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Samuel Adams expands small business philanthropy program

September 30, 2011
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The Boston Beer Co. expanded its philanthropic initiative Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream to Chicagoland food, beverage and hospitality small-business owners. The Chicago expansion of the program, which provides access to loans for small businesses, is in partnership with Accion Chicago, a member of the Accion U.S. Network.

Previously launched in New England, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program will now provide Chicago-based small businesses with access to loans ranging from $500 to $25,000. The loans, which are provided through the partnership with Accion, can be used for a variety of business purposes including expansion, equipment and marketing.

“Chicago is a hot-bed of the food and beverage business,” says Jim Koch, brewer and founder of The Boston Beer Co. “It has tons of small businesses, strong neighborhoods, and an upscale and educated food and beverage consumer base. It’s right in the sweet spot for this program.”

The first Chicago beneficiaries of the program are Pecan & Charlie’s Mobile Cupcakery, a cupcake truck started by two trained chefs and moms who are using the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream funds to launch their business, and Boleres Coffee, a coffee import and distribution company started by a Purple Heart veteran. Boleres Coffee will use the funds to build his business’ coffee base and import new flavors and brews.

As recipients of the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program pay back their loans, the funds are recycled back into the program for new recipients, Koch explains.

“Since the start of the program, we’ve always had more money to lend than qualified applicants,” he says.

In addition to the local initiatives, the program also is available to craft brewers nationwide. So far, Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream has provided funds to three craft breweries. Koch says with the growth in the industry, he looks for brewers that have a particular niche, such as Jim Woods, owner of Mate Veza, a craft brewery that makes naturally caffeinated beers with yerba mate.

“It’s not just about financing, it’s also about creating viable businesses,” Koch says. “We are trying to help breweries find their own way.”

The craft brewery program keeps the company in touch with its roots, he says.

“I’m still dealing with labeling and sourcing issues, so it doesn’t take me back, it takes me forward,” he says. “One of the really good things for Boston Beer is that this program keeps us in touch with our entrepreneurial and small-business roots. Even though we’re 1 percent of the U.S. beer business, that’s still small and we need to keep that mentality in mind.”

In partnership with the microfinance lender Accion, the program also provides loans as well as access to business and financial literacy seminars and speed coaching events. The speed coaching events connect small-business owners with Samuel Adams employees and other local experts for one-on-one sessions to gain expertise and advice in areas such as sales, accounting, graphic design, public relations, marketing, IT, legal and packaging.

Launched in June 2008 in partnership with Accion USA, Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream has provided coaching to nearly 2,000 small-business owners and more than $750,000 in loans to 90 small businesses in select markets throughout the country. To date, the program has helped to save or create approximately 800 jobs by supporting these small businesses, the company says.

For more information on the program, visit www.samueladams.com/btad.

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