Meet The Three Amazing Women Who Use Their Colorado Brewery To Make The World A Better Place
Here at Bustle, we believe that in order to truly live your best life, you have to begin by learning about — and learning from — the women who paved the way. That's why we teamed up with Lexus to highlight some incredible women who are pioneering their industries, their careers, and most importantly, their communities.
Their story is familiar to anyone who has worked in the nonprofit sector: After a long day of a hard work, three coworkers went to a local bar in Denver, Colorado to unwind over a few beers. On this day, the work had been particularly tough, and not even directly related to the social justice causes they worked to support; they had spent most of the day just trying to secure more funding.
Over drinks that evening, Kate Power, Betsy Lay, and Jen Cuesta joked about how they wished their passion for local beer could help to support the community causes they care about. What started as joke grew to become a perennial topic of discussion among the group, turning their tipsy musings into a serious business proposition: Could they harness the power of the local beer scene to create a social enterprise? After all, Denver was in the middle of a beer renaissance, with microbreweries and taprooms opening all the time.
The answer, it turns out, was yes, and Lady Justice Brewing was born.
As the only native Coloradan of the group, Cuesta had long felt a pull toward servicing her home community:
"I was exposed to the inexcusably unjust situation faced by low-income kids in Denver and this made me decide that I needed to become a stronger advocate." So she went to law school, and years later, went on to meet Power and Lay.
Here’s the story as they tell it:
“Before we began Lady Justice Brewing, the idea seemed very straight forward: make beer, sell it, and donate all the profits to organizations in the community.” But just like their joke-turned-business proposal, their original idea quickly evolved. While opening the brewery, the co-founders discovered that instead of just donating their profits to advocacy organizations, they could actively partner with them to highlight the work they do.
When asked about why they chose to start a brewery and not another type of business, they revealed that the community base was their biggest inspiration:
"We wanted to make our community work self-sustaining. And in Colorado, craft beer is so popular with a huge, close-knit, committed community around it. It is the perfect product to combine joy, connection and community."
Now, the business partners leverage their retail space to host events and fundraisers and use the brewery’s public profile to help highlight important issues. Causes that the brewery currently supports include civil liberties, women running for elected office, environmentalism, and fighting human trafficking.
“We have a space where organizations can gather and build awareness,” say the co-founders. “Beer donations go to events that support our mission. The people who support Lady J are not just people who drink our beer, they are also the most wonderful, compassionate, and engaged community. It’s not just donations, it’s people getting involved in issues and organizations, and working to make the world a better place.”
From the time of its founding, Lady Justice Brewing adopted the model of a community-supported brewery (CSB), in which Denver locals can purchase a membership to the brewery, and in exchange gain input into what the brewery makes as well as the causes it supports. This model allows for supporters of the brewery to become much more than customers and patrons: they come to feel a sense of ownership and community.
According to the founders, “The CSB membership has been so well received because [members] get great beer, but it also makes them feel like they are a part of this social experiment — this idea that a business’s sole mission can be to have a positive impact on their community.”
Their work, as they see it, has implications beyond the local brewery they manage. In fact, co-founder Jen Cuesta views it as having an impact on the beer industry as a whole.
“I think being a pioneer means putting yourself out there and being an active part of making the beer industry more inclusive,” she says. “Showing everyone, especially those that are underrepresented, that there is space for them in this industry. As a Mexican-American woman, I find that especially important.”
At first, Kate Power is modest about the being called a “pioneer."
“I’ve not really thought about our work as pioneering, though having a brewery where the team is exclusively women is not the norm. So maybe that in itself is what it means to me to ‘pioneer’ in a sense. I love that we might be helping shift the norm.”
Betsy Lay agrees. “[Being a pioneer] means being willing to push the boundaries of what’s possible. It means fighting social norms and expectations, while also making a great product you can be proud of. It’s about paving the way for inclusivity and shifting the norm.”
As collaborators, these beer industry powerhouses found the team approach to be essential to their success and would advise aspiring entrepreneurs to team up as well.
“The first and best piece of advice that we could give is don’t try to do your dreams alone. One of the reasons Lady Justice Brewery was able to launch was because we had each other to share energy, ideas, resources, and support. It’s an amazing thing to build a business with people you love and respect.”
What keeps the women united as partners is their shared sense of mission.
“We all understand that we are business owners for the sole purpose of being social justice advocates. I think this does take a re-imagining of a business and how a business relates to its community, but for the three of us, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We all came from a social justice background, have continued that commitment in our full-time professional lives, and have developed Lady Justice Brewing to be the ultimate ideal of how we can make this our lives. Beer and community are the perfect cohesive match for us as a group.”
This post is sponsored by the first-ever Lexus UX.