Kiva Loan Helps Pittsburgh Ice Cream Manufacturer Get Ready For Spring

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Pittsburgh ice cream company got some help from the community after they lost their entire inventory in a freezer failure.

When their ice-packed, walk-in freezer developed an electrical glitch that shut it down, says Katie Heldstab, “We lost thousands of ice cream sandwiches and pints in a matter of a few hours.”

Nearly 20 bags of unusable ice cream had to be thrown out.

The freezer is owned by Leona’s, a relatively new ice cream manufacturer in Wilkinsburg.

“It is super premium ice cream [that is] on par with Graeter’s and Haagen Dazs and things of that ilk in terms of quality, but it’s also lactose free,” Heldstab, co-owner of Leona’s told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday.

Heldstab said that after not being prepared for last year’s early spring ice cream rush, “We stocked up all winter long, spent the extra money, spent the extra time.”

But all that was lost, so it was time to think creatively.

“In order to catch up to where we were, quickly, without incurring some serious problems with supply chain, we needed to have a quick infusion of loan money,” Heldstab said.

For an ice cream manufacturer, there’s nothing worse than a freezer breaking down.

And for a small start-up business, it’s awfully hard to get a bank loan.

Fortunately for Leona’s, they found another solution.

It’s called a Kiva Loan, and it’s a way in which people can lend money online in small amounts — like $25 — to aspiring entrepreneurs all around the world.

Leona’s asked for $25,000 in loan money and met their goal Thursday afternoon.

“We’re a little shocked. We did not expect that it would be this quick,” Heldstab said.

Heldstab says 97 percent of Kiva Loans get paid back, although without interest.

“You’re getting money from people, and the incentive to pay that back is inherently much higher than, say, paying back a bank,” Heldstab said.

Leona’s Ice Cream launched in 2013, with the help of a Kiva loan. Their pints and ice cream sandwiches are now sold in more than a dozen locations throughout the Pittsburgh area.

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