In 2000, long before the current craft beer boom, Jacquie Berglund quit a stable job to start a brewery with a mission that’s as admirable as it is succinct: feed the hungry. In the 16 years since, FINNEGANS has done just that. In 2016, Berglund’s company surpassed $1 million in total donations to community organizations that support the fight against hunger.
A native of Mahtomedi, Minnesota, Berglund has been the driving force behind FINNEGANS since its inception. As the second longest running social enterprise that donates 100% of its profits (behind Newman’s Own), the brewery’s direct impact on the lives of those in need can’t be understated. Since 2011 alone, FINNEGANS has funded nearly 394,000 pounds of food for organizations in Minnesota and surrounding states.
This year, Berglund took steps to grow both her own reach as a social entrepreneur and that of FINNEGANS. In April, construction began on a development in the Elliot Park neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis that will house FINNEGANS’ own brewery and taproom (their beer is currently contract-brewed at Summit), plus an incubator and cooperative workspace for nonprofits that’s being dubbed the “FINNovation Lab.”
The incubator is the “teach a man to fish” arm of FINNEGANS’ mission—a place where they can help connect organizations and businesses to one another, to outside resources, and to the knowledge and experience they’ve gained by walking the walk for the past 16 years.
“The next chapter on how we want to grow our brand and our mission is to help others who want to run businesses and have a social mission,” Berglund said last year when the project was announced.
Berglund’s work on the FINNovation Lab was buoyed by a two-year fellowship through the Bush Foundation she completed in 2016 that allowed her to expand and develop her own social entrepreneurial leadership skills and build support for social entrepreneurs throughout the region.
When the new brewery and incubator open in December 2017, they’ll have their work cut out for them. Berglund has set a goal of reaching $2 million in donations by 2025—a cool seven years faster than it took FINNEGANS to hit the $1 million mark. But if anyone’s up to the task it’s Jacquie Berglund, whom the Bush Foundation called “a social entrepreneur before you could Google ‘social entrepreneur.’”
Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.