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Posted: August 11, 2014

‘American Dream’ contest proves no business is small –

when it's yours

Mike Taylor

Jennifer Bacon grew frustrated by the lack of nutritious yet tasty pancake mixes for her husband, David, and their five kids. So she came up with her own blend of whey protein, whole-grain flour and real fruit as a sugar substitute.

The result: Flapjacked All-Natural Pancake Mixes, launched in February 2013 and now carried by about 1,400 stores.

While David remains a pilot for American Airlines, Jennifer quit her job as an executive with Kimberly-Clark shortly before the unveiling of Flapjacked. It’s helped that she was a marketing specialist managing a million-dollar brand, now that she’s promoting her own.

The Broomfield couple’s aim of getting Flapjacked to “more stores, more consumers and more mouths,” got a boost in mid-May when they won the regional “Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream” business pitch contest held at Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver. The program was conceived by Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch as a way to give small businesses guidance and capital he says were missing when he started out.

Thus the Bacons secured a spot in Sam Adams’ national “American Dream” finals, to be held in December in New York, where they’ll vie for $10,000 plus coaching from key Sam Adams personnel.

Flapjacked wasn’t the only business pitch that impressed the six judges. Doug Michaels, sporting a T-shirt that said “Eat Like Your Grandcestors” on the back, was named runner-up after pitching his company, Noble Savage, and its frozen Paleo meals. Afterward it was announced that the judges saw enough promise in Michaels’ Paleo product line to warrant sending him to New York for the finals, too.

The Shark Tank-style business pitches get most of the attention in the “Brewing the American Dream” program, but there’s more to it. Partnering with Accion, the nation’s largest nonprofit micro-lender, Sam Adams has provided more than 310 loans to small businesses totaling more than $2.7 million since the program’s inception in 2008, including $150,000 to 16 Denver-area businesses in the past three years.

“Sam Adams provides us with lending capital, which we then turn around and lend out,” explained Jesse Golland, market manager for Accion. It’s a good fit, “Because they’re good at the brewing part and we’re good at the lending part.”

Rick Abitbol can attest to the scope of Samuel Adams’ outreach to small businesses. Abitbol, the owner of Brewery Rickoli, a maker of “gluten-removed” beer in Wheat Ridge, won a “Craft Brewer Experienceship” sponsored by Sam Adams that earned him a weekend in Boston, where he was mentored by key people at the company. They also worked together on a “collaborative brew” that will debut this summer at the Brewery Rickoli tasting room on 44th Avenue and Wadsworth.

“We talked to Jim Koch himself about our business and how best to grow and succeed,” Abitbol said. “They’ve kind of taken us under their wing for the next year. They’ve really given us a shot in the arm.”

And what did the creator of Samuel Adams beer tell him?

“He said we’re doing a lot of things right,” said Abitbol, whose initial plan was to borrow enough money to build a brewery. “He made us realize that’s not necessarily what we want to do right now. We’re taking his advice to heart – to make money, not spend money.”

Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at mtaylor@cobizmag.com.

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