Minneapolis impact


In Minneapolis, a New Building Mixes Impact and Beer

Anne Field | June 5, 2018


A new initiative in Minneapolis is bringing the idea of mixed use development to social entrepreneurship. FINNEGANS House, a newly opened building in downtown Minneapolis that is part of a bigger development project, combines a brewery with a space for the local impact community to connect and grow.

Finnegan’s House is the brainchild of Jacquie Berglund, the founder and CEO of FINNEGANS Brew Co., a 17-year old Minneapolis-based beer maker and Benefit Corp. that donates 100% of its profits to food banks in every state where the beer is sold. The food banks use the funds to buy produce from local growers. “Our mission is to turn beer into food,” says Berglund.

With FINNEGANS House, she is extending her “barstool philanthropy” to the local community.

The idea started after Berglund ten years ago moved FINNEGANS Brew Co.’s offices to an old mansion where ten or so like-minded impact businesses also worked. There, Berglund experienced the benefits of laboring alongside people with similar socially-focused aims. That led her to develop the four-story FINNEGANS House, which holds her offices as well as the brewery and impact space.

“I saw the synergies and energy that happened when you brought like-minded people together,” she says. “I wanted to take that experience to the next level.”

That 13,000-square-foot impact space just opened officially. It is a collaboration between Berglund’s initiative, called FINNovation Lab, and Impact Hub MSP, a co-working site, and comprises the fourth floor of the building. Its offices, work and meeting spaces will be open to a mix of for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises ranging from idea-stage founders to well-established businesses.

FINNovation Lab will run a nine-month fellowship program, starting in Sept. 30, for impact entrepreneurs at the idea stage and will award $50,000 grants to five founders. It’s modeled partly on New York City’s Blue Ridge Labs@Robin Hood. Aimed at entrepreneurs focused on enterprises that help alleviate poverty, Blue Ridge helps founders research relevant issues and concepts, drawing on people in the community to find out what they need.

“Part of our process is to make sure entrepreneurs really understand the root cause of a problem, particularly if they don’t have personal experience of the issues they’re focusing on,” says Mary Rick, CEO of the FINNovation Lab & Impact Hub MSP collaboration. “We want to make their work as meaningful and impactful as possible.”

The entrepreneurs also will get a health insurance stipend, free co-working space, a tailored curriculum and one-on-one mentorship. A three-month accelerator will be added later on, according to Berglund.

Jacquie Berglund
Jacquie Berglund

The Impact Hub, part of a global network of about 100 other Hubs, started out as a 3,700-square-foot space. The new digs will have room for a lot more room, including private offices, dedicated desks and co-working space.

The collaboration is also partnering with the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), a non-profit, community development financial institution providing culturally sensitive education sessions and technical assistance to entrepreneurs in the Elliot Park Neighborhood.

Berglund started developing her concept in earnest in 2014, after being awarded a $100,000, two-year fellowship from the Bush Foundation, a Minneapolis-based foundation that focuses on locally-driven innovation. During that process, she started collaborating with Impact Hub and they decided to join forces.

The building, which opened to the public in March, has a brewery and tap room on the first floor, in partnership with Badger Hill Brewing Company.  The joint ownership allows the two local beer makers  to share equipment and ingredients and eliminate redundancies. On the second is a membership club; membership is 75% tax-deductible and helps support charitable activities in the innovation space. The third floor will be used for events.

Anne Field is a New York-based journalist who writes about social enterprise and impact investing. A version of this article originally appeared on her Not Only For Profit blog on Forbes.com.


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