Interview with Ryan Saari, founder of the first “philanthropub”
Welcome to Portland’s The Oregon Public House, the first Philanthropub where the client can help making the world a better place – as the owners say – one pint at the time. We conducted an interview with the founder Ryan Saari to find out more about such a ground-breaking way to help others while having a great time.
How did you come with the idea of opening the first “philanthropub” ever?
Really it came about as a dream to start a nonprofit. Not a pub. The pub idea just came as an answer to a question: “What does the community need?” There were lots of things we thought we could do, but we realized there were already dozens of nonprofits across the city trying to meet the needs of the community. But they were struggling. Finances are always the most important, and simultaneously least important departments of any nonprofit. Their challenge is to accomplish the mission of the non-profit organization, but they are often hindered by the task of raising funds simply to keep going. This is where the idea of the business came in. Why not starting a business that could raise funds and awareness for these organizations, simply by running a successful business? Allowing the nonprofits to focus on their mission, and we can focus on the fundraising. This is where the idea germinated. The Pub idea came about because…Portland. Portland, Oregon is “Beervana”. We have more breweries than any other city in the world. For us, it was simply connecting the dots.
Can you tell us about the specifics about this groundbreaking model of charitable business?
Quite frankly, there’s no real secret. It’s simply a Pub that operates in every way a normal Pub does. The only difference is where the bottom line goes. After that, our model takes a slightly different angle. We try and partner with our nonprofits in every way we can. They come in and volunteer, serving customers, cleaning, all the while advocating for their organization. We love to have neighbors and friends in volunteering as well. Almost every day, you’ll find a volunteer in there serving alongside our staff, doing their part to support this business, and ultimately, our charities. That is definitely one of the unique components to our model.
For how long have you been around?
We were founded in August of 2010. We immediately started working on opening the Pub, and finally did in May of 2013. Almost 3 years of work, all by volunteers, while incurring no debt. It was tough, but really fun.
Do you hire workers or do you always work with volunteers?
We have a hired staff of about 13. We realized early on that, if we wanted to be a successful business, that means a great product. People will come in for the vision, but they’ll come back because of their experience. We could only do this will a full time, trained staff. They’re amazing. They work their butts off in order to keep us profitable EVERY MONTH we’ve open. Remarkable.
There’s an option to be a founder of the Oregon Public House. Can you tell us about its levels and the amounts to become one?
Absolutely! Free Beer for life… Level 1 Founders ($2,500 donation) Receive ONE FREE BEER A DAY FOR LIFE Level 2 Founders ($1,500 donation) Receive ONE FREE BEER A WEEK FOR LIFE Level 3 Founders ($500 donation) Receive ONE FREE BEER A MONTH FOR LIFE Involvement at all levels get you a “Founder’s Card” – a personalized ID card, to be presented for your free beer. Also, you will have your personalized pint glass displayed on the “Wall of Founders” behind the Bar in the pub, which you may use at each visit.
How much money have you raised for charity so far?
To date, we have raised $60,224 for our charity partners. Pretty amazing for our little establishment. As we keep growing and getting better, that number will only increase.
How’s the Altruism Brewing development going?
When can we be able to taste it? Going great! Tanks are being installed and we’re hoping to be brewing by the fall.
You have had a lot of well-deserved press coverage, what is the best motto/slogan you have read regarding The Oregon Public House?
Ours is: Make your hangovers less shameful. Haha! I thought Stephen Colbert’s joke about us was pretty good. “Ohhhhhh….who did I feed and clothe last night?!?!?”