Corporate Funding

Entrepreneurs: don’t overlook the benevolence of big brands. Companies such as Boston Beer (aka Sam Adams), Whole Foods and other socially minded companies offer programs that provide funding, mentoring and other support for fledgling entrepreneurs. After all, they may be market leaders, but they were once small, too!

Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream – In partnership with microlender Accion, Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream increases the success of small food, beverage, craft brewing, and hospitality businesses nationwide by combining expert business coaching and advising with access to small business capital. (Plus they make great beer!)

Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program – Call it enlightened self interest. The natural foods retailer offers low-interest loans (5% – 9%) from as little as $1000 up to $100,000 to its local food suppliers. (Collateral required)

Designer Tory Burch’s foundation teamed up with Bank of America to provide early-stage women entrepreneurs with access to low-cost capital through CDFI partners as well as mentoring support and networking opportunities.

Abe’s Velocity Fund: The people behind, an online site for natural and artisan products, are looking for up-and comers. The fund invests between $100,000 and $41 million in natural, organic brands with $100,000 or more in sales. UPDATE: Abe’s has been acquired and the fund discontinued.

And sustainability leaders such as Patagonia, Clif Bar, Seventh Generation and Tom’s have impact investing funds that invest in social enterprises.

Big banks are getting into the act, too.