Teen's microlending company going strong

September 11, 2012 12:21:41 AM PDT
A year ago, a high school student from Fremont caught the attention of President Barack Obama. At just 17, Will Kim created a non-profit to help young entrepreneurs start their own small business. Today, Kim is moving on to Stanford University, but leaves the organization he created to his fellow students at Mission San Jose High School.

At 18, Kim has achieved more than most people his age. A year ago, he started the non-profit Happy Day Microfunds, lending small amounts of money to students to start a business.

"There's a little bit of money and it goes around and it comes back to you, but in the process of going around it makes this huge change in terms of the economic lifestyles of the people it impacts," Kim said.

The organization lends money to young entrepreneurs enrolled in schools in low-income neighborhoods. The money comes from a number of fund raising events.

"We held dodge ball tournaments...capture the flag tournaments," Kim said.

Erika Simmons started her own business making trendy waist beads thanks to a $100 loan obtained through Happy Day Microfunds. She has since repaid the loan.

Kim's idea sparked the interest of other students at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, and eventually word of their success made it to the White House last year.

"There are students like Will Kim from Fremont, California, who launched a non-profit that gives loans to students from low-income schools who want to start their own businesses," Obama said during a speech.

Today, the organization has expanded with chapters in Southern California, Chicago and New Jersey.

Kim is now off to Stanford to begin a new phase of his life, but his pet project will stay in the hands of other students at Mission San Jose.

"I really want everyone to work as a team and so everyone can go and motivate these people to start creating their own business," student Connie Kim said.

"We don't charge any fees; we're not trying to make money off of it, we are just trying to make the world a better place," student Aamir Rasheed said.

The goal is the same, keeping money local and creating the leaders of the future.


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