Starting a business is always tough, says Koch, no matter the economy. “The economy goes up and down. Small business is always tough, but there is always opportunity for success.” And, he admits, not every business that has participated in “Brewing the American Dream” has made it. But most pay back the loans — they have a 95 percent payback rate, he proudly states — and that money is then lent out to other businesses.
My experience is, if [a business is] offering a product that is giving real value to consumer, and if they can figure out how to produce and deliver that product to the consumer in cost-effective way, they can make it.”
Of course, “shipping money out the door,” says Koch, only goes so far. It’s the advice on how to use the money, that has helped businesses thrive. As the national program rolls out, he and his team can’t possibly be everywhere. Moderated online forums, webinars and podcasts will take the place of some face-to-face meetings. But as the number of people who have gained experience through the program grows, says Koch, the idea is that they will then go out into their communities and advise even newer businesses.
“We’ve learned how to assemble good coaches from our core people, while bringing in people from the local community who are excited about helping small businesses grow.”
And maybe nurture some Sam Adams retailers?
“There is no connection,” says Koch. “Of the 150 loan recipients — fewer than 10 are pubs or restaurants. Those few recipients make their own selection of beers. So it’s completely up to them whether to carry Sam Adams or not.”
Gary Hemphill, managing director, information services at Beverage Marketing Corporation, says, “He is truly an American success story. He built the company from the ground up. I think he sees kindred souls in what these entrepreneurs are doing.” Besides, says Hemphill, from what he knows of Koch, “I think he’d say, ‘If I can create better brewers creating better beer, I’m taking the industry to a higher standard.’ I think it’s his way of staying true to his roots.”
Koch says as much.
“When I’m coaching, I find that these new businesses all have the same problems I had to face.” It keeps our entire company in contact with our entrepreneurial roots,” he said. “We’re just like them. We’re a small business that made it.”
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