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A business born in a bottle

Jacquie Berglund launched Finnegans Amber Beer in September 2000, with the mission of giving profits from the business to help feed Minnesota’s hungry and struggling populations.
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By Jeff Prouty...

Jacquie Berglund launched Finnegans Amber Beer in September 2000, with the mission ofgiving profits from the business to help feed Minnesota’s hungry and struggling populations.

When asked if she could think of any other organizations that commit to donating 100% of the profits to charity, Finnegans founder and Rambunctious Social Entrepreneur, Jacquie Berglund, cited Paul Newman’s company, Newman’s Own.

It’s true both businesses got brewing within a bottle – Newman’s contains salad dressing while Berglund’s contains beer – but each company also focuses on poverty and hunger relief.

With 100% of the profits going to provide food through community food shelves. Finnegans contributions also help buy fresh local produce (products which are often cost prohibitive and absent from most of these organization’s offerings.) In 2011, a partnership with the Emergency Food Shelf Network (EFSN), allowed Finnegans to help provide assistance in 26 Minnesota counties and expand partnerships with local farmers.

Last year, Finnegans donated over $46,000 to this cause. This year, Berglund wants to more than double the company’s donation goal to $100,000, and reach the hungry in North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, as well.

Named one of the 200 Minnesotans You Should Know by Twin Cities Business magazine, Berglund generously answered a few questions about her background and the business of turning beer into food:

Growing up, what did you think you wanted to be/do?
I was super rambunctious. I wanted to be an actress; in a rock band; I was very theatrical; loved rock polishing; I was all over the board.

What did you learn from your mother? Your father?
Both had a super hard work ethic, with full-time jobs and working opposite shifts (and my dad was also going to school). There was a lot of juggling, and they were on a mission to have their two daughters go to college. But specifically, my mother’s honesty. She cannot tell a lie; she says what she thinks. From my dad, I hope I inherited his humor, generosity of spirit and compassion.

Who was your biggest or most influential role model?

Eleanor Roosevelt. She grew up privileged, yet had the drive and compassion to achieve a greater goal to better the lives of others. I totally and completely look up to the peacemakers and the people who walk to their own drum.

What are your big goals for Finnegans for 2012? It’s what I call “walking on the moon” – doubling our donation goal to $100,000 and using that money to purchase fresh produce in the state of Minnesota and food for food shelves in Wisconsin, and North and South Dakota – and we are absolutely on track! I’d also love to sell a ton of blonde ale to help us meet that goal.

It’s a little scary introducing a new beer; I really hope people enjoy the product.

Are there any unique challenges or advantages to having your business in Minnesota?
I was born here and I love it! There is character in our culture; our state donates and volunteers more. Finnegans is heavily driven by volunteers and giving one’s time, energy and enthusiasm aligns with our mission.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the young social entrepreneur looking to start a business?

It’s great to get out there and do good, but you have to figure out the business model and it needs to be sustainable. You’ll work a billion hours every week, every year, so you have to be passionate about your social mission. When you’re not busy with Finnegans, what do you like to do for fun? I enjoy spending quality time with friends and family. I also enjoy the solitude with nature that I find at my little cabin in the Wisconsin woods.

Any big plans, personally, for 2012?
I’m going to the Galapagos with the Prouty Project’s Stretch Expedition, where we’ll assist local Ecuadorians with environmental conservation and sustainable farming service projects. I’ll also be visiting all the regional farms involved in our program. I’m very excited about that, too.

What do you envision for Finnegans 40 to 50 years from now?

I hope we are giving away millions of dollars; that we have become a global influence in the social entrepreneur movement, and that we continue to inspire others to make a difference through business and profit.

Jeff Prouty is chairman and founder of the Prouty Project: Jeff founded the Prouty Project in 1987 after7 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Minneapolis and New York City. He specializedin working with senior management teams and boards of directors on strategic planning and team issues.

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