Sam Adams Chairman Jim Koch remembers what it’s like to be a young, struggling business. After all, he started out that way. That’s why he decided to go beyond what was expected of a large national company’s philanthropic policy, and start “Brewing the American Dream,” a program that was launched and has grown since 2008, that seeks to help small businesses get on their feet both financially and in a business sense. This year, the program is expanding by giving away $1 million more worth of loans than last year, and by expanding their popular speed coaching sessions to other cities like Philadelphia and Seattle.
“Anyone can give money away, you should do better than that and use your skills to benefit society,” said Koch. “We provide funds and advice that I wish I had. When I started Sam Adams I didn’t have someone who taught me how to make a sales call or negotiate a real estate lease, but those are make or break skills for a small business.”
“Brewing the American Dream” is a two-fold program: first, the company conducts speed coaching sessions, in which they provide six 20 minute-sessions of sound advice to around 60 small businesses per night. Sam Adams also does a Shark Tank-like competition called the pitch room, (“except we’re nice and we want to help you!” said Koch), in which they hear pitches from dozens of small businesses, and decide to back a business with a $10,000 business grant.
Some of the companies they’ve helped in the past include a sausage kitchen who didn’t have the money for a new storefront sign, as well as a brother and sister team who recently won the pitch room competition and are selling healthy ice bars (like a low-calorie frozen treat made from fresh tea, coffee, and fruit). Of the more than 300 loans they’ve given out, Koch says the loan repayment rate thus far has been 98.1 percent.
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi