Why a Well-Known Brewpub Changed from Being a Nonprofit to Oregon Benefit Company
When you add delicious craft beer and social impact together, you get one purpose-driven brewpub.
I’m talking about Ex Novo which was founded by Joel Gregory. He happens to be a busy beer professional right now as he prepares to open a new pub in Beaverton, Oregon and one in development in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
We interviewed him recently about becoming an Oregon Benefit Company after starting out as a nonprofit. Here’s what he had to say about the why for doing it, the power of the model and the biggest reason for becoming a practitioner of the Triple Bottom Line.
1. What motivated you to become a Benefit Company or B-Corps?
We were a nonprofit prior to becoming an Oregon Benefit Company. We’ve always believed in driving community development. The Benefit Company designation helped us to continue our focus on the “people” side of the Triple P Bottom Line as we donate to charities with humanitarian interests.
2. Was it difficult getting internal support for moving toward this model?
Because we were transitioning from a nonprofit to a Benefit Company, I needed to get the support of our Board of Directors. We wanted to expand and broaden our mission. The Board knew it was the right approach as the Benefit Company structure gave us more options for financing the expansion.
3. How long did it take you to officially become a Benefit Company or B-Corps?
It took us 6 months to dissolve and become a Benefit Company.
4. Have you seen any change in culture since you became a Benefit Company or B-Corps?
We had a strong company culture with employees who believed in our mission as a nonprofit, and we were able to continue that same culture as a Benefit Company. At our initial meeting for employees announcing the change, we were able to clearly define our long-term mission. We got questions about what the Benefit Company really stands for. In our eyes, it’s long-term accountability. Social impact is very important to our employees.
5. Have you experienced any positive outcomes since becoming a Benefit Company or B-Corps?
Our mission hasn’t really changed since we became a Benefit Company, but it makes our operations better and gave us the ability to secure loans easier and raise capital for expansion. We now directly give time and money to four nonprofits in our community. We reevaluate our partnerships after we have reached our financial commitment, and ensure our partnerships have the kind of impact aligned with our company values.
6. Would you recommend this business model to others. Why or why not?
Yes, I would recommend this model to others. We are very pro about committing to do good things in our community. Sure, we are giving up a few things to help impact our community but it’s extremely meaningful to all of us at Ex Novo.
7. What is the most important trait to have as a conscientious leader of a Benefit Company or B-Corps?
The single most important trait for a leader who wants to become a Benefit Company is to have the ability to communicate effectively. By that, I mean evoking passion not just in the beginning but year-after-year. I suggest that if you truly believe in your mission, communicating that way comes quite naturally.
8. What lessons have you learned in the process?
Biggest lesson I've learned is that when you love what you do, and strive to benefit others, you reap all kinds of rewards. Your employees know you’re in it with them and you all share a common purpose. Servant leadership is critical. I care deeply about what we do…the satisfaction of our employees, the quality of our product.
9. Is being a Benefit Company or B-Corps part of your current Brand message?
Yes, being a Benefit Company is part of our brand message. But I must be honest and say we need to do better there. We need to talk more about our achievements as they relate to the Triple P Bottom Line and our community.
10. What is the single best reason you'd give for another company/peer to become a Benefit Company?
Best reason I'd tell a business friend or colleague to become a Benefit Company is do it for your community. Do it for motivation. Commit to doing it for the long-term and you’ll reap both business and personal rewards.