Mercedes-Benz USA and The Conservation Fund Kick-Start Initiative to Support Green Entrepreneurs

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Mercedes-Benz' Investment in The Conservation Fund's ShadeFund™ program spurs creative conservation and green economy by investing in sustainable farms, forests and forest products, eco-tourism and small-scale renewable energy.


Mercedes-Benz USA and The Conservation Fund announced today a keystone investment in The Conservation Fund's ShadeFund™ program, a new charitable endeavor to raise donated capital that will provide small loans to green entrepreneurs.


 While most microloan charities focus on entrepreneurs in the third world, The Conservation Fund's ShadeFund program will tap into the growing trend of making loans to American small businesses. True to its mission, The Conservation Fund's ShadeFund program is aimed at giving a leg up to entrepreneurs and innovators who use natural resources creatively and responsibly to spur a greener economy.


 As an inaugural sponsor of the program, Mercedes-Benz USA will invest in 10-12 Mercedes-Benz Signature ShadeFund Entrepreneurs over the next two years: select, small business owners who display an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to environmental values and exceptional artisanship. The first two Mercedes-Benz Signature ShadeFund Entrepreneurs, Connecticut-based City Bench and Bluebird Hill Farm out of North Carolina, will receive their loans by the end of the year.


 "Mercedes-Benz is a brand that traces its 125-year history back to the invention of the automobile. It is a history that started with the entrepreneurial partnership of its founders Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz," said Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing for MBUSA. "It is in that spirit that we are partnering with The Conservation Fund - to provide that opportunity to a group of talented and passionate entrepreneurs who are working to innovate in the area of sustainability."


During a time when even the most creditworthy businesses are having a hard time getting loans, green entrepreneurs face an especially steep challenge. Often, green business models are unfamiliar to traditional financial institutions and many banks, large or small, are unwilling to make small business loans of less than $50,000 because there is not enough profit to balance transaction costs and the risk.


 "As an inaugural sponsor of ShadeFund, Mercedes-Benz USA is investing in the spirit of innovation by providing much needed seed capital for companies in emerging green sectors. Together we can create creative conservation solutions that spur economic development and reward environmental and social responsibility," said Shade Fund's director, Rick Larson.


Established by The Conservation Fund with a lead grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, ShadeFund is asking individuals, companies and foundations across the U.S. to make donations to help green entrepreneurs grow their businesses and create jobs. As soon as the donations are received, they are pooled by ShadeFund and can be used to support qualified small businesses nationwide. Once the entrepreneurs repay their loans, those same dollars will be recycled to empower new investments in green endeavors again and again.


 Eligible industries include sustainable farms, forestry and forest products, eco-tourism and small-scale renewable energy production. ShadeFund loans range from $5,000 to $50,000 and can be used for working capital, as well as for the acquisition of materials, supplies, equipment and certification.


To apply for a ShadeFund loan or support an entrepreneur, visit:


 About The Conservation Fund


 The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America's land and water legacy. With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6.7 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. We're a top-ranked conservation organization, effective and efficient.


 About Mercedes-Benz USA


 Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey, is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz and Maybach products in the United States. MBUSA offers drivers the most diverse line-up in the luxury segment with 12 model lines ranging from the sporty C-Class to the flagship S-Class sedans and the SLS AMG supercar.




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