HIGHLAND | The next time you pick up a six-pack of Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin beer at the grocery store, check the bottom and you may see a familiar name.
The brewing company is honoring Fernando Gutierrez, owner of Torti Products in Highland, through its Brewing the American Dream program.
Gutierrez's business, which makes ready-to-cook flour tortillas, is featured on the bottom of the six-packs as part of a program that Samuel Adams owner Jim Koch began to build awareness about small businesses in America, said Michelle Diamandis, public relations supervisor for The Boston Beer Co., which brews Samuel Adams beer.
"Jim never forgot how hard it is for passionate small business owners with a dream to get started, and Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream stems from this kind of innovative business spirit," she said.
The program is designed to give assistance and good advice to small business owners who want to pursue a similar passion and American dream. In addition to providing micro loans for small businesses in the food, beverage, craft brewing and hospitality industries ranging from $500 to $25,000, the program offers exposure to business counseling and networking opportunities.
"The idea for our signature philanthropic program really came out of Jim Koch's experience starting Sam Adams, thinking about the things that the small-business person trying to grow their business doesn't have access to – loans or nuts and bolts business advice," Diamandis said.
For Gutierrez, being recognized on a product thousands will see means he is making a mark in the culinary world.
"I feel that this award lets me know my business is going in the right direction, and for a company like Samuel Adams to look at me makes me feel very honored and great to have a big brother like them," he said.
After spending more than 20 years as a dental assistant, Gutierrez changed direction, taking inspiration from his fond memories as a child watching his family members make homemade tortillas.
His business, Torti Products, launched in October 2011, and has since been a work in progress. One of his goals has been to launch additional products, such as chorizo sauce and red sauce for pork.
"The main factor that holds me back from adding new products is capital," Gutierrez said. "To grow, you need to invest and when you are limited, you grow at a different rate, but still you keep growing."
Through a microloan he received from the Brewing the American Dream program, Gutierrez has used the funds for new equipment and working capital. He's also sought advice from Samuel Adams employees and resources who have helped him with business questions.
Some advice he's received has included redesigning the labeling on his tortilla packaging, and including some product history to draw in consumers' interest, but without overcrowding the look of the packaging.
Gutierrez's solution was to add a small tortilla inside the package.
"Every time my mother, grandmother or aunt made flour tortillas, they would always make a small or baby tortilla for the kids, and I remember we would always fight for the small tortilla among each other," he said. "To me, this was the label in history I needed. Now I add a small or baby tortilla into every pack and use this to open an emotional treasure in every customer who buys a pack of Rama de Trigo flour tortillas."
Since the Brewing the American Dream's inception in 2008, the company has coached more than 3,000 small business owners and has provided nearly $2.5 million in microloans to more than 280 small businesses nationwide.
"We are proud to say that we have a 98-percent loan repayment rate, which we credit in part to our coaching and mentoring," Diamandis said.
Gutierrez says he will take the information he has learned through coaching events and through advice from the program's mentors to work toward obtaining his main goal - to create jobs for the region.
"I believe that eventually I will be pointed out as a role model, and I would gladly help others accomplish what I have done," he said.