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Santander leverages Boston’s strengths to tackle economic inclusivity

This fall, small businesses in Greater Boston will have the opportunity to participate in a pioneering program: “Cultivate Small Business,” recently launched by Santander Bank in partnership with ICIC, Commonwealth Kitchen, and Babson College. This initiative will support entrepreneurs and their businesses in the food industry with resources and education to help them sustain and grow. ICIC, as lead strategic partner in the consortium, has drawn on over 20 years of experience to design the pilot program and will be responsible for managing recruitment, facilitating networking, and evaluating the program. Commonwealth Kitchen will provide training and technical assistance, and Babson College will develop a small business curriculum offered to the business owners.

Up to thirty food-related businesses will be accepted into the program, which builds on the vast diversity, size, and number of businesses found in this sector in Boston. ICIC has long argued that there is a strong link between clusters and economic growth. Clusters are sets of related and interconnected industries operating within a specific geography, such as the automotive cluster in Detroit. ICIC’s analysis revealed a strong food cluster in Boston and informed the direction of “Cultivate Small Business,” which aims to have a profound effect on improving economic prosperity.

Initially inspired by a 2015 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Gwen Robinson, Managing Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Santander Bank, said that the bank “thought this [program] was a good way to look at wealth building: building a business, and building wealth through ownership.” To be eligible, businesses must have between one and ten employees, revenues between $25,000 and $1,000,000 in the past year, and have been operational for at least year as of June 1, 2017. Additionally, they must be located in a low-to-moderate income census tract, in which median family income is between 50 and 80 percent of the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area). The program is dedicated to equity and inclusion and encouraging women, immigrants, and minority business owners to apply.

Entrepreneurs who are accepted will be provided with several different ways to grow their businesses: access to networking, mentorship opportunities and training programs, along with access to capital. A network of inner city business owners will be available to advise participants, allowing them access to local business knowledge. The educational component will include customized business education courses, along with an emphasis on peer and participatory learning. Mentorships coordinated by CommonWealth Kitchen will allow participants to take advantage of industry-specific advice and practical business lessons from a slew of food-related businesses, along with Santander Bank volunteers who will assist in shoring up financial and operational aspects of their businesses. Santander will provide the opportunity to apply for small grants that can help further participant goals, and also plans to incorporate services for program alumni.

With thirty slots available, those interested in applying are encouraged to begin the process early. Applications for Cultivate Small Business are being accepted now and reviewed on a rolling basis through July 31, 2017. The opportunity is unique to the Greater Boston area, and the combination of access to resources from Santander, ICIC, CommonWealth Kitchen, and Babson College is unparalleled in the small business sector. For more information on the program, or to begin an application, please visit the Cultivate Small Business webpage.

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