Currently, Build the Hill is a finalist in the UNC Social Innovation Challenge. Eric Lee, Build the Hill’s co-chairperson, said if the group wins, it will receive a grant and helpful resources through a residency in the Campus Y’s CUBE incubator.
“They offer a lot of expert mentorship and a lot of legal and advising resources. They also offer up to 5,000 dollars of seed funding,” Lee said.
Past efforts of Carolina Microfinance Initiative were focused on international lending, Lee said.
“(Carolina Microfinance Initiative) had a partnership with a microbank in Guatemala in a neighborhood called La Limonada, and they were dispersing microloans and microsavings,” he said.
Alford said with Carolina Microfinance Initiative’s international focus, it was harder for students to get involved in the organization.
“There was not a lot of work that the majority of the members could do. It wasn’t as much direct involvement,” she said.
When the organization’s work in Guatemala stopped, they began looking around for different ways continue to provide microfinance loans.
“We played around with a couple of new international partnerships and also experimented with local microfinance, and that’s where we got the idea for Build the Hill,” Lee said.
During this transition time, Carolina Microfinance Initiative provided a loan to a local businesswoman named Heide Hooper for her butter mint business.
The success with her loan inspired the team to take a local approach.
“Right now we are forming relationships with banks, seeking out advisors and trying to form those partnerships so that they can last for future loans and future clients,” Sipes said.
Hooper said she’s excited Build the Hill is now focusing solely on local microfinance.
“Oh, I think that’s wonderful. (It will) help the local businesses, and it sure did help me out a lot,” she said.
The organization hopes to gain two or three clients this year, Lee said, and they’re excited for the future.
“There is a need out there. It is just a matter of us finding the right people,” Alford said.