Microloans have the ability to change lives. JUST offers them to women entrepreneurs and provides a supportive community for personal growth.
“The most valuable currency we have in this world is not money. It’s trust.” What if loans were based on something other than a credit score? What if in addition to financial resources, loan recipients had access to a community-based network of support to overcome any challenges standing in their way?
These are the questions that prompted Steve Wanta to start the nonprofit financial services platform JUST.
JUST goes beyond a credit score and looks at the person when assessing when and how to give a loan. Their loans range from $750 to $15,000, enough for an entrepreneur with a plan to really get something started. And they don’t stop there. JUST also offers peer coaching and access to an extensive community that is able to support, encourage, and build off each other’s successes and knowledge.
The long term vision for every person who receives a loan for JUST is about more than just an investment. It’s about people building the kind of businesses and financial stability that supports generations.
Creating a JUST economy through microloans
It’s a system Wanta saw work in other countries. He spent a decade serving as the Global Program Director for the Whole Planet Foundation. He saw the way the principles of hard work and trust worked to drive financial lending in other countries. He was frustrated that the U.S. was slow to implement the same ideas. In the U.S., lending is still full of red tape and places a heavy emphasis on credit scores.
Wanta had seen how the people could thrive and what they could build themselves with a small investment and a supportive community. He worked in 60 countries and provided $53 million in microloans. He knew that many economies are built on trust more than some arbitrary calculation of past success.
“Our financial system in the United States is not designed to trust people, especially those without money,” Wanta explains.
Here’s how it works: female entrepreneurs connect with a JETA (JUST Entrepreneur Trust Agent) who asks them about their version of the American dream. Together, they then figure out the steps to make that happen. Every entrepreneur becomes a member of that JETA’s group.
JUST is providing more than money. The JETAs host weekly meetings with entrepreneurs. They all work together to build a community where the women motivate, challenge, educate, and inspire each other. It’s this community of trust, compassion, and care that leads to long term success and ultimately, to wealth building.
Microloans based on trust actually work
Credit scores are not fair to the people who have traditionally been penalized by the system, Wanta says. And building up a longstanding credit history becomes impossible when you can’t even get a foothold in the first place.
JUST addresses this problem by providing loans to ambitious women based on trust. And it works. JUST never asks for a credit score. To date, they have provided over $14 million in loans. And the repayment rate is 99%.
Since JUST is a nonprofit organization, the interest rate is exceptionally low. The interest on an initial $750 loan is only 2%, or $15 — significantly lower than rates from other financial institutions, which typically range from about 5% to 9%. Entrepreneurs then have the option of receiving $500 incremental loans, up to $15,000.
Changing the financial system
JUST provides a new model for transforming the financial system to work for everyone. According to Wanta, JUST is unique for three key reasons:
- JUST features JETAs — female mentors who decide whom to loan money to and how support each woman in their group
- JUST is creating new and better financial service products and envisioning new ways to create generational wealth
- JUST doesn’t see a loan as an end, but a means: they want to see true change happen
By focusing on trusting individuals instead of merely gazing at their credit scores and building a network of people who support one another, JUST is providing financial and social support, helping these entrepreneurs realize the potential that was inside them all along.