Sam Adams’ philanthropic program, Brewing the American Dream, helps small food and beverage businesses take their companies to the next level through microfinancing and coaching. Sam Adams founder Jim Koch started the program in 2008. Since its launch, the program has distributed close to $7 million in loans, helped create over 2,700 jobs and provided over 6,000 small business with critical mentoring and coaching.
A key part of the program is the Pitch Room Competition, sort of like Shark Tank minus Mark Cuban trying to fleece you for 90 percent of your business. Regional competitions were held in Chicago, San Diego, Boston and New York along with one online competition. Out of the thousands of submissions, 6 were chosen to compete in each area, asked to present a 2-minute pitch and answer questions from the panel of judges. The small businesses then received immediate feedback about their pitch from the judges to help them focus their presentation. One or two businesses moved on to the final round where they pitched again, hopefully using the feedback to fine-tune their presentation.
I was honored and privileged to be a judge in the New York panel alongside Chef David Burke, Jonathan Butler (Co-Founder Berg’n, Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg), John Holl (All About Beer Magazine), Michael Stinchcomb (Executive Director, Etsy.org) and, of course, Jim Koch. We listened to 6 business owners, all passionate, intelligent and dedicated. And last Thursday in NYC, chickpea snack company Chic-a-peas was selected as the winner of the competition, receiving a $10,000 grant and a year of extensive mentorship from Samuel Adams (the billion dollar beer company, not the dead American revolutionary). The runner-up was Aveyo, an avocado mayonnaise company from Boston. After the winner was announced, I spoke to Jim Koch about the program.