At Finnegans, Begin Again

At Finnegans, Begin Again

Jacquie Berglund's volunteer-led beer company is a career starter.

Koreena Rose was contemplating a career change last winter. She found her new path on a pub crawl.

Last St. Patrick’s Day, Finnegans cofounder Jacquie Berglund recruited Rose to hand out promotional items for the do-gooder beer company. (Finnegans, a for-profit company, gives 100 percent of its pretax profits to local charities.) Since then, Rose—who’d spent 10 years in retail and was thinking about nursing school—has volunteered hundreds of hours with Finnegans, been named director of promotions, and started taking classes for a business degree.

She’s one of about 400 volunteers who keep the taps flowing at Finnegans. The beer is brewed under contract by St. Paul’s Summit Brewing Company, but every other aspect of the business is run by Berglund’s volunteers (with a little pro-bono help from legal and advertising professionals).

As Berglund tells it, what started a decade ago as a plea to her family and friends for their volunteer help has turned into an incubator for young professionals. Many of Finnegans’ volunteers used to report directly to Berglund for assignments. Now, after a restructuring earlier this year, volunteers apply for one of 10 year-long director positions (putting in 10 to 20 hours a week, depending on their schedules and projects) and oversee teams of volunteers themselves.

Erin Kratochvil earned a degree in public relations and human resources, but a few years after graduation she was still working as a receptionist. A friend suggested that she contact Berglund, who invited her to write press releases and develop the company’s media list. Kratochvil is now Finnegans’ public relations director and, thanks to the experience, has landed a marketing position at Fingerhut.

Berglund says her company is on track to reach a projected $700,000 in sales for 2009, with profits of about $30,000 being donated to the Finnegans Community Fund, which makes grants to nonprofits. The company’s new management structure supports another good cause: volunteers’ resumés.

“Jacquie recognizes when someone has a talent to offer and a willingness to help out,” Rose says. “Hopefully, this will spring me into something fantastic in the next couple of years.”