Small business owners in the two previous Miami cohorts of the Santander Cultivate Small Business Program gathered recently in Miami.
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Food entrepreneurs: Apply now for this mini-MBA. We’ve got the lowdown.

If you crave knowledge, individual coaching and capital to help you grow your early-stage food-related small business, here’s an opportunity you’ll want to apply for today. 

For a third year in a row, Florida SBDC at FIU has partnered with Santander Bank on their largest philanthropic initiative. Santander’s innovative program, called Cultivate Small Business, was created to help early-stage entrepreneurs build and sustain businesses in the food industry, with a focus on woman-, immigrant- and BIPOC-owned businesses. The program is fully funded by Santander and free to entrepreneurs who are accepted into a cohort.  

Think of Cultivate Small Business as a 12-week mini-MBA for eligible entrepreneurs.  Along with a food-focused curriculum, the program provides industry expert advice and small capital grants. The Fall 2024 cohort – running Sept. 5 through Nov. 20 – is now open to entrepreneurs in the Miami, Dallas and Philadelphia areas. 

Created by Santander, the program is a collaboration between Santander, Babson College, ICIC, CommonWealth Kitchen, Dallas College, SBDC -Temple University, and Florida SBDC at FIU. The first two years of the program saw 56 local small businesses graduate from the program and receive $202,633 in grant funding. 

Applications are now open and the deadline to apply is June 1. You’ll want to apply – just ask an entrepreneur who went through the program. 

Daniel Quinones is the owner of the Miami-based small business Front Page Retail, which provides retail merchandising solutions tailored for emerging CPG brands so that their brands show up better in stores for their consumers. “After working with big CPG companies, I noticed that small guy, or emerging brands, just didn’t have an ally with consumers,” he said in an earlier interview with GrowBiz. He started his business in 2020. 

We checked in with him again and he said the Santander program has helped him on many fronts. 

“The Santander Cultivate Small Business Program helps you understand how to create value for your customers, improve your skills and network with other business owners who are ahead of your game and makes you improve yours, but more importantly you can share what you have learned or implemented in your business or yourself to help others get ahead,” Quinones explained.  

“And while you do the work, you can earn a great amount of money to implement those changes and grow your business. It’s a great ride full of learnings and value that you will be honored to become a part of,” he continued. “I can’t recommend it enough.”  

Here is the lowdown on the upcoming Cultivate Small Business program: 

Program dates: Sept. 5-Nov. 20. 

What the program will provide:  

  •         Live virtual classes taught by Babson College MBA professors
  •         Curriculum built for food business owners
  •         Connections to mentors in the food industry
  •         A network of fellow food entrepreneurs
  •         Capital grants ranging from $2,500 to $13,000

 Cost: Free 

 Who can apply: 

The program seeks businesses that are woman-, immigrant-, or BIPOC-owned in the food industry, have been in operation for at least one year as of March 1st, 2024, have revenue between $25,000 and $1 million in the last calendar year, and are located in the Miami, Dallas or Philadelphia areas. 

More information: 

  • Join an online info session on May 22 at 5 pm or June 11 at 1 pm. Sign up here for an information session.
  • If you have any questions about the program, contact Jesus Padilla at:

Where to apply: 

Deadline: June 1, but don’t delay to reserve your spot in the program.  

“Early-stage food entrepreneurs thrive and grow when they have a strong financial foundation and well-developed strategies,” says Brian Van Hook, Regional Director of Florida SBDC at FIU. “For this reason, Florida SBDC at FIU is proud to again partner with Santander, Babson College, CommonWealth Kitchen, and ICIC to continue this excellent program in Miami-Dade and South Florida. “Cultivate Small Business provides more education, networking and mentorship at a pivotal time for our dynamic food entrepreneurs.” 

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