Our story of raising money, learning (a lot), and realizing we need to do more.
By JOEL IVERSON
In September of 2016, we broke the news about the Garage, our new barrel-aging and sour facility based in Atlanta’s historic West End neighborhood. I was excited for our story and vision to be shared, but was nervous. Would we be viewed as opportunists trying to gentrify the neighborhood, or a bunch of vultures looking to capitalize on a soft real estate market? In other words, could a brewery led by three middle-aged white guys do something good for a predominantly black neighborhood located in an economic opportunity zone? More than just generating more tax revenue and a few more jobs – could we create a neighborhood gathering spot that supports and strengthens the area?
When the story about our plans for the Garage broke, most media outlets focused on the real estate/development aspect of the project. But we always wanted to bring the conversation back to our purpose statement:
Monday Night Brewing exists to deepen human relationships over some of the best beer in the country.
As we wrestled with this question, we came up with an idea. Since we didn’t have the cash flow to donate money to support all of the great local causes in the area, we decided to give what we could – our time and space.
We decided to give away free events (fully staffed and with free beer) to nonprofits with a focus towards under served parts of our city. Our goal? Helping these organizations raise $100,000 in the first 100 days of the Garage’s existence. It seemed like a daunting task. After all, us three owners (myself, Jonathan Baker and Jeff Heck) had just closed on financing the build-out – which forced us to take on more debt and put our personal homes up as collateral. We also knew we were going to be scraping by to get open on time and on budget. Giving away events for free did not sound like a sound business decision at the time, but it made sense in the context of our purpose as a business.
A few weeks later at our official groundbreaking with then-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, I saw the West End come out in force. What I saw that day was an engaged, dedicated, and passionate group of people ready to see the rest of Atlanta start to notice the beauty and potential that already existed in their corner of the city. I had the privilege of introducing the mayor and announcing our 100K in 100 Days project. Not long after, we were overwhelmed with applications from more than 300 nonprofit groups from across the city. Each organization shared their unique work, how they would use the space, and why they thought we could help. It was so energizing to hear the passion and work that was already happening. In the end, we had the nearly impossible task of narrowing down the list to just over 30 organizations.
We had the privilege of watching each one of them bring their passion to our space, and seeing our space (and beer) help them raise not just funds, but also awareness to their mission.
In the end, we not only hit our goal, we crushed it. Over the course of a little more than 80 days, Monday Night Garage helped raise more than $286,000.
For me, this project served as a chance to keep challenging how we give back as company. We may never have the deep pockets to cut big checks, but we are committed to using our unique resources to help others.
We also learned that our community needs so much. 100k in 100 Days helped had groups focused on education, affordable healthcare, biking, therapeutic art, homelessness, affordable housing, and more. Yet these only scratch the service of how much is going on and how much more is needed.
While it was beautiful to see people from all over our city show up to the Garage and be wowed by the brewery and the neighborhood in which it resides, , it was also a reminder of our our city is still fractured.
As we think about our business, we always need to be mindful of our role in the community. How can we foster community in our backyard, and what’s our role in bringing together all of the communities in our city? I’m excited about the money we helped raise. But we need to do more. All of us do.
In the upcoming weeks, we will be posting blogs about each nonprofit that participated in 100k in 100 Days. I invite you to read their stories, and get involved. In the meantime, Monday Night Brewing and the Garage will continue its mission to deepen human relationships in the West End, the state of Georgia…and the whole nation…over some of the best craft beer in the world.
Joel Iverson is Chief Operating Officer and one of the co-founders of Monday Night Brewing.