The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund of the Lehigh Valley is now the local connection for the Boston Beer Co. – the maker of Sam Adams beer – to expand its program that helps small-business owners.
“Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream” was founded in 2008 and came to the Lehigh Valley in 2011.
It’s a program that provides the help that Sam Adams’ founder Jim Koch said he wished he had had when starting the beer company out of his kitchen.
“I had a Harvard MBA, but I still didn’t know the nuts and bolts of business, like how you set up a payroll,” Koch told Lehigh Valley Business. “I thought back on what would have been helpful back when I was getting started and that was access to bank lending and more important … advice.”
“Brewing the American Dream” is coordinated nationally with nonprofit micro-lender Accion. Since Accion doesn’t have strong ties in the Lehigh Valley, Sam Adams reached out to the local Community Development Loan Fund, Rising Tide, to be the local micro-lender associated with the program.
Koch said Rising Tide will play a major role in the development of the program in the Lehigh Valley into the future. He said that with a local administrator marketing the program, it is hoped that more businesses will be able to take advantage of it.
Koch noted that while Rising Tide provides support and loans for a wide variety of businesses, this American Dream program focuses specifically on small business owners in the food, beverage, craft brewing and hospitality industries.
Focusing on that business segment is important, according to Rising Tide.
“They’re providing funding where it’s always needed. These types of businesses are always tough ones to fund,” said Chris Hudock, director of Rising Tide.
Such small-business owners can apply for loans ranging from $500 to $25,000 to be used for a variety of purposes including expansion, equipment and marketing, with all loan payments recycled back into the fund.
The Sam Adams’ program also helps by providing coaching, mentoring and educational resources for those businesses.
“Our repayment rate is very high,” said Koch, who credits the coaching the program provides with helping the recipients wisely use the money. The high repayment rate, in turn, means more money will be available for re-use as loans.
Hudock explained that he will assist in directing the program toward those professionals in need, and vice versa.
“If I find someone who needs help with their packaging – they have someone specifically that can help them with that,” he said.
That cooperation is part of what makes the program work, Koch said.
“A large part of what differentiates our program is our focus on offering in-depth expertise and advice in combination with small loans,” said Koch. “We’ve found success by developing relationships with local partners like the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund to further strengthen our ability to offer expertise and provide loans to small business owners in the community.”
One of the key functions that Rising Tide will assume is the lead on the Sam Adams speed-coaching events, which already have become popular with local professionals. The events provide advice for small-business owners in the fields of food, beverage, craft brewing and hospitality.
“We’ll be handling the marketing and advertising of the events as they come up to make sure as many people know about them as possible.
Koch is quick to mention that the American Dream program is seeking participants.
“We have money to lend. We’re always looking for small businesses to help,” he said.