Cultivate Small Business

Building and sustaining early-stage businesses

Santander Bank’s Cultivate Small Business is designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods build and sustain their businesses, with a focus on women-, minority- and immigrant-owned businesses in food-related industries. The program provides industry specific education, networks and mentoring as well as small capital grants for business owners.

ICIC is one of Santander Bank’s four strategic partners in this initiative, which also include CommonWealth Kitchen, Babson College, and LAEDA. The fully-funded program began in October 2017 with an inaugural group of up to 30 entrepreneurs. We have now helped almost 100 business owners working in food-related businesses, which include processing, technology, manufacturing and food service companies.

“It’s just so nice being in an environment where people understand what you’re going through. Because the outside world really doesn’t. Just to talk about things — to look at all the different aspects, to connect with people who have been doing this for a number of years, and to learn the lessons they have learned-has been amazing.”

Mona Ahmad
Owner of Mona’s Curryations and Cohort 2 Alumni

Food-related businesses were chosen for the pilot program focus due to the diversity, size and number of small businesses within the category. ICIC research shows that when cities have “clusters” of related industries, their economies are associated with greater growth in business numbers, job creation, wages and innovation. The food cluster in Greater Boston is poised for growth and already represents a greater share of employment than exists in other cities.

By connecting early stage entrepreneurs in the same related business sector, this initiative addresses the education and mentoring needs of program participants with a customized model over a nine-month period.


Cultivate Small Business aims to empower women, immigrant and minority entrepreneurs in food-related industries and to give them the building blocks to be successful business owners.

Each year, we support a new group of entrepreneurs in each of our participating markets. You can find information regarding the program as well as the application at or reach out to for more information on application dates and program locations.


Santander is proud to work with our dedicated partners, ICIC, CommonWealth Kitchen, Babson College, and LAEDA, on the Cultivate Small Business program.

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