August 8, 2016

Brewing The American Dream Competition (PODCAST)

SamAdams-2Samuel Adams, in partnership with Entrepreneur Media, is hosting a ‘Pitch Room Wild Card‘ component to their Brewing The American Dream Competition.  If you aren’t aware, this is a business competition that is only open to food and beverage product companies and the winner gets a $10,000 grant and a year of mentorship from Samuel Adams.  The Wild Card Pitch Room is the virtual part of this contest where entrepreneurs from around the US can send in videos to be considered for the competition.  Sound interesting?  Listen to this podcast with Jennifer Glanville of Samuel Adams today because the deadline for this contest is fast approaching.



Jennifer L: We’re talking today with Jennifer Glanville, Director of Brewery Programs for Samuel Adams about the Brewing the American Dream competition. As you’ll hear in this podcast, the Brewing the American Dream competition is a really interesting and unique opportunity for food and beverage entrepreneurs. So I’m really excited to be able to share more about it with you. First of all, thank you, Jennifer, for joining us today.


Jennifer G: Thanks for having me.


Jennifer L: Really appreciate it. We should mention to the listeners, as you and I were talking right before we started recording that you are actually in a real live brewery, there might be some background noise but that is just Samuel Adams at work.


Jennifer G: It is. I’m actually at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston. We’re actively brewing today, we have some tours going on so you’re going to hear probably a lot of tours and noises going on in the background.


Jennifer L: Sounds like a great work environment, I love it.


Jennifer G: It is good.


Jennifer L: Obviously what we’re here to talk about today is the Brewing the American Dream competition as a whole and also this Wild Card Pitch Room competition. First of all, could you just tell our listeners about the Brewing the American Dream competition in case they haven’t heard about it. How did it come about? What’s the history behind it?


Jennifer G: Sure, the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program began in 2008 and it is a micro lending and coaching and mentoring program. At the end of the day, it’s not just about writing a check, the coaching and mentoring portion of our program really is equally important as getting a loan. Over 30 years ago, Jim Koch, our founder and brewer wanted to start Samuel Adams. He brewed our first beer in his kitchen. He wanted to start a brewery and he had trouble getting access to capital. As it is today, even 30 years later it’s very tough for small businesses to get access to capital no matter how small the loan might be. Also he was really looking for some nuts and bolts business advice. Often people overlook that. It’s kind of like you don’t know what you don’t know so he really wanted to get some advice from people and was struggling trying to find that.


  So in 2008, we founded the Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program to again, we partnered with Accion USA, that’s our micro lender and then we do the coaching and mentoring programs. It’s sort of like speed dating, but it’s speed coaching. They’re 20 minute sessions and we have them around different locations in the country. We’re able to meet these entrepreneurs and some people have an idea that they don’t even know how to get started and some people are in the middle of launching their product and some people are further along and want to expand their sales. We provide the opportunity for them to meet with different coaches. It could be packaging, HR, legal, brewing, and it really give them the opportunity to learn. This is something that Jim found most important when he was growing his business so this is where the program is today.


Jennifer L: Oh, that’s fantastic. Obviously I think anybody listening right now is nodding their heads that yeah, it’s not just the access to capital, it’s access to information, which is really hard to find as a food entrepreneur and certainly as a beverage entrepreneur, too.


Jennifer G: It is. Part of this program we expanded a couple of years ago with our Pitch Room competition and I love this. I’m very fortunate and proud to be able to work so closely with these food and beverage entrepreneurs. The Pitch Room is an opportunity for these food and beverage entrepreneurs, they have two minutes to pitch their product to us. It’s a panel of judges. I was just in San Diego last week with some great entrepreneurs. We have five or six businesses and they pitch and we pick a winner. This winner will then travel to Boston in December to compete in the finals. The winner of the Pitch Room, the ultimate winner of the Pitch Room will receive not only a ten thousand dollar grant, but they also get extended coaching and mentoring. So they’ll come to Boston and they spend time with us here. They’ll be able to have access to folks all year. To me that’s one of the best parts of the program is being able to keep in contact with a lot of these small businesses.


  As a result of that we do have our Wild Card Pitch Room which I’m really excited about. That’s actually, the entries are open now. It’s July 28th through August 19th. What we’re doing there is we want to have five or six people we’re going to select from the online videos that people submit, so we want people to submit a two minute video of their best sales pitch. Then we’ll select the five or six winners and then the five or six winners will be online at Folks online can vote for the best pitch and that person will also come to Boston for finals in December.


Jennifer L: That’s a great way, for listeners who weren’t able to compete in the regional portions, the regional Pitch Rooms, this enables them to participate and be part of the competition by uploading their video correct? Hopefully their video would be selected.


