Looking back at the nonprofit pub in Portland, OR

Here’s an oldie but goodie: We profiled this innovative pub last year to spark discussion about the different ways people are leveraging their passions to give back. We’re reposting this story in the spirit of summer.

The idea

Photo of Ryan from ©Neighborhood Notes in Portland, Oregon: www.neighborhoodnotes.com.

Ryan Saari, an Oregon native, knows that Portlanders love their beer as much as they love helping others. But given the amount of nonprofits that already exist in the city, Ryan realized that another nonprofit, while wonderful, may not be needed. “Instead we thought, what can we do to partner with the existing nonprofits?” he says.

Three years ago what started off as a discussion between Ryan and his friends about what good they could do in their communities turned into something bigger: The Oregon Public House—a soon-to-open nonprofit pub that will serve local beer and seasonal, locally sourced food, pay employees fair wages, and donate all its profit to charities.

Ryan foresees The Oregon Public House growing and hopes after a year or two of running successfully they can open another in Portland, eventually with plans to brew their own beer and sell six packs in stores where 100% of the money goes to a charity.

Obstacles

Ryan’s first step was to bring a team on board and find a building to set up the brew pub. To buy an already existing business, the team would need a minimum of $200,000. Instead, they found a fix it up rental attached to a ballroom that was still used as an event space.

Now that they had the building, they took the next steps toward owning the first brew pub of it’s kind. Here are some of the many obstacles they encountered over the past few years to get this unique nonprofit up and running:

Obstacle: Community push back
Solution: Worried about bringing a bar into a community, Ryan didn’t want to contribute to the already existing problem of people abusing alcohol. “At first people questioned what we were doing. People wanted to change the idea into a coffee shop, or take the idea and brew craft root beer instead,” he says. He knew it was important to establish the nonprofit as a public house and not a bar, a place where friends and family can come together to enjoy a beer and food in a friendly environment.

Obstacle: Never been done before
Solution: Without a model to learn from, Ryan knew trust was key when opening a nonprofit like this, which is the first of its kind in the country. “Customers need to know where the money is going,” Ryan says. Their books are public so customers can see where the profits go to help combat any skepticism. With the idea to one day expand and turn the pub into a brewery, The Oregon Public House is continually aware of maintaining the balance between giving to local charities and the operational costs for the pub.

The ballroom. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

Obstacle: Opening without debt
Solution: With the largest donation only being $2,500, there needed to be other ways to raise funds. One way was to start a ‘Founders’ program, where people give to the nonprofit and in return receive a free beer each day, or week, depending on their contribution level.

Another way they stayed debt-free was not building until the money was available, a strategy they plan on continuing. While they received a grant from the city of Portland for the store front, they also didn’t take out any loans.

They likewise relied on volunteers to help reconstruct the building: pour the cement, paint the walls, and do whatever they could to help. Opening with zero debt will allow them to immediately begin donating the profits to worthwhile charities and to positively influence the community around them.

Obstacle: Staying profitable
Solution: Ryan says there are lots of questions about how to make a public house a viable business while giving away most of the earnings. He and his team pay rent by renting out the event space attached to their brew pub location for weddings, movie screenings, and more. “An event space is extremely profitable,” he says. They also plan on having the leadership all-volunteer run, with paid staff to cut down costs.

Advice

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Future home of The Oregon Public House. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

After two years of countless hours from 100 volunteers, The Oregon Public House is in the final stages of officially opening it’s doors to the community.

“We’ve received emails from people all over the country saying they’ve had the same idea, and asking how they can do this where they are to help their own city,” says Ryan. “We want people to steal this idea.”

Whether or not you plan on opening your own brew pub for charity, here’s how Ryan thinks you can move forward on your idea:

  • Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, even if they seem silly.
  • Take it one step-by-step, and don’t worry about the time it takes you. People will still be invested in your idea.
  • Be cautious with money. Debt-free is the way to be.
  • Take initiative. Helping the community you live in isn’t as hard as you think.

“Make a living,” Ryan finally says. “But instead of pocketing the extra cash, why not give back to your city?”

