Whew! What a summer! It flew by in a blur. We only get about six weeks of real warmth here in Chicago so the goal is to make the most of it while we can. Here’s a few highlights:
While we waited for beers to ferment out, we focused on putting together a weeklong party at the Boombox. No, its not where Djs go to listen to loud music. Nor is it a new IGadget. It’s a upcycled repurposed shipping container designed by Latent Design – a local social impact architecture firm. Boombox offers retail start ups an opportunity to bring their products to market in a low-capital environment. Their tagline is ‘from start up to storefront’. In fact, many of the businesses that rent the Boombox have grown their businesses and increased their exposure. We believed that this access could connect us with the community we would serve, educate those not familiar with Craft Beer, sell merch, and of course, give the public a taste of the homebrewed prototypes that we had been working on and eventually sell in the taproom.
We also had a goal of ground-truthing the market studies we based much of business plan on. What we found was eye-opening on a number of levels. First, we learned that there are homebrewers in Englewood! While at the Boombox, we held the first homebrew club meet up that the neighborhood had seen. It just so happened that Steve had a line on some fresh Cascade hops that he grabbed and brought to the Boombox. We put the homebrewers to work picking hops for a brewing demonstration we would conduct later in the week. More on our SMaSH beer in another post.
Second, we learned that many people’s first experience with beer was not good. Most had tried some macro label given to them by Drunk Uncle and were immediately turned off. We made believers in craft out of most of them. Third, we learned that our marketing strategy needed to be tweaked and that the Englewood sub-market had a number of remarkable aspects that did not fit into a traditional marketing box. This topic will be saved for another post as well.
Every Wednesday during summer, our partners at Kennedy King College at 63rd and Halsted open their doors, turn up the music, and invite students to connect with vendors to further their options after college. We are partnering with Kennedy King to provide all of our employee safety and taproom training, create student designed ‘grab and go’ food options in the taproom, collaborate with students focused on hospitality and restaurant management, and identify internship opportunities in our lab for students in the hard sciences. This collaboration will extend the mission of the College to provide students with STEM careers and ability to apply their skillsets with practical experience in manufacturing beer and the agri-business industry. We were thrilled to participate in this event to learn more about student needs and how our business could fulfill their goals.
I Grow Chicago is a nonprofit organization in West Englewood who’s programming is ‘to ignite collective hope and healing through connection, belonging, and opportunity. Using our core pillars of yoga and mindfulness, urban farming, creative expression, community building, and skill building, we empower individuals and communities as a whole.’ In our mission to contribute to changing the narrative of Englewood to one of positive action and empowerment, we participated in I Grow’s annual block party, Peace Fest. It was an awesome opportunity to spread the love of homebrew, let the kids run around, and be a part of one of many positive peace making events in the community. We found many, many kindred spirits in the love of homebrew and shared this with visitors to the festival from all over the city. The Southside Homebrewers Association was represented and invited us to participate in their beer festival next summer. The support from the community was overwhelming. We’ll be brewing a batch of beer at I Grow this winter as it just so happens, the executive director and her husband are avid homebrewers.
In our outreach, we have found so many organizations and people working hard to make Englewood a better, more vibrant place for everyone. Our goal is to give a portion of our earnings to charities and organizations making a difference in the community. This year, we supported the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago in meeting their goal of opening a new center in Englewood. We contributed to their annual fundraising gala silent auction. We were also grateful to contribute to the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce fundraiser and support their efforts in building organizational capacity. We supported both Growing Home and I Grow Chicago through contributions to their fundraising events and auctions.
One Year Anniversary of Whole Foods Englewood
We attended the one year anniversary of the Englewood Whole Foods, located directly across the street from our future home on 63rd Street. This commemorative event culminated in the developer, Leon Walker, dedicating a new painting by the internationally-renowned southside visual artist, artist Samuel Akainyah. The event was well-attended by community representatives and the City of Chicago who gathered to celebrate the accomplishment.
This summer, once again, reinforced our commitment to being an active and engaged business in the community. Sharing in the celebration of Englewood’s accomplishments and being a part of its revitalization has focused our effort and makes us work even harder towards reaching our goals.