Jennifer G: Correct. We understand, we had the Pitch Room in four cities this year and we can’t reach everybody so this is a great opportunity to open up to the whole country. There are so many amazing food and beverage entrepreneurs out there so I encourage everybody to enter. It’s just a two minute video, it’s a great way to get the opportunity potentially to come to Boston.


Jennifer L: So let’s ask a couple questions around this video because I am imagining that this is where most listeners heads are going down to begin with. You mentioned as you’ve gone to some of the regional competitions, do you find that a business has to have been in business for a certain amount of time to do well in these competitions if someone is looking to put a video out or submit a video or can it be a start up company? Do they need to be further along?


Jennifer G: The people that we see in our Pitch Room around the country are in various stages of their business growth. For this particular Wild Card, you do actually have to have a product. So it has to be something whether it’s sold online or in a store, you have to have the product. I think it’s helpful for you to be far enough along in you’re business that you’re really confident in your pitch, your delivery. I think the biggest thing that we see is folks who get a little nervous up there, and I get it, it’s extremely nerve wracking but to be able to really make sure that you’re hitting your points in two minutes is really harder than people think. We had somebody a couple years ago that was only maybe like one tenth of the way through their pitch and two minutes came. So you really need to make sure you’re practicing. You want to get those key points, you know pick your key three or four things you want to get across in that video. You have to make sure you can fit that in under two minutes.


Jennifer L: As an example, what would be some of those three or four things that the judges would want to be looking for that would be important for entrepreneurs to convey about their business?


Jennifer G: Number one, what’s your story? I always like when I hear the background. Why did you start this business? We’re really fortunate that Jim Koch our founder and brewer of Samuel Adams, he’s so passionate about the small business, when he started his small business and about beer. That’s something that now 32 years later, we all have that same passion. We all have that same entrepreneurial spirit that work here at the breweries so that’s the kind of thing you don’t want to lose. You need to communicate that. To me, that’s the first thing that you should do is really talk about your history, why you started it, what your passion is, you know if you’re someone making some form of a health food or something you may have a background in the gym as a trainer or something. It’s a touch point that as a judge I can relate to and say wow, that’s awesome that they started this business because of this particular passion. So that would be the number one thing I would say that people really need to communicate.


Jennifer L: Fantastic. What about in terms of, are you looking for in that two minute pitch any talk about the financials of the company or is that something that they don’t need to worry about just yet?


Jennifer G: I think it’s important to talk about financials but also where you see it going. I think there’s certain questions that you might have if it was more face to face but I think you only have two minutes on this video so if you want to talk about what your sales have been and where you see them going and what the projection might be. It’s helpful for you to talk about what you might do with the ten thousand dollars if you were to win that. It really helps us see what your business strategy is, that’s important. Also things like the cost to market. Sometimes the margins, you may need help with that but it’s good to mention, you know if you have a good margin and you’re really showing you can make a profit.


Jennifer L: I’ll just mention that I’m going to make sure to include a link in the podcast transcript to the Wild Card Pitch Room so that folks are interested in learning about more and hopefully submitting videos can go there to find the link. I also wanted to ask you, food and beverage entrepreneurs tend to also be very creative people, so what about a creative aspect to the video? Is that a positive, a negative, does it just depend on how it’s brought out in the video itself?


Jennifer G: Yeah I think it does depend how it’s brought out. You don’t want to be distracting and again, you only have two minutes. I know two minutes can seem like a long time but it’s so short. For me if it’s something creative that helps you stand out, what’s really important in these videos is that you have the ability to describe your product because you’re not going to be able to taste anybody on it, it’s just a video. For example, if it’s a food or beverage product, you want to really romance it. You want to really talk about it. You want to make me interested in the product itself. When you talk about financials, to me I’d really want to know what differentiates it, if it’s something that could be very popular or something that’s particularly trendy right now, what makes your product different? What makes it stand out? I think that’s the crucial information you have to get in there in those two minutes.


Jennifer L: Let’s say that hopefully we’ve got a couple of our listeners, they end up being selected by the judges to continue in the competition, so then you said it goes to a popular vote if you will, where their videos are going to be up and then we all get to vote on the videos, is that right?


Jennifer G: Correct. Yes., the videos will be posted and the video that receives the most votes, that winner or winners depending on how many people own the business, will go to Boston to present.


Jennifer L: Okay and so then they present against all the regional winners, is that right?


Jennifer G: Correct. Then we’ll have all the regional winners from San Diego, Boston, Washington D.C. and we’ll have them come in and present to a panel of live judges. That will be for the finals.