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Want to steal this idea? Feel free to reach out to Ryan at ryan@oregonpublichouse.com.

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How one nonprofit pub is giving back, one pint at a time

Each day, people like you have ideas on how to make the world a better place, but don’t know how to put their ideas into action. To help you take the first step, we’re profiling budding social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues that are important to them, one step at a time.

The idea

Photo of Ryan from ©Neighborhood Notes in Portland, Oregon: www.neighborhoodnotes.com.

Ryan Saari, an Oregon native, knows that Portlanders love their beer as much as they love helping others. But given the amount of nonprofits that already exist in the city, Ryan realized that another nonprofit, while wonderful, may not be needed. “Instead we thought, what can we do to partner with the existing nonprofits?” he says.

Three years ago what started off as a discussion between Ryan and his friends about what good they could do in their communities turned into something bigger: The Oregon Public House—a soon-to-open nonprofit pub that will serve local beer and seasonal, locally sourced food, pay employees fair wages, and donate all its profit to charities.

Ryan foresees The Oregon Public House growing and hopes after a year or two of running successfully they can open another in Portland, eventually with plans to brew their own beer and sell six packs in stores where 100% of the money goes to a charity.

Obstacles

Ryan’s first step was to bring a team on board and find a building to set up the brew pub. To buy an already existing business, the team would need a minimum of $200,000. Instead, they found a fix it up rental attached to a ballroom that was still used as an event space.

Now that they had the building, they took the next steps toward owning the first brew pub of it’s kind. Here are some of the many obstacles they encountered over the past few years to get this unique nonprofit up and running:

Obstacle: Community push back
Solution: Worried about bringing a bar into a community, Ryan didn’t want to contribute to the already existing problem of people abusing alcohol. “At first people questioned what we were doing. People wanted to change the idea into a coffee shop, or take the idea and brew craft root beer instead,” he says. He knew it was important to establish the nonprofit as a public house and not a bar, a place where friends and family can come together to enjoy a beer and food in a friendly environment.

Obstacle: Never been done before
Solution: Without a model to learn from, Ryan knew trust was key when opening a nonprofit like this, which is the first of its kind in the country. “Customers need to know where the money is going,” Ryan says. Their books are public so customers can see where the profits go to help combat any skepticism. With the idea to one day expand and turn the pub into a brewery, The Oregon Public House is continually aware of maintaining the balance between giving to local charities and the operational costs for the pub.

The ballroom. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

Obstacle: Opening without debt
Solution: With the largest donation only being $2,500, there needed to be other ways to raise funds. One way was to start a ‘Founders’ program, where people give to the nonprofit and in return receive a free beer each day, or week, depending on their contribution level.

Another way they stayed debt-free was not building until the money was available, a strategy they plan on continuing. While they received a grant from the city of Portland for the store front, they also didn’t take out any loans.

They likewise relied on volunteers to help reconstruct the building: pour the cement, paint the walls, and do whatever they could to help. Opening with zero debt will allow them to immediately begin donating the profits to worthwhile charities and to positively influence the community around them.

Obstacle: Staying profitable
Solution: Ryan says there are lots of questions about how to make a public house a viable business while giving away most of the earnings. He and his team pay rent by renting out the event space attached to their brew pub location for weddings, movie screenings, and more. “An event space is extremely profitable,” he says. They also plan on having the leadership all-volunteer run, with paid staff to cut down costs.

Advice

featured

Future home of The Oregon Public House. (Photo from ©Neighborhood Notes.)

After two years of countless hours from 100 volunteers, The Oregon Public House is in the final stages of officially opening it’s doors to the community.

“We’ve received emails from people all over the country saying they’ve had the same idea, and asking how they can do this where they are to help their own city,” says Ryan. “We want people to steal this idea.”

Whether or not you plan on opening your own brew pub for charity, here’s how Ryan thinks you can move forward on your idea:

  • Don’t be afraid to share your ideas, even if they seem silly.
  • Take it one step-by-step, and don’t worry about the time it takes you. People will still be invested in your idea.
  • Be cautious with money. Debt-free is the way to be.
  • Take initiative. Helping the community you live in isn’t as hard as you think.

