Later this summer, Matthew Hansen and his wife Sarah Hansen, a Knox College admissions counselor, will be opening a new craft brewery in Galesburg. The brewery, Knox County Brewing Company, will be located in the Sustainable Business Center on Main Street.
After moving to Knoxville from Austin, TX 18 months ago to take a sabbatical from the world of nonprofit startups, the couple hopes to bring the new craft brewing company to the community. Aware of the economic situation in Illinois, they began studying what the nonprofit world is doing and what they are prevented from doing due to the financial situation.
“Because we are entrepreneurs, we began to ask the question: what would a social economic community localized in a place like this through the nonprofit world look like?” Matthew said. “We came to the conclusion [to open a brewery] not so much by saying we want to be brewers. We came to the conclusion by asking what way can we forward the very thrust that has been a part of our lives since the beginning. In other words, how can we be major players in community economic and social development?”
According to Hansen, a certain percentage of the profits made from each beer will be given back to the community through local nonprofits in the area. Some of the nonprofits Hansen has in mind include the Court Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA) and Habitat for Humanity.
“It feels pretty good to know that if I can go buy a product from somebody else, I know that the money I’m paying isn’t just going to some CEO’s pocket [and] that it’s actually doing good work,” Hansen said. “We want to figure out how we can give back to the Knox County school system and even beyond that.”
While the exact percentage of the profits that will be donated is currently unknown, Hansen wants the brewery to be a resource to the community. In order to attain that, the couple is trying to start with as little overhead and debt as possible.
“The reason we wanted to start with lower debt, is not so much for a profit as much as it was for the ability to create jobs,” Hansen said. “We don’t have to pay ourselves back, we can begin to hire out.”
Because the company will be starting with as little debt as possible, they will be operating on a smaller system and renting a space of 3,400 square feet. Hansen said that this has posed some difficulties because the brewery will be using only American made products.
According to Facility Manager Cindy Teel, the Sustainable Business Center provides an opportunity for entrepreneurial businesses to gain footing in the community. Other businesses located in the center include Intellihot Green Technologies and Sitka Salmon Shares. A local restaurant, En Season, also used to be located in the center, but has since moved out. The Knox County Brewing Company will be moving into En Season’s previous location.
Hansen said they chose the Sustainable Business Center because they enjoyed the entrepreneurial vision of the building.
“What we liked about [Teel, the owner of the building] is that her values lined up with our values,” Hansen said. “She is for sustainability and profit seems to come last for her. The three P’s of sustainability she says [are] planet, people, and profit – profit being last.”
While Hansen said they have not run into many challenges in getting the brewery started, there are some concerns with opening the brewery in the Sustainable Business Center, which is located further away from Galesburg’s downtown area. However, he remains positive about the future of the brewery and hopes the location will not have a negative impact on business.
“Nationally, breweries, wineries and distilleries seem to be unaffected by what seem to be normally ill placement of business,” Hansen said. “We’re kind of riding on that.”