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 statistics about hunger in the United States and 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 was exposed to the concept of social entrepreneurship. She had a lightbulb moment so powerful she felt like her hair was on fire.
As a kid, Jacquie’s parents taught her the importance of paying kindness forward. She discovered a passion for social justice in college but hadn’t yet developed the confidence to speak out about things she felt strongly about. That is, until she read a Time magazine article that reported the biggest regret of people over the age of 80 was not taking more risks throughout their lives. At that very moment, Jacquie decided she was going to take risks aligned with causes she cared about so she could make the world a better place.
Her first big risk involved expanding her horizons beyond her home state of Minnesota. She moved to France to pursue a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy in Paris. She got a job as a consultant for an international economic development organization and spent time working in Moscow. Then she helped bring together government officials from countries in northern Russia and the Baltic Sea region to collaborate on regional development strategies. Working in these roles sparked Jacquie’s interest in economic development and she saw the power of entrepreneurship in action.
When she returned to the states in the late 1990s, Jacquie took a job as the marketing director for Minnesota restauranteur Kieran Folliard. A few years later, after hearing Bill Shore speak at the conference, she proposed to Kieran that they partner to launch a new concept for Kieran’s Irish Pub: 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 the impact of this new shared venture that she took her biggest risk yet. She quit her marketing director 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. Her risk paid off. 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 her own organization aimed at supporting startup social entrepreneurs. The FINNOVATION Lab is a business incubator that offers programming and support to help social enterprises launch, scale and increase their impact. The FINNOVATION Fellowship is a nine-month program that supports early-stage entrepreneurs who have bold ideas for sustainable, systems-level change. Fellows receive living and health care stipends, dedicated workspace, specialized curriculum, and access to mentors and technical experts. To date, dozens of fellows have participated in the program, and they are already making their mark on the world.
The FINNOVATION Lab opened in FINNEGANS House in 2018, a dedicated multi-functional space in downtown Minneapolis developed in partnership with local builder Kraus Anderson. Having a physical building has enabled Jacquie to take her vision for FINNEGANS to the next level by brewing and canning the beer onsite. It also features a taproom for serving the public, plus spaces for meetings and events.
To date, over $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 next to Newman’s Own, donating 100 percent of its profits to help solve a societal problem. She remains committed to demonstrating the true power of for-profit companies funding their own nonprofit ventures to make kind of impact they imagine in the world.
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