“Make a living,” Ryan finally says. “But instead of pocketing the extra cash, why not give back to your city?”

__

Want to steal this idea? Feel free to reach out to Ryan at ryan@oregonpublichouse.com.

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Help Seth create a beverage to better the world

An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?

Meet Seth

Growing up in Pound Ridge, NY, Seth Markowitz had to ride his bike for two minutes to get to his best friend’s house which was only two houses away. This isolation was compounded by the fact that he was considered a nerd, and a kid who didn’t understand why there was so much violence and hostility at school.

But then he went to summer camp. He made a ton of friends. He became empowered to be a leader. He was accepted for who he was.

“At the age of 11 it put this dichotomy in my mind: How come life sometimes can be so isolating and it can be so hard to find community? How come sometimes life can be so wonderful and communal?” he says.

His utopian summer camp experience proved formative. As an adult, Seth became fascinated with traditional hunter-gatherer societies that lived in camps, such as the Mbuti or Pygmies, and Native American tribes where there was little emphasis on possessions or competition, nearly everything was shared in an open and loving manner, and there was a lot of time to socialize and bond.

While studying at Bates College, he participated in a volunteer service program with a group of idealistic students that furthered his desire to return to how our ancestors lived. He witnessed how rewarding it could be to live, even for a short time, in a camp-like community of people devoted to helping others.

“I think tons of people would live comfortably, but modestly, and devote their lives to making the world a better place if they had the opportunity to do so,” he says.

The intention

When he’s not spending his days as a special education teacher, Seth thinks about how he can create an urban intentional community that has a cooperative, socially conscious business at its core.

Inspired by Newman’s Own, which donates 100% of its profits to charity, Seth envisions a business centered around a single-serving soft drink, eventually expanding to other products.

“I want to create a brand. And I want that brand to represent altruism,” he says.

Drawing from the model of Twin Oaks in Virginia, Seth hopes the business will support a community in the Bronx or Brooklyn. The community will be a worker cooperative, where the employees own part of the company, make democratic decisions, and as part of the employment contract, have the time to devote to service in the larger community and to each other.

His goal is to create a company that not only has a charitable mission, but provides its employees a fair living wage, good benefits and a community center/dining hall where they can conveniently gather and share meals. Ultimately, Seth’s goal is to build community within the company, in the neighborhood, and in the world.

Obstacles

So far Seth has a recipe for the soft drink, a brand name, a product name, and a label. He’s also gleaned knowledge from a friend of a friend about taste testing and focus groups.

Here are the challenges he is currently facing:

  1. Seth needs $30,000 in start-up capital to hire a consulting company that could perfect his formula, source ingredients, help design the label, create the nutrition facts, and find bottlers, labelers, and distributors.
  2. He’d love to find a trained business person with experience in the beverage industry, ideally someone who is also committed to his philosophy.
  3. Finding people who would be interested in starting an intentional community, as well as initial partners who have an entrepreneurial and sharing spirit, is crucial.

How you can help

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Seth doesn’t want to divulge the exact product yet, but he stands behind its awesomeness. (Photo via Ano Lobb on Flickr’s Creative Commons.)

  • Do you know of any other successful charitable business models or intentional communities Seth can learn from?
  • In general, what’s important to you in a brand?
  • When you’re at the store browsing beverages, what makes you pick up one bottle over another?
  • Where can Seth find philanthropic investors to help kickstart his company?
  • If you’ve started a socially responsible business, what are some key lessons learned?
  • If you have specific knowledge about starting a beverage company, what advice would you share about production, distribution, and marketing?
  • What are some challenges Seth should keep in mind when creating an intentional community?
  • Do you have experience working in a worker cooperative, and can you share your ideas about how to make this business model work?
  • Are you interested in living in an intentional community?

Leave a comment below or send him a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!

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Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

 

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Why supporting kid entrepreneurs might solve the world's problems

School’s out for summer! But that doesn’t mean ideas are on break. Help the creative kid in your life dive headfirst into entrepreneurship.

