Cultivate Small Business initiative helps fuel entrepreneurial success in Greater Boston's underserved neighborhoods

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Twenty-five food industry entrepreneurs from Greater Boston's underserved neighborhoods have been selected to participate in Santander Bank's signature philanthropic small business initiative – Cultivate Small Business. For this initiative, Santander has partnered with Babson Executive and Enterprise Education (BEEE), CommonWealth Kitchen, and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).

Announced in May (pdf)Cultivate Small Business will empower women, minority, and immigrant-owned businesses. The program is designed to connect early-stage entrepreneurs with some of the key ingredients needed to succeed in the food business, including industry-specific business management skills, technical assistance, small capital grants, and access to a local network of established food-industry experts.

Participants met specific criteria to apply for Cultivate Small Business and the 25-member inaugural group kicked off the program last month with a welcome reception and the first of eight business education courses at Babson’s Boston campus. Sixty-four percent of the inaugural class's participants represent female-owned businesses, 72 percent of the business owners live or work in low- and moderate-income communities and 40 percent of participants are people of color.

"Small business entrepreneurs help create jobs and strengthen their local economies," said Gwen Robinson, Santander's Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. "To do that, they need the right backing and support.  Women, minority, and immigrant-owned businesses not only lack access to traditional sources of capital, but they often lack access to the important networks that are critical in the early stages of growing a business. Cultivate Small Business addresses these support gaps by bringing together customized resources to offer these diverse and passionate entrepreneurs invaluable skills and guidance to help them achieve sustainability."

“This program is unique because in helping these food-based businesses to sustain and grow, they also sustain and grow their communities,” said Babson College Vice Provost of Global Entrepreneurial Leadership Candida Brush. “By applying Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® approaches, these entrepreneurs will learn to assess opportunities, experiment, and build their businesses.”

Entrepreneur and Cultivate Small Business participant Linh Tran commented, "I find the program is helping me stay focused on the big picture, as I often get too caught up in the day-to-day operations of my business. One of my big goals for 2018 is fundraising and, so far, the program has really helped me think critically and in the language of a business plan. Another great perk of being part of this group is that I'm able to get to know so many other entrepreneurs and I've gained some really good insights from them."

The 25 entrepreneurs admitted to Cultivate Small Business's inaugural class are:

  • Jennifer Turner – Miam Miam Macaronerie LLC/South Boston
  • Renee Scharoff – Blonde on the Run/Dorchester
  • Melissa Stefanini – Buenas/Dorchester
  • Sherie Grillon – Nola Fresh/Dorchester
  • Teresa Maynard – Sweet Teez Bakery/Dorchester
  • Blonde Beauchamp – thisHAITI/Dorchester
  • Heather Yunger – Top Shelf Cookies/Dorchester
  • Linh Tran – XOI, Inc./Dorchester
  • Audrey Yap – Noodle Lab/Dorchester
  • Margaret Crowley – Third Cliff Bakery/Dorchester
  • Narosmi Auguste – La Belle Creole Cuisine/Mattapan
  • Caroline Huffstetler – Nutty Life/Stoneham
  • Ellie Tiglao – Olio Culinary/Somerville
  • Nikki Economides – Sweet Nicole LLC, DBA Fixx Chocolates /Winthrop
  • Amanda Escamilla – Tex Mex Eats/Cambridge
  • Lucero Leon-Chi – Whipped - Urban Cupcake Co./Boston
  • Luther Pinckney – One One Nine /Roxbury
  • John Hopkins – 5 Ways Food/Dorchester
  • Alex Khitrik – Inna's Kitchen/Dorchester
  • Mark Finnegan – Prospect Ciderworks/Roxbury
  • Alexandre Duarte de Britto Pereira – Zing Bowl Brazilian Healthy Food, LLC/Brookline
  • Vishal Thapar – Boston Chai Party/Medford
  • Morad Bouzidi – MDAB LLC DBA MO'ROCKIN FUSION/Abington
  • Ryan Nahas – No Joke Smoke BBQ, LLC/Swansea
  • Jon Huang – The Savory Cater LLC/Randolph

Cultivate Small Business is a nine-month initiative implemented in collaboration with Santander's three strategic partners, each of which is providing one of the four key components of the program:

  • Education – Designed specifically for food-industry entrepreneurs, Babson College is delivering an interactive business education curriculum that provides participants with in-person classes at its downtown Boston campus supplemented by additional online courses.
  • Networking – Calling on its impressive network of inner-city business owners, research resources, and policy expertise, ICIC coordinates the program's design, manages the application process, and will evaluate the pilot to inform the next round of Cultivate Small Business.
  • Mentoring – To provide a community setting where participants can learn from established food industry businesses, CommonWealth Kitchen offers shared commercial kitchen space, customized technical assistance, as well as industry-specific advice and support.
  • Capital Grants – Santander Bank provides small capital grants to each entrepreneur to help improve business performance. The grants are funded by Santander and administered by CommonWealth Kitchen. Program participants also have access to Bank volunteers who are available to offer financial management advice.

About Santander Bank

Santander Bank, N.A. is one of the country's largest retail and commercial banks with more than $79 billion in assets. With its corporate offices in Boston, the Bank's 9,700 employees, more than 650 branches, 2,100 ATMs and 2.1 million customers are principally located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Bank is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Madrid-based Banco Santander, S.A. (NYSE: SAN) - one of the most respected banking groups in the world with more than 125 million customers in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. It is managed by Santander Holdings USA, Inc., Banco Santander's intermediate holding company in the U.S. For more information on Santander Bank, please visit

About Babson Executive and Enterprise Education

Babson Executive and Enterprise Education (BEEE) offers a dynamic learning laboratory where faculty and staff work together with corporations, business professionals, educational institutions, governments and NGOs, small-business owners, and entrepreneurs from around the world to address real-world objectives and challenges. Featuring Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® (ET&A™), Babson’s one-of-a-kind methodology for turning ideas into opportunities, our targeted programs are designed to empower individuals and organizations to be entrepreneurial leaders that create economic and social value globally.

About Babson College

Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-ranked college for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.

By Brianna Radicioni,, (781) 239-4548 | 01/02/2018 03:00