For the past 17 years, Jacquie Berglund has been turning beer into food – and now she has a physical location in downtown Minneapolis to scale the success of her food-focused brewing company.
Finnegans, by way of their community fund, brews beer, sells it through restaurants and liquor stores, then uses the profits to buy fresh, local produce for food shelves. Finnegans Special Benefit Corporation donates 100 percent of its profits by way of a licensing agreement with Finnegans Brew Co., the company that brews the beer and operates the new downtown taproom. The profits go to the Finnegans Community Fund, the nonprofit that provides food shelves with fresh produce.
In other words, each of these organizations within the Finnegans House has a self-sustaining social business model that either gives profits back to support the Finnegans Community Fund, or another organization within the Finnegans house, Berglund said. “We’re the first beer company in the world to donate all of our profits,” she said.
Berglund was the sole employee up until 2009 – previously, Finnegans had been run primarily by volunteers. A team of just four ran the charitable brewing company until the taproom opened in March.
“I never really planned to open a brewery, but the landscape has changed so much,” Berglund said. When she first started, there were only a few breweries in Minnesota – now there are over 150 statewide. “We had to compete to be successful.”
Finnegans now distributes and supports food shelves in four states in addition to Minnesota: Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Their new taproom is accompanied by two reverse food trucks – at which people donate food and money instead of buying food. The reverse food trucks have raised over $170,000 since launch.
Berglund hasn’t stopped there – on the second floor of the downtown taproom is a private social club called Brewer’s Den. Membership includes a business space, complimentary growlers and beer samples, shuffleboard and development events. Plus, 75 percent of the dues go straight to the Finnegans Community Fund – making it tax deductible.
Part of these dues go towards the FINNovation Lab, yet another aspect of the innovative brewing company. Partnering with Impact Hub MSP, a co-working space, FINNovation Lab is a “social business incubator and community workspace,” according to the company site. This collab officially launched this month, Berglund said, and will work to connect entrepreneurs with training, capital, and resources.
“We’ve now raised and donated over $1.2 million back to the community since becoming profitable in 2003,” Berglund said. She also mentioned that Finnegans is the second-longest running, 100 percent donation model company behind the Newman’s Own Foundation.
“[Our] mission is alleviating hunger, and we’re doing that in really innovative ways,” Berglund said.