Edwards said of the project. “The donations are all recycled since they are only loans, which I think is what makes KIVA and fundraising for them so great. The idea is completely sustainable. I was inspired by St. Jude’s donation process, and kind of took it from there.”

Since 2011, Elon Microfinance Initiative has loaned $1,300 through Kiva to 33 small businesses in 21 countries in South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. EMI has contributed $475 in capital to Kiva, which means that for $1.00 we have contributed, we have made $2.73 in economic impact. We plan on contributing the $200 prize to continue the growth of our Kiva team and positively impact entrepreneurs around the world!


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Join the Elon University Kiva Team

Elon Microfinance Initiative is proud to announce the creation of a new lending team on Kiva.org. The Elon University Kiva Team will unite Elon University students, professors, and student clubs to raise money for entrepreneurs around the world. Elon University is committed to developing “global citizens” and we are confident that this is a way to learn more about the many types of businesspersons around the world. More than 1 billion people live on less than $1/day, and making a loan of just $25 can make a lifetime impact on a buisiness.

Take Elvira for instance. Sheis a hardworking entrepreneur who has a motorcycle transport business in the Philippines. She lives in Cordova in Cebu province, a small city of about 53,000 people. She is borrowing $375 through Kiva to purchase spare parts for the maintenance of her motorcycle. Elvira has been in this business for five years. She earns additional income from buying and selling peanut butter.

elviraElvira has been sustaining her business activities through her own efforts with the help of the loans from Kiva. She dreams of building and expanding her business to secure the future of her family. 

With a contribution of just $25, you can join Elon Microfinance Initiative in promoting and sustaining Elvira’s business for the thousands of people in Cordova that rely on her. Think about what $25 can do for someone like Elvira.

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Remembering Muhammad Yunus’ Visit to Elon


Elon Microfinance Initiative poses for a picture with 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.

Elon Microfinance Initiative has hosted many guest speakers in its 4+ years as a club at Elon University. Local business owners, entrepreneurs, and social business advocates have spoken to EMI members on the importance of microfinance in the 21st century. But EMI was honored to have a guest speaker on April 4, 2012 who travelled all the way from Bangladesh to speak at Elon. And he also had a Nobel Peace Prize.

World-renowned social entrepreneur and “father of microfinance” Muhammad Yunus visited Elon University two years ago today and captivated audiences with his humility and   consideration for the poorest of the poor. Yunus, now 73, was born and raised in Chittachong, Bangladesh, and taught economics at both Middle Tennessee State University and Chittachong University. Yunus then discovered vast amounts of extreme poverty in his native country, and set out on a mission to help those who were not finding help.

EMI President Kelly Cavanaugh shakes hands with Dr. Yunus.

EMI President Kelly Cavanaugh shakes hands with Dr. Yunus.

He pioneered the concept of microcredit, providing very small financial loans to individuals (mainly women) and groups that could use the money to grow their own businesses. In effect, these small amounts of money could help these poor “lift themselves out of poverty”. Yunus started the Grameen Bank in the late 1970s by loaning $27 USD to a group of 42 families to use as start-up capital for businesses. “Social business is problem-solving,” he said. “You have to identify the problem first, not academically…. but just as a person.”

Grameen Bank has since given more than $11 billion USD in loans and has enjoyed a 96.67% repayment rate, better than that of most small American banks. Yunus and Grameen Bank earned the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to expand economic opportunity for women and the impoverished. In 2008, Yunus authored Creating a World Without Poverty, which described his model of social business as a means to end poverty worldwide. The book also served as the 2011 common reading novel for incoming Elon University students.

In April 2012, Elon University presented Yunus with the Medal for Entreprenurial Leadership, rewarding an individual who exemplifies the values of Elon University, including integrity, innovation and creativity. Yunus also held a private meeting with members of Elon Microfinance Initiative, including current VP of Finance Denis Dotson. “I remember his quiet demeanor, but he also displayed a dedication for the poor,” Dotson recalled. “It was like these people were his family and that it was his job to help them.”  Yunus spoke to EMI about our mission, his views of microfinance, and how we could make an impact in our local community. “To have a Nobel Prize winner motivate you is an awesome experience,” Dotson added.

Muhammad Yunus speaks to EMI during his 2012 visit to North Carolina.

Muhammad Yunus speaks to EMI during his 2012 visit to North Carolina.

EMI thanks Muhammad Yunus for his kindness and wisdom during his visit two years ago, and we pledge to creating a better world for our future.

“When people say it can’t be done, you say ‘Yes, it can be done.’ If you feel passionate about it, stay on it; create new things and be defining. Don’t follow the dotted line. You create your own dots so others can follow.”

                  -Muhammad Yunus

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EMI Kicks Off Month of Microfinance Celebration

EMI members believe microsinance is "engaging".

EMI members believe microsinance is “engaging”.

On April 3rd, Elon Microfinance Initiative began its month-long celebration of the Month of Microfinance. The Month of Microfinance was created to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among student groups and professional organizations with a passion for microfinance and social business. Elon Microfinance Initiative is a proud endorsing partner of the Month of Microfinance movement.


Elon believes strongly in sustainability, and so too does EMI.

EMI’s first action this month was to spread the word about microfinance. EMI members considered the social and economic impacts of microfinance, and communicated their responses through social media channels using #MicrofinanceCanBe. “Microfinance helps generate hope through financial empowerment,” noted Michael Visconti, EMI’s VP of Operations. “Kiva loans provide us a way to help those in need and provide much needed inspiration.”

Even Elon Business Center namesake Ernest Koury Sr. believes in microfinance!

Even Elon Business Center namesake Ernest Koury Sr. believes in microfinance!

EMI is also excited to partner with Slow Money NC, a North Carolina-based microfinance institution that provides loans to businesses in the agricultural sector. In addition, a group of EMI students will present a project as part of Elon University’s Triple Impact Challenge, a contest designed for students to present solutions to social concerns. The Challenge will take place Thursday, April 17th. Additionally, EMI looks to develop a university-wide Kiva team at Elon University to spread the word about microfinance and its impact in a global community. We are confident that the Elon community will embrace our goals and support us in our quest to end poverty worldwide.

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