Women are twice as likely as men to be denied a loan by financial organizations. Without access to capital, opportunity is capped.

The team at Sou Sou wants to change that. Here’s how:

Although less common in the U.S., approximately 80 percent of the world’s population use or have used informal savings and loan practices to save and invest money. Such programs can be game-changing to individuals starting small businesses, especially when traditional investment opportunities like banks and venture capital firms aren’t an option.

Fonta Gilliam saw an opportunity to modernize this centuries-old lending tradition. Sou Sou’s social banking and credit building platform uses social capital and a proprietary algorithm to help borrowers build their capital readiness, savings and financial acumen.

When participants join Sou Sou — which can be accessed by mobile or desktop — they enter into lending circles with peers who have similar financial goals. Users can save money, earn interest and use the community funds in their lending circles to access initial financing for their business or personal needs.

Sou Sou also enables borrowers to build their savings and credit scores, making them more attractive to traditional lenders and future investors. When a member’s credit and financial health improves, Sou Sou can connect them with a partner bank to help them invest their savings in additional wealth-building opportunities.

And it’s a two-way street: Lenders can use Sou Sou to identify high quality loan applicants who meet their lending criteria.

The Innovation Challenge is sponsored by Samsung NEXT and produced in partnership with NationSwell. In America, not everyone has the same access to education, workforce development, and economic empowerment. We’re looking for exceptional entrepreneurs who are using technology to close this opportunity gap. The winner will receive $25,000 to further their work, $13,000 in Samsung technology and a one-year membership to the NationSwell Council.

To meet our five finalists, visit


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