Jim Koch, the founder of the brewery that makes Samuel Adams Boston Lager, is making it easier for small businesses to get a loan with the company's Brewing the American Dream program.
When Jim Koch wanted to start the Boston Beer Company more than 25 years ago, the hardest thing was getting someone to give him a business loan.
Now, the founder of the brewery that makes Samuel Adams Boston Lager is making it easier for small businesses to get a loan with the company's Brewing the American Dream program.
"The idea really came out of my experience of starting Samuel Adams," said Koch. "I couldn't get anyone to give me a loan, and (the brewery) turned out to be a pretty good idea."
The brewery has partnered with ACCION USA, a nonprofit organization that handles small-business loans, to administer the loans.
The loan program is meant for businesses that are seeking less money than the usual $15,000 that is typically the minimum required by banks for business loans.
The microloans have ranged from $1,000 to $17,000, Koch said.
"There's a real funding gap for loans under $20,000," he said. "They aren't available from normal sources."
Although $1,000 may not seem like a lot, to a person trying to start a business, such as a catering business out of their home, it can mean the difference between opening a business to never being able to do so.
"At the low end, it might be a barrister who knows how to make coffee and cappuccino and maybe they worked at Starbucks and they want to start a coffee catering business," said Koch. "They may need $3,000 to buy the equipment."
The loans are given out to businesses in the food and beverage industry, he said, because they feel they have more expertise in that area than others.
The program is about more than just the money. Koch said they want to help the businesses succeed beyond just starting up.
"You need to have an enormous range of skills, things you typically don't think about," he said. "You face legal issues. You face things like payroll taxes. Often you have to deal with real estate issues, landlord issues. You have to know where to get raw materials. There's a whole range of things you have to think about and small business owners have to have a solution for all these things."
To help the small and new businesses out, the program offers mentoring and training sessions for the owners to help them learn how to handle anything that is thrown at them.
"There's a benefit to talking to someone who has been there and done that," Koch said.
This is the third year of Brewing the American Dream. So far, the program has made 41 loans to 37 clients. The nearly $300,000 loaned out has helped create 282 jobs.
The goal, Koch said, is when a loan is paid back, the money is then loaned out again to another start-up company. The repayment rate has been 90 percent.
Despite helping all of these businesses, Koch said his company wants to do more.
"We're looking for qualified applicants," he said. "It often surprises people that we have more money than we have applicants."
Koch said the program benefits more than the small-business owners. He said it's good for the employees, particularly the ones who weren't with the company in its early years.
"(Our) company benefits from it because it keeps us attached to our entrepreneurial roots," he said. "It's good for the people who didn't really see the start-up mode of Boston Beer Company, and it's a way to keep our entire staff involved in the community. My philosophy about a company's social and community responsibilities is they should be good at helping improve the community value."
To apply for a loan, go to www.samueladams.com and click on the Brewing the American Dream tab.
Koch said the best part of the program is when he gets to visit the businesses and see them succeed.
"It is really cool because these people work (really hard) and this money may be the last piece they need," he said.
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