NEW YORK (AP) - Micro loans, sometimes as small as $10 or $20, can help poor families around the world start a small business to work their way out of poverty. Now an online brokerage that specializes in micro lending is looking for small investments to expand that process.
MicroPlace, which is based in San Jose, Calif., on Monday introduced what it's calling a 'small change-big change' program aimed at getting more Americans to invest in social development projects.
A growing number of programs aim to fund micro loans, but MicroPlace is among the first to try to use the Internet to draw small investors to the task.
The campaign is targeting the estimated $100 in small change that many Americans have lying around the house on bureaus, in a change jar or in shoe boxes.
'Many people consider these stashes to be a nuisance,' said Tracey Turner, founder and general manager of MicroPlace. 'But that $100 is all it takes to enable a loan to reach a person in Kenya and change that person's life.'
MicroPlace wants people to invest the equivalent of $100 at its site, http://www.smallchange-bigchange.com. Investors can click on a map of the world to locate a project they want to support. Money that's invested earns a small return -- generally no more than 1 percent or 2 percent a year. At the end of the term, investors can get the money back with interest or reinvest in the same project or another offering.
MicroPlace is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the companies issuing the securites to small investors also are registered investment companies, such as the Calvert Foundation or Oikocredit USA, which operates through the Calvert Foundation. The lending organizations they back in countries like India, Kenya and Cambodia often have operated for a decade or more and have proven loan repayment records.
The new campaign also encourages small investors to network online with friends to put together bigger investment pools. The site will track the loans made through the network's investments.
'The idea is to bring the awareness to people of how easy it is to change the lives of hard-working people in the developing world,' Turner said.
MicroPlace currently offers 47 investments in projects located in 28 countries, including the United States.
Minimum initial investments are $100; subsequent investments can be $50.
MicroPlace is a subsidiary of eBay Inc.
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