“I've now helped 46 people begin the journey that will lead them down the path from poverty to prosperity,”
Willms has been supporting the Kiva foundation for more than a year, saying that he admires the entrepreneurial spirit they embrace.
“As a fellow entrepreneur, I understand the drive and determination it takes to start your own business and I respect their efforts,” Willms said. “Giving people the tools to get their small businesses off the ground can make all the difference in the world between success and failure.”
The Kiva Foundation provides microloans to people in third-world countries to start or maintain their own businesses. Banks traditionally won't lend money to these types of people, because they don't have collateral and the startup costs – often less than $300 – are so small that banks can't make money from the loans.
So, Kiva matches people in the third world with others who are willing to lend them money to get their businesses off the ground. More than 98 percent of the loans are paid back in full, and over 75 percent of them are made to women who are looking to create better lives for their children.
Willms's latest donation will help seven people in third-world countries, including Fanny Mercedes in Nicaragua. Mercedes will use the loan money to buy cosmetics, clothes, food and grain for her general store. This will help Mercedes grow her business while at the same time ensuring that basic products are available for people in her community.
“People like Fanny Mercedes are the future of the third world,” Willms said. “These new entrepreneurs are willing to work hard not only for themselves, but also to help improve their community overall. They serve as living examples that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty. This is why I support Kiva and their vision.”
Willms is well known in the Edmonton business community. He started his first business when he was 16 years old and by the time he was 22, it was a multimillion-
philanthropy. Since then, Willms has donated a large sum of his earnings and dozens of hours of his time to non-profit groups around the world.
“It is our responsibility as successful people to help others achieve success,” Willms said. “We are all members of the global community, and when the community becomes a better place, it improves the quality of life for everyone.”