Microfinance for Kids -- and Investment Bankers

Last Updated Sep 29, 2008 4:51 PM EDT

Can microfinance be the engine of the banking economy? It might sound laughable, but I'm thinking again after a breakfast meeting with Katie Smith Milway. She's the author of One Hen, a new book on microfinance for kids, and she told me about a recent event at Morgan Stanley, where she read her kids' book to its white-shoe investment bankers, who ate it up, she says. [UPDATE: Milway notes that she read the book at a microfinance forum at Morgan Stanley, which included other Morgan Stanley employees as well as bankers].

Why? Well, the book itself is inspirational. It's based on the real-life story of a Ghanaian boy who grew up to be the biggest chicken farmer in Ghana, in part thanks to a very small loan he got as a boy, which he used to buy a hen. That experience got him a bigger loan after college, so he could start his farm. The story isn't a perfect map with his life -- in the book, his mother does not get remarried to a chicken farmer, as happened in real life. But the story is still remarkable. Milway says she got forwarded an email from microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus saying his story was very similar (here is the first part of the Big Think review of Yunus's Creating A World Without Poverty).

The other big reason: "microfinance is one of the few growth markets in finance," Milway told me. Bankers like Morgan Stanley are beginning to securitize micro-credit loans through non-governmental organizations, creating a new kind of bridge financing to help successful micro-businesses get bigger. (She did also get some microfinance advice from friends at Morgan Stanley when she was writing the book [UPDATE: help from volunteers at Morgan Stanley when she was building her Web site,] which probably helped her get invited to do a reading there).

It's a lot more fun than your typical business book, with none of the pretensions. For those with kids, the Web site has resources to teach them about entrepreneurship as well as games that lead to donations to microfinance organizations.

  • Michael Fitzgerald

    Michael Fitzgerald writes about innovation and other big ideas in business for publications like the New York Times, The Economist, Fast Company, Inc. and CIO. He’s worked as a writer or editor at Red Herring, ZDNet, TechTV and Computerworld, and has received numerous awards as a writer and editor. Most recently, his piece on the hacker collective the l0pht won the 2008 award for best trade piece from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also a 2007 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion.