Two stories I heard this past week were connected in that they both concern rethinking profits.
Founder Ryan Saari says that “I was having a beer, I was drinking, sitting in the backyard with my buddy and I thought, ‘What about a pub?’ ‘Cause there’s nothing more Portland than nonprofits and breweries.”
Portland has more than 60 breweries and is America’s craft brewing capital. It also has nearly 7,000 non profits. At the pub, a new batch of charities goes on the menu every six months. Buy a beer, add some food and pick your charity. The pub covers its costs and has donated more than $100,000 to dozens of causes the past 3 years. It might be a school, an urban farms, or groups that work with homeless teens or cancer survivors.
On their website, the pub explains its of “a family-friendly pub environment where our neighbors from the surrounding area can come to enjoy community around good food and craft beer while supporting great causes. To integrate this vision of pub with benevolent outreach, we have established relationships with a number of non-profit organizations to which our pub donates all profits after operating expenses and contingency savings.”
The pub is a business model that is the first of its kind. Besides the donations, the community learns more about these non-profit organizations and can become involved in them too. Volunteers from the selected non-profits donate time as wait staff and can talk with customers about who they are and what they do.
You probably have heard that saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but not many of us take it to action.
The other story I heard was a podcast interview with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Patagonia, which sells high quality and high-priced clothing and gear, is not a non-profit, but its founder has different ideas about profit.
Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia in 1973 almost accidentally. He started making his own climbing gear and selling it to fellow climbers. He just wanted to make gear he couldn’t find elsewhere.
From the start, he was concerned with making the best possible products. He says he found a design principle in the writing of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the French author and aviator. In Wind, Sand and Stars, Exupéry wrote “Have you ever thought, not only about the airplane but whatever man builds, that all of man’s industrial efforts, all his computations and calculations, all the nights spent working over draughts and blueprints, invariably culminate in the production of a thing whose sole and guiding principle is the ultimate principle of simplicity?”
Chouinard has written a number of books about his business philosophy . Patagonia, named by Fortune in 2007 as the coolest company on the planet, is known not only for quality products, but also for its environmental, business and social practices.
He also helped found 1% for the Planet, a global network of businesses, nonprofits and individuals working together for a healthy planet and more than $150 million dollars has been given back to the environment.
But another philosophy of Chouinard’s might be best summed up in the full-page ad he once took out in The New York Times that said: “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” He says he has always had some guilt about making things that are “consumed.”
About his clothing, “I have a sense that it’s my responsibility to help people wear them as long as possible,” said Chouinard. “You hear ‘reuse, recycle,’ stuff like that. You also have to consider refuse. Refuse to buy something. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.”
It hurts his profits, but the Patagonia model is to get people to hang on to their clothing, repair it and when it is worn beyond repair, recycle the fabric for other uses. Patagonia even launched the Worn Wear Wagon, which is a mobile garment repair shop traveling the country and mending clothing from the brand, which already provides a lifetime guarantee.
Chouinard himself says he wears his own Patagonia clothing for years. This philosophy is also environmentally sound. They use organic cotton which costs more than non-organic cotton, but is environmentally sound. Patagonia plans to sell used gear in stores, along with new gear.
Ryan Saari, Director of the Oregon Public House, talks about his non-profit model.
Listen to Chouinard talk about all this on the How I Built This podcast.