Potosi Brewing Co., located in Beer’s Hometown, is giving all profits to charity. And they are making really good beer, too.

Students of business, for many years, have been taught two fundamental rules on leading a successful business.

  • The first, the purpose of business is to deliver profit to shareholders
  • The second, that businesses are to be treated as people.

These two rules are enough to push away many would-be owners who desire to give back to their community.

Potosi Brewing Co., located in Beer’s Hometown, is one business that is doing their thing differently — giving all profits to charity. By operating in this capacity they are reshaping the purpose of business.

“All Profits To Charity” – The Potosi Brewing Co. Brand Statement

In January of 2001 the Potosi Brewery building was donated by its owners to the Potosi Foundation. Following an exhaustive restoration process, the Foundation reopened the brewery in 2008.

As sole owner of The Potosi Brewing Company, The Potosi Foundation’s mission “is to spur economic opportunity in and around Potosi, brew only the finest craft beer and to channel profits to support educational initiatives and other charitable causes.”

Recently, I was able to spend time with Dave Fritz, President of the Potosi Foundation, and learn about how craft beer is creating sustainability for the future, educating folks about the past, and raising up community initiatives.

Going Back in Time

Potosi, Wisconsin, sits in the driftless area of the United States. According to Wikipedia:

“The Driftless Area or Paleozoic Plateau is a region in the American Midwest noted mainly for its deeply carved river valleys. The region’s peculiar terrain is the result of its having escaped glaciation in the last glacial period.”

Potosi wasn’t always a small town. Prior to World War 2, Potosi was more densely populated because of large scale mines, agriculture and its proximity to the Mississippi River.

Dave Fritz, the Potosi Foundation President, has been building companies in Wisconsin for decades. He is keen to the rules of business, corporate leadership and “the way it should be”. Yet, his approach to giving back is as unique (and practical) as Potosi.

“If we want to raise money, we know how to do that. We pick up the phone and ask people for money. But what if we could create a brand that people like, a product that they enjoyed all the time? What if those products created profit long after we were in business?” – Dave Fritz

Preserving History and creating sustainability by working closely with State Officials

Brewing the latest Imperial IPA or Amber Ale is only one way Potosi Brewing is driving demand and shipping their Craft. In 2004, Potosi, WI was selected over beer giants St Louis, MO, and Milwaukee,WI as the host city to house the National Brewery Museum.

The Potosi Foundation manages and operates the museum in conjunction with the American Breweriana association and provides accommodations for thousands of visitors every year.

Potosi Brewery, because it sits on the Great River Road, is also home to the Potosi Brewing Co. Transportation museum. The Interpretive Center tells the story about how an industry on the Great River Road used the road, Mississippi River and rail to bring raw materials in and take finished goods to market. Potosi was the only brewery in the US which owned its own steam ship.

And even for a small town like Potosi, the Foundation was able to work with key State Government officials, private foundations and over 400 individual donors as part of their funding and sustainability strategy. The Potosi Foundation secured grant dollars and donations to improve the infrastructure and maintain the Museums. For those who believe that only big city influence is required to create lasting relationships with government officials please note Potosi’s population: 688.

Reinventing Small Town Economies Through Beer and Tourism

Potosi, for many years has been home to the Catfish Festival. Since launching the Brewing facility and Pub House in 2008, the Catfish Festival has grown significantly.

Potosi, since opening, is also employing dozens of people in their quaint town. From the brewing staff, to Brew Pub servers, Potosi Brewing is setting a new standard. When craft beer enters small town America people notice and come to taste what’s new.

“If you believe passionately in a cause, other people will give, of course. But with Potosi, many will simply give because they like beer. Both work.” – Dave Fritz

Operating a Business as a Nonprofit

Operating a business, as a nonprofit, will always be challenging. “Missions statements” and “shareholder value” often clash. But for the Potosi Foundation, the sole owner of the Potosi Brewing Co., it’s been eight years and the business continues on. The board meets regularly and makes decisions on everything from the labelling of the bottles to the equipment and staffing.

When the board needs to make a decision, they make it with sustainability, profitability, and generosity in mind, not only shareholder value. This dynamic allows Potosi to sustain itself, even in a very capital-intensive business like beer making.

Nourishment can come in many forms.

Mr. Blue Eyes, Paul Newman, founder of Newman’s Foundation, may have been the first to say, “Let’s give it all away.” And Potosi, in the same spirit, is using craft beer to impact their community for decades to come. As our economy continues to change rapidly, especially in small towns across our country, business leaders may be wise to consider once more, “what is the purpose of business?”

From Potosi Brewing I discovered three Takeaway tips as you consider how to do good, better.

  • Consider community goals beyond shareholder value. What does your business mean to you? And to your community?
  • Sharing a positive story with big vision, regardless of your town or business size can get attention by State government officials.
  • Giving is a long term and short term business strategy. Consider both when determining how to impact your community.

Jason Knill

Jason is Head of Finance at WordImpress. He likes to fish, golf, run and occasionally writes.

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