After a career in the corporate world, Thao decided to run her family’s restaurant, Turtle Tower, and purchased the business from her parents in 2013. Turtle Tower has been a fixture in San Francisco’s Tenderloin community since 2000, contributing to its transformation into a popular food destination known as “Little Saigon”. As a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant, Turtle Tower attracts loyal customers from both within and outside the neighborhood with its tasty traditional food and quality service. By employing 15 people, many of whom are Vietnamese immigrants living in the Tenderloin, Turtle Tower is also a source of local jobs.
In order to increase revenues, Thao needed an upgraded Point of Sales (POS) system that would track and analyze customer spending and help manage a customer loyalty program. Since Turtle Tower did not have the budget for such an upgrade, the Tenderloin Economic Development Project (TEDP), a Kiva Zip trustee, endorsed Thao for a Kiva Zip loan based on her reliability, professionalism, and commitment to improving the Tenderloin community. Kiva Zip is an online crowdfunding platform that uses character-based lending to help entrepreneurs access 0% interest microloans. TEDP endorses borrowers like Thao for Kiva Zip loans to help eliminate poverty by increasing the capacity of local businesses, since local business owners understand that their financial survival depends on a healthy neighborhood.
Thao was able to crowdfund a $10,000 Kiva Zip loan from more than 120 lenders to purchase a new POS system. LISC Small Business matched these lenders to help ensure that Thao’s loan fully funded. Repaid over the course of three years at 0% interest, the Kiva Zip loan was an affordable financing option for Turtle Tower.