STOCKTON (CBS13) — Starting a business can be a difficult and expensive process that Stockton city leaders are working to make easier and more affordable.

The city is teaming up with a crowdfunding company that wants to help entrepreneurs succeed while improving the local economy.

Tobias Cooks is finally getting the chance to follow her dreams of opening her own bakery.

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“I wanted to be a baker; I wanted to be a chef when I was like 19 years old. I’m 43 now, so that tells you how long it’s been,” said Cooks.

La Dolce Vita just opened in downtown Stockton. It’s the first to be funded through the international nonprofit, Kiva. It’s based in San Francisco but helps entrepreneurs all over the world.

“The process was very easy. It was very surprising. It was put in an essay form, so it’s pretty much for anyone, can go on and apply for it,” she said.

Here is how it works: a person applies online for a loan. It goes through an approval process. Then, the request is posted to the company’s website for lenders to support.

Lenders can crowdfund loans in increments of $25 or more. Once the interest-free loan is awarded, all a borrower has to do is pay it back.

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“Last month, we had an orientation with over 100 businesses where they learned how to use the platform and how to raise loan money for things that they need, things like expansion or facilities,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs.

Kiva only funds genuine businesses or viable projects. Leaders with the company say borrowers have a 98% repayment rate, and their lenders are always made aware of the risks in the event a borrower defaults on any payment.

“It really shows how we are committed to growing and partnering and helping small businesses in our communities expand and grow because that is how we grow our economy,” said Tubbs.

In addition to Kiva, the city is working with the Downtown Stockton Alliance to promote entrepreneurship and help people develop the skills to have a successful business.

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