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Triple Bottom Brewing Company: A Craft Brewery With a Social Mission

When Tess Hart (SOM/FES’17) and Bill Popwell (SOM’16) came to Yale SOM, the idea of starting their own company was just a dream. During their first year, dreams turned into plans, and plans turned to action. Triple Bottom Brewing Company was created to be much more than a craft brewery: it was created as a social enterprise with the goal of providing good jobs for people who needed a second chance. This idea emerged and intermingled with key takeaways from accounting and financial modeling, shaping what is now Triple Bottom Brewing Company.

In Professor Sharon Oster’s Nonprofit Management course, students are given the opportunity to work in a team to develop an idea for a new nonprofit or social enterprise. Tess took the opportunity to test her classmates’ response to Triple Bottom Brewing Company. She was assigned to a team, who enthusiastically dove into developing a market analysis and rough business plan. After pitching the idea to the class, the positive feedback made Tess and Bill realize that this project had legs.

“The commitment and excitement of my team in Professor Oster’s class really energized and inspired me to pursue this idea further. It was just the first example of how SOM has helped propel Triple Bottom to the place we are today. This community continues to provide strategic guidance and support in a truly incredible way.”

Tess and Bill enrolled in the Startup Founders Practicum to learn how to develop a business model and connect with a passionate group of entrepreneurs all grappling with similar questions. The environment of acceptance and support through all of the ups and downs on the winding startup road of unknowns made facing each setback easier and breakthroughs that much more rewarding. With consistent pitch assignments and weekly meetings with mentors, the startup continually developed throughout the academic year.

Now, after almost a year of work, Triple Bottom Brewing Company is on its way to opening its first location in Philadelphia. In partnership with local nonprofits, the company will create secure jobs for people who face barriers to employment, so they can develop the skills and confidence they need to build stable and meaningful careers. The team has since expanded, with the addition of a talented head brewer, and is working closely with community members to design a space where everyone feels welcome.

“We are motivated by a social mission, but we also know that giving back to our community is good business,” says Tess. “Our core customer base is made up of millennials, who care about whether the businesses they support have a positive impact. Our social mission, combined with our delicious product, is already creating customer loyalty.” Just over a week into their crowdfunding campaign, Triple Bottom Brewing Company has raised nearly 90% of its goal.

“When we take a moment to step back and appreciate the progress Triple Bottom Brewing Company has made, it’s really powerful to see all the people who have made that progress with us. We can’t wait to open our doors for all of you!”