Local company A-1 Builders is teaming up with other like-minded Bellingham businesses to increase community awareness and offer education about their progressive business models – and they’ll raise money for the Bellingham Food Bank while they do it.

Food For Thought

Aslan Brewing Company CEO and owner Jack Lamb looks forward to sharing the story of how and why his business became a B-Corporation. Photo courtesy: Aslan Brewing Company.

First, A-1 Builders joins Aslan Brewing Company, Community Food Co-op and Bellingham Bay Builders on November 14 for “Food For Thought,” a meet-and-greet at Aslan, where attendees can share a beer, a bite and some banter with a few of Bellingham’s most broad-minded business owners.

Bellingham Bay Builders and A-1 Builders are worker cooperatives, Community Food Co-op is a consumer cooperative and Aslan Brewing is a B-Corporation, meaning it is certified as meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

At the root of each approach is an opportunity to create a business that’s greater than any one individual – a durable, sustainable business that helps distribute the wealth of the company among all of its contributors.

Folks from these groups will mingle with interested entrepreneurs and discuss how their models benefit our local economy.

“The purpose is to bring some focus to alternative business models in this community, with companies that consider more than just their profit,” says Patrick Martin, general manager of A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio, which recently restructured as a worker cooperative.

Martin had heard Aslan CEO and owner Jack Lamb speak at a Sustainable Connections event, and the two got to chatting afterward.

A-1 Builders recently restructured as a worker-owned cooperative. Photo courtesy: A-1 Builders.

“When I found out A-1 Builders was becoming a worker-owned co-op, I was elated,” says Lamb. “Here was another local business making big moves in our community. Aslan Brewing Company operates with a lot of the same values as a co-op, so I was excited to collaborate.”

The two began brainstorming about Aslan making a beer for A-1 Builders to serve at a party announcing their new model. “And that morphed into us wanting to do a fundraiser for a local group doing good work,” says Martin, “as a way to demonstrate our intention and commitment to be involved in the community to a greater degree.”

Lamb offered to host an event at Aslan, which will raise money for the Bellingham Food Bank and also bring together like-minded business owners to share their stories and answer questions about alternative business models. As Martin and Lamb fleshed out their ideas for Food For Thought, they pulled in others to join them, including Bellingham Bay Builders and the Community Food Co-op.

Ross Grier is one of four owners at worker cooperative Bellingham Bay Builders, whose team will also be at the Aslan fundraiser.

“We’re celebrating A-1 becoming a worker cooperative,” says Grier, when asked why they got involved. “We love and support that. We also want to share facts about worker cooperatives and pique the interest of people, so they might consider restructuring their businesses.”

Grier also has big plans for his team to show up in memorable headgear.

“The hats are going to be funny,” he says, drily. “They’ll be exceptional. If nothing else, just come to see the hats.”

Ten percent of Aslan’s drink sales during the event, plus monetary and food donations accepted at the door, will benefit the Bellingham Food Bank.

Food For Thought is open to the public. Organizers encourage entrepreneurs and current business owners to come by and learn more about starting up or restructuring with an alternative business model.

Triple Bottom Line Seminar

The owners and key players at BBB attending The Thousand Thanks Sustainable Connections event. From back to front, left to right: Ross Grier, Dave Ghan, Jeff Mack, Justin Lonegan, Daniel Whitsell (front row) Dave Brogan and Leah Barta. Photo courtesy: Bellingham Bay Builders.

On November 30, these same groups will join Western Washington University’s IDEA Institute for a Triple Bottom Line seminar.

“The Triple Bottom Line practice – people, planet, profit – is more than just a progressive business structure,” explains Aslan’s Lamb. “It’s a lifestyle.”

Grier originally broached the idea of a panel.

“Ross has put a lot of effort into community education and wanted to create an opportunity for people to come together and ask questions, learn basics from those of us in different stages of this process and find some support for doing the same,” says A-1 Builders’ Martin.

“We’re working within the North American capitalist economy,” Grier says, “and trying to introduce some unconventional business models.”

Both of these upcoming events will highlight the similarities and differences between various sustainable business concepts that exist in our very own community. “We want to educate entrepreneurs and community members alike on what it takes to build a business like ours, how we can all contribute as a community and have fun while we do it,” says Lamb. “I look forward to sharing our story.”

Partnering on this event was an easy decision for Community Food Co-op, who initially was happy to simply join with the others to raise funds for the food bank.

“Now we also get to shine a spotlight on businesses operating with co-operative and B-Corp business structures that are innovating how businesses commit to the health of their communities,” says Adrienne Renz, Community Food Co-op outreach manager. “It is not a talking point, but a business structure for the benefit of the community.”

Martin closes our talk by musing on how he and Lamb’s early conversation organically developed into a plan for these two community events.

“As you collaborate with others, your ideas grow in different ways – and I’m happy for that,” Martin says, “because there’s a movement in this community, and certainly nationally, for structure and support and legislation for there to be alternative models for the modern corporation.”

He sees an opportunity for these ideas to bear fruit in this community.

“I like that idea. An opportunity to think about it, look at it and meet real people that are doing good things and trying hard. It’s inspiring and it’s nice to be involved in having that happen in the future.”

Attendance at the Triple Bottom Line seminar is also free. Food and beer will be provided by the Community Food Co-op and Aslan Brewing.

Food For Thought: Business Meet & Greet
November 14 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Aslan Brewing Company
1330 North Forest Street in Bellingham

Triple Bottom Line Seminar
November 30 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Healthy Connections Building
405 East Holly Street in Bellingham

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