Jennifer L: I guess as you said, this is a great opportunity to really start to nail down your pitch and then just fine tune it. I guess you should always be fine tuning it, but especially if you’re picked just fine tune it, fine tune it, fine tune it until the competition.


Jennifer G: Yeah, it’s practice, practice, practice. It is even nerve-wracking when you’re just trying to film yourself, we’ve all done that at some point, taken a class or something. So just have someone film it or you can try to film it. Not only the timing but see how you’re interacting. The other thing is when you’re presenting to someone you can be concentrating so hard that maybe your passion isn’t coming out. I recall someone in the Pitch Room once where they were so nervous that they were presenting and it wasn’t until the end when I asked a question about the beginning when they started the company that all the sudden they relaxed and you could see their shoulders come down and they started really talking about their product in a passionate way. Making sure that you’re not so nervous that you can’t communicate and show physically that you’re passionate about what you’re doing.


Jennifer L: Yeah, that’s a great point. I know that I fall into that trap of trying to, okay I gotta get these boxes checked and personality doesn’t come through. One of the things we were talking about is the winner of the overall competition, the ten thousand dollar grand, that’s great and I’m sure that has listeners kind of mentally starting to draft out their video already. You were talking about the year-long mentorship by Samuel Adams and the access to that information base. Do you have any stories from prior winners who’ve benefited from the mentorship or any stories that you feel comfortable sharing with us about that?


Jennifer G: Sure. What I think is great about it is it leaves it wide open. We were working with one of our past winners who wanted to expand their warehouse and we had just done an expansion here. You think it’s not always just the typical questions, they called to talk to me and said hey we’re hiring a contractor and we’re working on this, and we need refrigeration so I was able to talk them through the process that we had and what we did. So there’s not always your typical questions and I think that’s what’s so great that things come up and they have access. We have a lot of people who are expanding sales. I think everybody thinks they can sell their product in the beginning. Certainly there’s a reason why certain people are really good at sales and to have access to some of our sales people to really help you hone in your pitch to different accounts maybe or different retailers because they can differ. To have access to that kind of things throughout the year I think can really help. Their mind’s around it and they know that they can get this for a full year. It’s been so helpful in general. We also work on our creative team with graphic design and packaging. They have the ability to send in a new logo they’re working on and get some feedback on it, so it really is all across the board.


Jennifer L: That’s incredible. You were talking about the building the warehouse and it’s like yeah that’s not the typical question that you would think of, but to have the expertise of somebody that’s gone through that and gone through that specifically in the food and beverage industry because we have so many specific regulations about what we can and can’t do. Then to accessing salespeople, that’s a huge question I get asked a lot. Just to have access to all of that, that truly would be priceless for a small food and beverage entrepreneur.


Jennifer G: Yeah, it is. As a small business owner, you wear every hat because you have to. Most people don’t have a lot of employees that have all of these different kinds of expertise so you do have to become the pseudo expert in all of this. I learned from a mentor about how to build a warehouse a couple years ago and then we did this other expansion so I was thrilled to be able to pass on the knowledge that I learned. What I love about this whole Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program is that I learn something new from all these entrepreneurs as well. We go through the speed coaching and there’s not one person that I meet with where I don’t also learn something that can help me. I think that’s the whole networking, that give and take where we can all continue to learn. We’re all running businesses and have to wear a lot of hats. That’s an exciting part for me too, being here a brewer at Samuel Adams and I can also take back some stuff.


Jennifer L: As we’ve been talking, I’m sorry a little side story but in my head. I was in Boston for college more than 20 years ago I will say and I remember at that time that Samuel Adams, you could only buy it locally in the tri-state area. It’s so exciting for me to be talking to you now where Samuel Adams is such a well-known and powerful national brand but also the fact that so committed to giving back to small entrepreneurs. I remember when Samuel Adams was a very small business, especially in the big beer world.


  It’s really exciting to be talking to you today and I really appreciate it. I know that we’re going to touch base again after the competition to talk to this year’s winner and find out about their journey along. For listeners, I will put a link in the podcast transcript to make sure that everybody has information to this. There is a deadline. Again, can you remind me what deadline the video have to be submitted?


Jennifer G: Yeah, it’s August 19th and there’s also information on our website


Jennifer L: Perfect. Great. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to seeing how this year’s competition unfolds.


Jennifer G: Thank you and I look forward to seeing some of your listeners’ submissions so everybody start practicing and get them in by the 19th.


Jennifer L: Perfect, thank you.


Jennifer G: Cheers.


For more information about the Brewing The American Dream Wild Card Pitch Room competition, click here.  For more information about the services Samuel Adams offers through their Brewing The American Dream program, click here.

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