Whether you’re building a business or a social movement, one ingredient is crucial

Event celebrating female brewers highlights the importance of strategic partnerships

I spoke with Bev Armstrong of Brazo Fuerte and Jennifer Glanville of Samuel Adams at a recent event celebrating female brewers.

A glass of beer is up to 95 percent water. But the ingredients in that other 5 percent  — the grains, hops, brewer’s yeast, and flavorings — are essential, each element working together to create the perfect cup. At a recent event celebrating female brewers, I looked around the room and saw a variety of successful women sharing drinks and business tips. While each of these women is a hard worker with big ideas, I saw how much stronger we are when we work together. Just like the beer in our glasses, our success is brewed with multiple critical ingredients, and without the right support, our ambitions could fall flat.

Accomplished attorneys, investment bankers, brewers, and small business owners were all gathered at the Samuel Adams Brewery in Boston for the Accion Women’s Network event. Despite the diversity of this group, they had two things in common. Each of these professional women is dedicated to the cause of financial inclusion, and we all work together to make it a reality.

One relationship in the spotlight during the event was the partnership between Accion in the U.S. and the Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams beer. For 10 years, Accion in the U.S. has been a partner in Brewing the American Dream (BTAD). Sparked by Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch’s desire to give back, BTAD helps food and beverage entrepreneurs who are often shut out of the banking sector. And the program doesn’t shy away from supporting future competition. Bev Armstrong of Brazo Fuerte, the first woman-owned brewery in Massachusetts, was able to turn to BTAD when she needed help getting her business off the ground. Recognizing the power of partnership, the program provided not only vital funding but also coaching and networking opportunities.

Strategic partnerships have long been the key ingredient in the advances made in financial inclusion. Globally, much of Accion’s success is because of our successful partnerships with financial service providers and co-investors, all dedicated to making financial inclusion a reality for the billions of people who lack access to even a basic savings account or credit product. While banks often face challenges when lending to start-ups or other small businesses — like a neighborhood restaurant — many banks partner with organizations like Accion to get capital and training into the hands of those who need it.

Good partnerships can grow stronger over time, as I was reminded when I saw my friend and colleague, Anna Dodson, at the event. In her role with Goodwin Procter, she’s a powerful ally for small business owners, providing pro-bono business legal services to low-income entrepreneurs and small business owners in underserved neighborhoods. Because of our shared work supporting entrepreneurs, I’ve known Anna for 15 years. Over this time, our friendship and our companies’ work together has grown, and today she serves as the chair of the board of Accion’s U.S. Network.

For women — especially those who want to make their mark in male-dominated fields like brewing — person-to-person partnerships are crucial. The female brewers at the Accion Women’s Network event were a testament to this power. Jennifer Glanville, a 17-year veteran of Samuel Adams, now runs the brewery. Because she believes in the power of mentorship and paying it forward, she passes along her success by mentoring Bev Armstrong through BTAD. Throughout history and still today, women have been helping each other to climb ladders and shatter glass ceilings, with the valuable support of our male counterparts along the way.

Partnerships don’t just make the world go round — they help it move forward. By continuing to work together and supporting entrepreneurs, we can disrupt the status quo and brew a more inclusive future.

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