Mercedes-Benz ShadeFund™ Entrepreneurs
Reflecting our firm belief in developing an infrastructure for sustainability in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA is proud to count itself an inaugural sponsor of The Conservation Fund's new ShadeFund program -- a charitable initiative aimed at helping to spur a greener economy by giving a leg up to entrepreneurs and innovators who use natural resources creatively and responsibly.
Over the next two years, Mercedes-Benz USA will invest in 10-12 select, small-business owners who display an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit, a commitment to environmental values and exceptional artisanship. In turn, these "Mercedes-Benz Signature ShadeFund Entrepreneurs" will use the seed capital to help grow their businesses, create new employment opportunities and bring new ideas to life.
Norma Burns, Bluebird Hill Farm - Bennett, N.C.
Growing fresh herbs, flowers, specialty vegetables and USDA Certified Organic Grosso Lavender, Norma Burns is the sole operator and guiding force of Bluebird Hill Farm. Her acreage and signature red barn not only are a popular venue for weddings, picnics and artist retreats, but also serve as an outdoor classroom in which Norma offers guided lessons on soil conditions and responsible farming techniques to help protect bees, bats and birds.
While Norma has been successful selling directly to individuals, restaurants and co-op markets, she has reached the point at which she cannot increase her productivity with also increasing her capacity. An investment from the Mercedes-Benz Signature ShadeFund loan pool will help her do just that.
Ted and Zeb Esselstyn, City Bench - Haddam, Conn.
Breathing new life into old wood, the Esselstyn brothers reclaim urban trees and turn them into exquisite, handcrafted furniture pieces, each carrying a custom-made label detailing the origin of the wood and the date the tree was taken down. Demonstrating an innovative model for a sustainable urban business, their efforts are not only good for City Bench´s bottom line, but also good for that of the Connecticut municipalities they work with -- as the human and financial resources needed to dispose of damaged, diseased or old trees are conserved.
With some help, Ted and Zeb can grow their business across New England and perhaps someday transform reclaimed oak trees from Central Park into bars, table and benches for New York´s finest restaurants. An investment from the Mercedes-Benz Signature ShadeFund loan pool will help City Bench do just that.