Finnegans founder planning hub for budding social entrepreneurs

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July 1, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Besides running her Elliot Park-based charitable beer company Finnegans, Jacquie Berglund is working on a vision for a social innovation lab designed to help springboard the careers of other social entrepreneurs.

Berglund was named a Bush Fellow earlier this year — a highly coveted award that will connect her to resources to help her launch the lab within two years. She was one of 24 fellows selected from a pool of nearly 400 applicants.

“I think there is a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and businesses to grow business and profit and also make a positive social impact,” she said. “I think this is a new sector that will be growing for decades to come. I believe people want meaning in their lives and that they want to make a difference — the path of the social entrepreneur provides all of these things.”

She officially gets started on her fellowship work later this summer and is working on pulling together an advisory board to help her launch the social innovation lab.

The Bush Foundation selects fellows who have already demonstrated strong leadership in the community and allows them to design a fellowship that best suits their needs to achieve their goals.

“What fellows do during their fellowship is unique to their individual needs, but the impact is often the same: an experience that leaves them better equipped and better networked to be a more effective leader for their community,” said Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy.

Finnegans’ new Reverse Food Truck is also making a big impact its first few months on the streets, raising roughly $6,000 for the Emergency Food Shelf Network. The mobile fundraising vehicle accepts non-perishable food items and monetary donations. A $100 contribution can feed a family of four for two weeks.

Green Mill Pizza has also been a big supporter of Finnegans’ work. They donate $1 for every large pizza sold on Tuesdays at all of the chain’s 26 locations and sell Finnegans beer.

Green Mill President Paul Dzubnar said Berglund is a “lead-by-example person.”

“She gets out in front of everything in her business and cares deeply for the people on her team,” he said. “She’s selfless and does what it takes to get the job done, always thinking of her mission to alleviate hunger.”

Lori Kratchmer, executive director of the Emergency Foodshelf Network (EFN), also offered praise for Berglund. She shared a recent letter she wrote to nominate the Finnegans founder for an Augsburg alumni award.

“I met Jacquie during my first week of employment at EFN. I had no idea what I was doing at that point but the minute I met Jacquie I knew working together would be so inspirational and fun,” she wrote. “Today she is a leader in social entrepreneurism and sets an example of genuine and authentic success.”

As part of Finnegans’ partnership with EFN, Finnegans donates profits to purchase fresh produce from local farmers for local food shelves.

Berglund was inspired to launch Finnegans while she was working as director of marketing for Kieran Folliard’s Irish pubs. While attending a leadership conference in Washington, D.C., she got a chance to hear a talk by Bill Shore, founder of anti-hunger group Share Our Strength, who explained how he tapped money from his consulting group for nonprofits to fund Share Our Strength.

“This was the smartest thing I had ever heard. It was like my hair was on fire I was so energized by this idea,” Berglund said.

She then decided to launch a nonprofit beer company based on the Share Our Strength model. Finnegans was born in 2000 and has since grown to include a staff of four.

The company has experienced significant growth since its early days and Finnegans is now available in 500 restaurants and bars and 580 liquor stores in the Upper Midwest.

Finnegans has donated more than $260,000 to community projects fighting hunger since it started selling its beer.

Berglund said the nonprofit is also working on a FINNovation Speaking Series with the Reverse Food Truck in the fall.

It has also partnered with the Brave New Workshop on a new Happy Hour Squared event — an after-work social event where people make sandwiches for the homeless and can make donations to the Reverse Food Truck. There are events planned for July 24, Aug. 21, Sept. 18 and Oct. 16 at the Brave New Workshop, 824 Hennepin Ave. S.

When asked what she loves most about her work, Berglund said it’s the opportunity to transform ideas into results for the community.

“I like the action of what we do — that we come up with big ideas and we go and do them,” she said. “We do things people haven’t done before and we do these things for the greater good. Everyone wins.”

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Editor’s note: This profile is part of the Journals' “Changemaker” series spotlighting people who have a powerful impact on the community. To nominate a changemaker, email smckenzie@mnpubs.com.