Samuel Adams Brewer Offers Microloans

For the past few years, the Boston Beer Company has been doing more than just brewing Samuel Adams Boston Lager. They've also been helping to brew up small businesses with a microloan program. This week, they expanded that program to include businesses in Chicago. Michele Norris talks with Boston Beer Company founder and chairman Jim Koch about the "Brewing the American Dream" program.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

When it comes to the business of beer, here's a guy who knows something about building a big company out of nothing. Jim Cook is the man behind Samuel Adams Boston Lager. He started the company with his own savings and loans from his family and friends. He became perhaps the best-known craft brewer in the United States. And these days, Cook is so successful that he's helping entrepreneurs get their upstart businesses off the ground, through a microloan program.

This week, he expanded the Brewing the American Dream program to Chicago. And Jim Cook joins me now from Denver, where he's attending the Great American Beer Festival.

Welcome to the program.

JIM COOK: Michele, it's a pleasure to be here.

NORRIS: Who is this program for?

COOK: This program is for low and moderate income small businesses in food beverage and hospitality, which is an area that we know. And we coupled it with coaching and counseling to help those businesses to be successful, grow their business and create jobs. And, ultimately, pay the money back so that we can then loan that money back out again and help more businesses.

NORRIS: Tell me a little bit more about how this works. How much money do you distribute and what do you expect in return?

COOK: Well, so far in the three years of the program we've contributed a little bit under a million dollars. We've made about a hundred loans. So the average loan size is a little bit under $10,000.

NORRIS: What was your experience when you started your own business? As we said, you had to turn to friends and family, dip into your own savings.

COOK: Yes, the Sam Adams Brewing American Dream program very much grew out of my experience starting Samuel Adams in my kitchen 27 years ago. And, you know, I had a lot of passion for beer and for brewing. I knew how to brew 'cause my father was a brew master. I obviously had a great product, and yet, despite all those things, I couldn't get a loan.

I know how hard it is, even with a great business, to get access to a loan. And beyond that, the other missing piece was just good advice about all the nuts and bolts of growing a business. So that kind of advice is the second piece that small businesses are lacking.

NORRIS: Is there a particular recipient in this program that you're particularly proud of?

COOK: Oh, we have a number of them. One of my favorites is a woman named Lucy. She came to us about three years ago. She wanted to get started, you know, in the business of coffee. We lent her $3,000 to buy an espresso machine which she used to create a coffee catering business. And people loved her coffee, they loved her passion, and out of it she now has one of the best coffee shops in all of Boston.

She employs almost 20 people. She just got $150,000 investment from a venture capital company, 'cause they want to help her grow Voltage Coffee to something even bigger. But, you know, she started out with just a dream and a passion for a great product.

NORRIS: Jim Cook is the founder of the Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams. He spoke to us from Denver.

Mr. Cook, thank you very much.

COOK: Cheers.

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