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When Brian Smith set out to start Persephone, he knew it was going to be a social enterprise. But it’s astounding at just how much impact it’s been able to make. From community to environmental footprint, Persephone is one of very few breweries that actually farms its own ingredients and is also a B Corporation.
I was absolutely thrilled to be able to interview Brian, and of his many experiences, nonprofits, and for profits, we got to dive into what community involvement really means. We talk about Brian’s tense introduction into activism, the earlier mistakes, and the successful partnerships and community that they’ve been able to build with their farm.
About Brian Smith
Brian Smith founded Persephone Brewing, in Gibsons, BC in 2012, but prior to that has been a sessional instructor at SFU, Executive Director of Community Futures Sunshine Coast, a sustainability consultant, and worked for PLAN. Most recently he’s a founding partner and CEO of Rhiza Capital and is leading the way for impact investors to make change happen with capital.
Find Brian on LinkedIn
Find Persephone on their website: http://www.persephonebrewing.com/
Find Persephone on Instagram: @persephonebrewing
Find Rhiza Capital on their website: https://www.rhizacapital.com/
Everything We Talked About In This Episode
[03:24] Brian started looking at social impact in university, seeing the shortcomings from the current status, activism started, solving problems by starting fights
[04:10] Trying to solve problems by starting fights, rally’s, debates
[05:04] There’s great value in the whole spectrum of activism from direct and power based dynamics in activism over to
[06:05] Brian went to work for PLAN, Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network, which changed his perception of activism from collaboration
[06:25] Al Etmanski – Author, founder of PLAN
[07:41] Brian’s upbringing got him into entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship came from education
[09:30] Some of the earlier mistakes Brian made previously that made Persephone successful later
[11:03] Why politicians are not always your allies in social change
[11:25] Quote: Politicians who say they are most aligned with you, in my experience, have been the least valuable.
[13:44] What was that first year like of Persephone, starting as a homebrewer, no professional background
[15:03] How local farming fits into making beer and building community
[18:31] SCACL – Sunshine Coast Association for Community Living bought shares in Persephone
[20:20] How Persephone has become a hub, and gathering place
[21:40] Quote: “People with disabilities are feeding our community and we’re starting to flip the assumption that people with disabilities are net deficits to our society, they take more out of it than they contribute. Not on our farm.”
[22:14] Why having a high profile in community can be a double edged sword, waste water issues, smells, and more
[26:24] Story of eviction threats because agricultural land permissions did not cover breweries
[28:34] Very little marketing went into Persephone, it grew organically, and the stories in news drove it’s exposure
[31:07] Reference to Vancouver Folk Fest that they sponsored
[31:22] Is there a pattern of impact businesses doing less marketing because the story of what they do is so powerful?
[33:49] What is B Corporation certification for businesses, and what Persephone’s score of 122 means
[35:44] Reference to New Belgium Brewing as another leading B Corp
[36:48] Reference to 500 B Corporations signed on to get ot net zero by 2030
[37:40] How does persephone measure impact, particular community impact
[40:05] Where do you suggest businesses look to start having a bigger community impact
[43:25] For some, community involvement is very integrated and common sense, whereas environmental change might take more active innovation
[45:38] Climate change and environmental issues is definitely next for Persephone
[46:11] Reference to list of environmental projects from Project Drawdown
[47:44] Reference to Rhiza Capital, Brian’s impact investing firm