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Caine built a sweet arcade and is inspiring kids to be entrepreneurs. How can you support them? (Photo credit: Caine's Arcade)

You probably already know the story of Caine’s Arcade thanks to this Internet film that I’m sure left tears of joy all over your keyboard.

If you didn’t see it, the story goes a little something like this: Caine is a nine-year-old boy who built a DIY cardboard arcade in his father’s used auto parts shop in Los Angeles. The games went unplayed until one day, a filmmaker named Nirvan happened to need a car door handle. He bought the first Fun Pass. Then made a film.

Fast forward a few months later and Nirvan’s film has garnered Caine thousands of fans from around the world, inspired countless kids to make arcades of their own, generated a theme song, and get this, raised $500,000 for Caine’s college scholarship fund.

But not every little kid is as lucky as Caine.

Caine’s Arcade has made me more aware of the fact that there are budding entrepreneurs running around us everywhere — even though we might think they’re just listening to Justin Bieber and making awkward jokes.

So how we can help them bring their ideas to life? Besides heaps of encouragement, patience, and knowledge, here are some ways to get that creative kid in your life some dough to play with:

  • Caine’s Arcade Imagination Foundation: With help from the Goldhirsh Foundation, the newly founded foundation’s goal is to “find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in young kids.”
  • YesKidzCan: Their Social KidPreneurz Program gives kids in grades 3-8 the opportunity to receive $100 to start their own business, with proceeds going to a cause of their choice.
  • Ashoka Youth Ventures: Once limited to the U.S. but now expanding internationally, this nonprofit “inspires and invests in teams of young people to design and launch their own lasting social ventures.”

It’s not just money that’s needed; we also need a shift in thinking. “If we can get kids to embrace the idea of being entrepreneurial at a young age, we can change everything in the world that’s a problem today,” says Cameron Herold in a TED talk about raising kids to be entrepreneurs.

He’s got a point: they might just be the ones with the brilliant ideas to help the needy or save animals from extinction.

So think about the Caines in your life. Are you game to help him or her succeed?

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For fun: Check out 10 Things 80s Kids TV Taught Me About Being a Social Entrepreneur on Pinterest.

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Idea File: Creative marketing? Think inside the (pizza) box.

Today’s idea sharing model

As a native New Yorker, loving pizza is part of my cultural DNA. Besides the delicious combination of cheese, sauce, and bread, it’s the only food that makes me think about both Sunday family dinners and late night grease-fests with friends.

And now I can add idea sharing to that list thanks to Lonesome’s, a pizza place in my new home of Portland, OR. With every pie I order, I’m guaranteed to find on the inside cover a story about a local artist – plus their CD or DVD. While chomping on a slice recently, I read about a funk band that was in the process of opening up a music charter school in Portland.

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The names of their pies make me giggle. I recommend “My dad vs. your dad.” Photo credit: Heather Zinger (www.heatherzinger.com).

I’ve ordered from Lonesome’s before, but it was this bit about the charter school that made me think about using pizza boxes to  get the word out about nonprofit programs, raise awareness around a particular issue, and/or highlight good ideas.

This idea doesn’t have to be limited to pizza. If you own a business or know someone who does, think creatively about how you can use your products or services to get the word out about all the awesome community work going on. Letting people know about an innovative bartering schoolis a much nicer use of space than, say, promoting the latest flavor of Mountain Dew.

Pros

  • Novelty. Create buzz for both the project and the pizza place.
  • Cost effective. All you need is photocopies, glue, and someone to spend the time attaching materials.
  • Community engagement. Local businesses + local efforts = a win-win connection.
  • Universality. Who doesn’t like pizza? According to Food Industry News, 93% of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. Maybe that number will increase once there’s some local do-gooderness in the box.

Cons

  • Buy in. Nonprofits might think it’s too weird, and navigating the bureaucracy of big chains might be challenging. Local mom and pop restaurants are probably the best bet.
  • Adding to the marketing clutter. More paper that might end up in the recycling bin.
  • Disinterest. “Please, I just want to eat my pizza in peace.”

What do you think – might delivery boxes be another way to communicate with your community? What’s the most creative partnership you’ve seen a local business strike with a local organization?

Read more Idea File posts here.

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