Jacquie Berglund is the charismatic founder and CEO of FINNEGANS Inc. – a social enterprise dedicated to turning beer into food by donating 100 percent of profits from the sale of its FINNEGANS Irish Amber (and seasonal Blonde Ale) beer to alleviate hunger in the Midwest. Through the creation of both FINNEGANS Inc. and its nonprofit counterpart, FINNEGANS Community Fund, Berglund has championed an innovative, market-based approach to addressing and raising awareness about food security in communities across the Midwest.
Berglund’s humble beginnings started in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, where she grew up dreaming of starting her own business and helping the community. After graduating from Augsburg College with a degree in communications and political science, she worked for at a personnel search firm with Kieran Folliard, now a well-known restaurateur (The Local, Kieran’s, The Liffey and Cooper Pub) turned whiskey-maker. Unbeknownst to her, the new friendship would prove instrumental in helping her realize her dream one decade later.
But first, in 1990, Berglund moved to France to pursue her master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy. While there, she worked for the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. During her tenure, she was selected to consult with the G-7 Support Implementation Group (SIG) in Moscow and later as a Project Coordinator for the Baltic Rim Economic Forum. Berglund was critical in bringing together government officials who were once at war with one another to find ways to use the market to address issues facing their countries.
Berglund returned home to Minnesota in 1997 to explore her own entrepreneurial spirit. Her old friend Folliard was about to open what would become a very popular downtown bar and restaurant, The Local, and he hired Berglund on as the Marketing Director. Simultaneously, Berglund started volunteering at a homeless shelter. She was aghast at the severity of the homeless situation in Minneapolis/St. Paul and frustrated by the lack of attention the issue received. Then it hit her: Why not fight the staggering homelessness epidemic using the robust market economy for beer? She developed a business plan and together with Folliard, Berglund created FINNEGANS Irish Amber. When it became clear that Berglund’s passions were leading her to FINNEGANS and all of its potential as a social enterprise, Folliard wished her well and parted with his half of the FINNEGANS label. The price? One dollar.
Since its inception in 2000, Berglund has worked tirelessly as the sole employee of FINNEGANS to grow the distribution of FINNEGANS Irish Amber throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, and most recently, South Dakota. With the help of a legion of devoted fans, many of whom volunteer their time and talent, FINNEGANS is now available in more than 500 restaurants and bars and 580 liquor stores in the Upper Midwest region. In 2007, FINNEGANS experienced astonishing growth – 64 percent – and has grown an average of 30 percent annually since. This growth has allowed Berglund to hire a staff of four. Witnessing the increasing traffic at food shelves in every market FINNEGANS is sold, Berglund and her team shifted FINNEGNAS’ giving focus in 2010 to fighting hunger. Through beer sales and other fundraising opportunities, the FINNEGANS Community Fund has donated more than $260,000 to community projects, while raising significant awareness about local hunger issues.
Berglund’s innovative approach to social enterprise has earned her prominent accolades over the years. In 2004, she received the B. Warren Hart Distinguished Service Award from the St. Paul Jaycees, and in 2005, Berglund received a “40 under 40” nomination from the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, which recognizes and honors the top 40 business people in the Twin Cities under the age of 40. She is also a recipient of the Minnesota Jaycee top honor of Ten Young Outstanding Minnesotans, and in 2010 she was featured on CNN’s ”Leaders with Heart” and ”Small Business Success Stories” segments. Most recently, Berglund was named one of the ”200 Minnesotans You Should Know” by Twin Cities Business magazine and was recently nominated as a 100 Year Centennial Award honoree by the Girl Scouts.
Among her many passions, Berglund loves going to happy hour, hanging out in the woods and discovering ways to create community wealth. Berglund never passes on an opportunity to advise aspiring do-gooders on how to become social entrepreneurs themselves. She attributes her success to a sound business plan, a lot of hard work, and a little Irish luck.