Santander's Cultivate Small Business

Santander’s Cultivate Small Business is a dynamic education and training program created specifically to help early-stage food entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods (focused on women, people of color, and immigrants) build strong businesses.  

Applications are closed for this session.


Like a mini-MBA for food businesses

Santander’s Cultivate Small Business is open to food businesses of all types, including restaurants, food trucks, bakers, food tech, and packaged goods companies. It’s ideal for people who have been running their food business for at least a year and are looking to strengthen their skills, knowledge, and peer network.

The program runs April 19-June 28, 2022 and requires a commitment of about five hours/week. Due to COVID, we will be running the program fully virtual this year. 

The program is 100% free!

Cultivate Small Business is fully funded by Santander and run in partnership with CommonWealth Kitchen, Babson College, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, Latin American Education Development Association (NJ), and The Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center (NY). Scroll down to if your business meets the criteria for the program.

Questions? Contact Ploy at

 Applications are closed for the current session. 

Business Education

Classes on topics including marketing, menu and product costing, cash flow management, and business finance taught by professors from Babson College.


Dedicated mentorship from food industry professionals and support from a powerful network of entrepreneurs.


The chance to apply for up to $10,000 in capital grants to support your business.


Who Can Participate?

Businesses will be evaluated based on the following qualifications. However, we encourage businesses that do not meet every requirement to still submit an application.
  • Business owners must live in or represent a business located in a low- to moderate-income area in Greater Boston, New Jersey, or New York.
  • Businesses should have gross/net revenues of $25,000 to $1,000,000 in the most recent full calendar year.
  • Business should be operating for at least 1 year as of January 1, 2022.
  • Businesses should have between 1 and 10 full-time-equivalent employees.
  • Your businesses should be in food-related industries, including processing, technology, manufacturing and food services.


Application Timeline

November 15, 2021

Applications open

December 7, 2021
January 11, 2022

Information sessions (virtual)

January 28, 2022

Application Deadline

March , 2022

Interview with finalists

Meet the Mentors!

Past participants tell us that one of the most impactful parts of the program is the mentorship by food industry professionals. Our volunteer mentors will help you work toward your goals through the course of the program. 

Tracy Chang

Tracy Chang is the chef/owner of PAGU restaurant, a Spanish Japanese tapas restaurant in Cambridge. During COVID she co-founded two nonprofits to serve essential workers, Off Their Plate and Project Restore Us. She is interested in collaborating and cross-pollinating with others to create scalable models in the food industry from employee safety and welfare to sustainable, recurring revenue streams.

Bob Burke
Natural Products Consulting, LLC

As a consultant since 1998, Bob Burke provides assistance in bringing natural, organic, and specialty products to market across most classes of trade.  Prior to consulting, Bob was with Stonyfield Farm Yogurt for 11 years as Vice President, Sales & Corporate Development. He received an MBA from Babson College. 

Gardy Desrouleaux
Craft Food Halls

My journey through the restaurant industry started hosting at a fortune 500 restaurant company at 17 years old, managing by 18 and entering senior leadership by 21. 

Mario Rodriguez
Bootleg Avocado

With emerging startups focusing on plant-based alternatives, few have taken the time to assess the culinary impact through flavor, texture, and sensory experiences. We fill this white space by providing the culinary overlay – validating their value chain, recipe development, R&D, and translation from food science to actual cooking applications.

See the program in action!

“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, Mona's Currations