Jacquie Berglund sat mesmerized by the keynote speaker on stage in front of her. It was Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger, and he’d just said the smartest thing she had ever heard. As he shared his lifelong work influencing social change, he spoke about for-profit companies funding their own nonprofit activities to solve society’s problems. It was the late 1990s and the first time Jacquie had heard the concept of social entrepreneurship. She had a lightbulb moment so powerful she felt like her hair was on fire.
Jacquie had returned to her home state of Minnesota just a few years earlier, after getting a master’s degree in international relations in Paris and working in international economic development in Moscow, where she saw the power of entrepreneurship in action. Now back home, she was working as marketing director for Minnesota restauranteur Kieran Folliard when she heard Bill Shore speak, and she was so inspired she proposed to Kieran that they launch a new concept: their own craft beer with a mission. She envisioned money from beer sales helping to alleviate hunger in the Midwest. She and Kieran partnered with a local brewery and brought Jacquie’s vision to life, offering Kieran’s Irish Ale in all three of his restaurants.
Jacquie was so passionate about this new venture that she took her biggest risk yet: She quit her marketing gig and sold everything she owned to pursue social entrepreneurship full time. She bought Kieran out of his half of the beer business (for a dollar at his insistence), changed the name to FINNEGANS and began expanding its market. Soon she was raising thousands of dollars each year to help feed the hungry in Minnesota and beyond. She was turning beer into food.
In 2017, Jacquie took the concept of paying it forward to the next level by creating the FINNOVATION Lab, a business incubator that offers programming to help social enterprises launch, scale and increase their impact. The nine-month FINNOVATION Fellowship supports early-stage entrepreneurs who have bold ideas for sustainable, systems-level change.
FINNEGANS House, a dedicated multi-functional space in downtown Minneapolis developed in partnership with local builder Kraus Anderson, opened in 2018. Having a physical building has enabled Jacquie to take her vision for FINNEGANS to the next level by brewing and canning onsite. It also features a taproom for serving the public, plus spaces for meetings and events.
More than $1.8 million has been raised through partnerships, events and FINNEGANS beer sales. Jacquie is not just a pioneer of the giveback business concept in Minnesota. She has built the second-longest-running social enterprise in the country donating 100 percent of its profits to help solve a societal problem—second only to Newman’s Own. She remains committed to demonstrating the true power of for-profit companies funding their own nonprofit ventures to make the kind of impact they imagine in the world.
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose”. Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story and Publish Her as platforms for doing so.