If you live in Minneapolis, MN you have probably known about the FINNEGANS beer company for a while now, but for others their story and impact may be unknown. In 1999, founder, Jacquie Berglund had a vision, turn beer into food! Not literally, but the idea is this. FINNEGANS allocates 100% of their profits to feeding the hungry in the communities where the beer is sold! FINNEGANS is currently sold in five states, including Minnesota, Iowa North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (Missouri is hopefully next:)).
FINNEGANS is the first beer company in the world to donate 100% of profits to fund fresh produce for those in need. Through the creation of both FINNEGANS Inc. and its nonprofit counterpart, FINNEGANS Community Fund, Jacquie has championed an innovative approach to addressing and raising awareness about food security in communities across the Midwest.
FINNEGANS is also the tenth largest beer company in Minnesota and has generated over $500,000 in donations through Finnegan profits, partnerships and events while raising significant awareness about local hunger issues. FINNEGANS is now one of the the longest running social enterprises to donate 100% of profits, second only to Newman’s Own!!!
Jacquie is a very inspiring women and social entrepreneur her awards in the industry of social enterprise are impressive to say the least. I am very grateful to her for taking the time to chat about FINNEGANS and her thoughts on social impact. Check out the Q&A with Jacquie Berglund below.
The first question I have is why beer? It makes sense because we all love beer :), but how did you decide to make beer the business model for your social enterprise?
When the beer company was envisioned I was working as the Director of Marketing for a group of Irish Pubs so the idea made total sense, my thought was…what do we do all day? We sell beer? What if we created a beer that gave all profits back to the community and then that could be our giving strategy and program for all of our pubs…
A quick follow-up to that would be why hunger as the issue to focus on? Where their other issues you looked at before decided to tackle that specific one in the community?
There are a couple of reasons for our giving focus –
first, we live in the wealthiest country in the world and it bothers me that we have some many folks that are unable to meet their basic needs, so I have always been a basic needs focused gal.
Secondly, when I was younger our family was quite poor, my parents worked blue collar jobs, so we had some tough times. My Father ended up going back to school and working full time at the same time. Because of his incredible hard work, we ended up moving economic classes and I was very lucky and grateful for that. This struggle helped me understand the working poor and what that means for folks.
We originally focused on supporting innovative poverty alleviation programs for the first 10 years of the company. I realized at our 10 year anniversary that our impact metrics were 4 pages long – our actual impact was super fuzzy. I read about the fantastic program called ‘The Harvest for the Hungry’ program, in which a Minnesota food bank was purchasing fresh produce from small organic farmers and then donating that produce to local food shelves. I LOVED IT! So we did a pilot project funding this program in 2011 and we never looked back. Our giving metrics is very clear – we donated x pounds of produce and our mission is turning beer into food. We scaled supporting similar programs in all of the states where we sell our beer (MN, IA ND, SD and WI)
Tell us how the Finnegan’s model works. How does buying Finnegan’s beer help communities deal with hunger?
We have a for profit company FINNEGANS SBC (a specific benefit corporation) and a non profit 501©3 company, the FINNEGANS Community Fund, which distributes the profits by partnering with a food bank if every state where we sell our product.
How did you first discover social enterprise? Was it a certain person or brand that introduced you to the use of business as a way to have a social impact?
I was familiar with Newman’s Own brand but it wasn’t until I heard Billy Shore, the founder of Share our Strength organization (SOS), speak that I totally understood the concept of having a for profit company fund non profit activities. Billy started a company called Community Wealth Partners that is a for profit consulting firm which supports the work of SOS
You have been in the social entrepreneurship arena for a while now. How have you seen it change and progress over the years?
Absolutely! It is so wonderful to see so many colleges and universities teaching social entrepreneurship courses. There are also a large number of social business competitions across the country that are producing some fantastic social businesses. The entire movement is really taking off and it is fun to see this happen!
There is no set definition that describes social enterprise, but if you had to define social enterprise and what it means to you how would you define it?
I think that social entrepreneurs are folks who apply the principles of entrepreneurship and risk taking involved with starting a businesses and they use that business for the social good – they are economically sustainable and they have something in their business or core mission that benefits the greater good.
Grant is the founder of Causeartist, one of the most influential impact business platforms in the world. Since 2013, Causeartist has been read in over 200 countries. Grant has personally interviewed over 600 impact entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting innovations in ethical fashion, climate change, ethical technology, impact investing, and sustainable travel.