Key Milestones


Village Enterprise Fund founded by Brian Lehnen and Joan Hestenes as a small, volunteer-run nonprofit operated from their home.


Brian leaves his career in biotechnology to serve as Executive Director of Village Enterprise Fund, supported by a Board of Directors and part-time paid staff. Village Enterprise Fund operates in many countries (Philippines, India, Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and others), mainly as a grants distributor.


Decisions made to focus on East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania), to add a formal training and mentoring program, and to employ paid full-time African staff to oversee field operations and improve and evaluate the program on the ground.


Launch of ambitious “Next 100,000 Lives” campaign with goal to raise $3 million to expand the number of new businesses, improve programs and positively impact the lives of 100,000 people in East Africa.


Jessica Jackley co-founded Kiva, the world's first peer-to-peer online micro lending website, after seeing the power, beauty, and dignity of microenterprise development while working with Village Enterprise on impact evaluation and program development in East Africa in 2004.


Independent evaluation of standard of living completed after two years of data collection in the field.


“Next 100,000 Lives” campaign goal exceeded, with $3.2 million raised. Over the course of the four-year campaign, Village Enterprise started 8,300 businesses, trained 40,000 business owners, and improved the lives of over 200,000 people.


Brian Lehnen retires and Dianne Calvi takes over as CEO. Independent evaluation of business sustainability completed in the field. Village Enterprise selected by GiveWell, a New-York based charity evaluation nonprofit, as one of their top-ranked charities (in top 10 of 400+ evaluated).


Village Enterprise launches new 5 -Year Strategic Plan, redesigned web site, new branding (new name, logo, colors, mission and tagline), a formal savings program, and a field fellowship program.


Village Enterprise celebrates 25 years of transforming lives.


Rockefeller Foundation recognizes Village Enterprise as a Next Century Innovator for developing S.M.A.R.T. (Smarter Market Analysis Risk Tool)

Striving to make extreme poverty obsolete since 1987

Hard-working people struggling to care for their families. Children lacking food, education, health care, and hope. Women using meager
resources to provide meals for their families. These are the people of rural East Africa. They live in the most impoverished region of the
world, beyond the reach of most poverty reduction and micro-financing initiatives.

For over two decades, Village Enterprise has dedicated our efforts to equipping these people with the resources to create sustainable

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