Every year Jim Koch of Boston Brewing Company and Samuel Adams beers awards a new small craft brewery with a chance to get a head start on becoming successful business. The Experiencship is a part of the Samuel Adams “Brewing the American Dream” program, which provides hands-on educational opportunities for selected breweries. The program provides coaching, mentoring, education on ingredient sourcing and, most importantly, provides business loans for small and emerging companies.
Jim Koch uses this program to teach small breweries, brewpubs, restaurants and even food truck operators about running a business. These people already know how to make beer, but how do they get their breweries get to the next level?
“How do you procure ingredients from people who don’t want to deal with you because you’re too small?” he asks when explaining the program at the Samuel Adams GABF Beer Brunch. “How do you negotiate a real estate lease? How do you set up a payroll system?...I had to learn through trial and error. This program provides coaching and counseling to small business and also provides loans to help them grow their business, create jobs and create economic development. I think over the years we have provided $11 million dollars in loans to 10,000 businesses and as a result created 4,000 jobs here in the United States.”
“It’s really cool and really fun coaching small businesses. And we’re talking about very small. The average business that comes to our session, probably the whole company, is three people. They’re so passionate and so excited and you can just add so much value because you can see all the stupid things they’re about to do,” he says as the crowd laughs. “They are amazing, energetic people and close to half the people we coach are immigrants…They believe in the American Dream and they came here for that. For someone who was born here, it’s very refreshing to see the power of the American Dream to people who came here from everywhere else in the world so for us it’s been very gratifying to confirm that the American Dream is alive and meaningful.”
He goes on to talk about how important this program is to these breweries.
“Every year we pick one brewery to focus on with a year-long Experienceship program with intense coaching, counseling and advising so they can get over that hump to that magical moment when you have positive cash flow and can actually pay for that next tank in advance and not have to take a loan out from your father-in-law,” he says with a chuckle making a reference to his past experience.
“One of our previous Experienceship winners is here today from Brewery Rickoli (Rick Abitbol) here in Wheat Ridge, CO, and that’s what he was able to do was buy his next tank with cash in advance,” he says to a packed crowd at Marlowe’s Restaurant in Denver.
This year’s winner is Bev Armstrong of Brazo Fuerte Artisanal Beer of Newton, MA. Armstrong began home brewing 10 years ago wanting to make high-quality, post-activity (think sports) craft beer. Her commercial brews, which she began in 2015, are moderate in alcohol content and use a variety of organic and innovative ingredients including green tea, goji berries, cacao and ginger to create rich, refreshing and unique sessionable beers. She is a BJCP Certified Beer Judge, a Certified Cicerone and enrolled in the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science & Engineering Program. A former rugby player, Armstrong names her beers after her three favorite things: Rugby, friends, and dogs.
Armstrong and Koch
Armstrong has received two loans through Accion, the microlending partner for Brewing the American Dream, and also benefited from the program’s coaching and networking, which ultimately helped her connect with a contract brewing partner. As one of only a few female African-American beer company owners and brewers in the country, Armstrong is working towards building an eco-conscious, sustainability-oriented brewery and taproom in the Boston area.
“Being chosen for the Brewing and Business Experienceship will help me to grow my brewery, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect,” said Armstrong. “I’m building out my team and making some important decisions about distribution and production schedules, as well as sourcing and storing raw materials. The coaching and mentoring from the Sam Adams team on these issues will be invaluable. I can’t wait to get started and am so grateful for the opportunity.”
To learn more about business opportunities from Sam Adams, visit the Brewing the American Dream page on the website here.
Photos via Carrie Dow
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