There is a popular saying that goes, “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.” But how can the man fish if he does not have a fishing pole? And where does he get the money to buy the equipment he needs to actually become a fisherman?
This is a conversation co-founder and CEO of JUST, Steve Wanta, had with talkshow host Jeff Crilley in the Jeff Crilley Show. The non-profit believes that non-traditional female entrepreneurs can become their own change agents if only given access to the resources any other entrepreneur would need to strive in the world of business.
JUST offers a program inspired by the concepts of microfinance and community. Entrepreneurs who enroll into the program automatically get access to small trust-based loans, a network of hundreds of female entrepreneurs and the continued support of small peer-led groups. No one is ever asked for their credit score, collateral or business plan— as many non-traditional entrepreneurs are excluded from traditional lenders because of their failure to meet minimum requirements.
Wanta came up with the idea of JUST during his 10 years leading Whole Planet Foundation work globally and seeing the tremendous impact of trust-based lending everywhere in the world— except for the United States. When sent to Detroit to scout for micro lenders, Steve could not find any that had figured out how to adapt the concept to effectively serve a large volume of low-income female entrepreneurs. It was during this trip to Detroit when he realized the need and felt the responsibility to do something about it.
Steve started JUST with the firm belief that microfinance in the United States could do better. This is when he met with like-minded peers, Bill Wood and Andy White, and shared his insights in a series of informal meetings, which led to their founding of JUST. Together, they identified the opportunity to redefine and expand the concept of lending based on trust to make capital more accessible to female entrepreneurs.
And so it began, JUST committed to reimagine global microfinance to address its limitations of the United States context and emphasize client-centric outcomes. Today, JUST operates in both Austin and Dallas, supporting more than 700 clients, who are strengthening their businesses, increasing their incomes and becoming the change their communities need. Not only that, JUST has a repayment rate of 99%, which means the model is working.
Currently, the non-profit is working on setting foot in Dallas. As for the future, Wanta hopes to one day reach every corner in the US, but as they say, step by step.