Clinic Stories: Democracy Brewing

Clinic Stories: Democracy Brewing


[MUSIC PLAYING] JAMES RAZSA: So Democracy
Brewing, we get the name because we’re a worker-owned
company and democratically governed. We really wanted to
recreate the public house. And for us, that meant
going back once upon a time. There was a third place
that wasn’t the church and wasn’t your home. It was the place where
the entire community would come together. They’d come together to drink
beer and eat food and listen to music. But even more than that, it
was to pass the hat for people in the community who
might be in need, and also talk about what was
going on in the community and what needed to
be done about it. JOE HEDAL: The first time I
walked into the brewery here, I was like, wow, these
guys really pulled it off and really did it. Because it’s an incredible
space they’ve created. I know it was a difficult
journey for them, having seen them go through it. So from my standpoint,
it’s just really gratifying having known what
they went through, and also seeing the work
that students did to help make that become a reality. HILLARY BAKER-JENNINGS: To
be able to actually walk into somewhere and
see what was achieved is really, really exciting. JOE HEDAL: Harvard
Transactional Law Clinics is a clinical program within
Harvard Law School in which second and third-year
law students provide transactional legal
services to live clients while they’re in law school. HILLARY BAKER-JENNINGS:
We, for the most part, represent companies
and help them navigate the legal and regulatory process
of establishing themselves as a business. We’re there to sort of be
experts in the corporate law for these entities. JOE HEDAL: Part of TLC’s
mission is to provide assistance to businesses in the
community that are supporting community economic development. And that was very
consistent with what these guys were doing as well. JAMES RAZSA: So my background’s
community and labor organizing. And I ended up getting
really, really burnt out on fighting problems
and really wanted to be more solution-focused. And what I had seen that
worked best in the past was worker ownership
and actually having leadership that
has to answer to the folks that they lead. JASON TAGGART: The workers
can become the actual owners and take care of the business
and learn all aspects of it. We all utilize each other’s
skill sets to accomplish tasks. Some of the challenges that we
did face at the very beginning was monetary. Just we didn’t have
a lot of resources. JAMES RAZSA: Yeah, most people
who start a business use their friends’ and
families’ money. And me and Jason’s
friends and family don’t have a lot of money. And so a big part of a
year was just us basically pitching to the community,
having tastings, talking to folks about
what we wanted to do, and slowly building up. HILLARY BAKER-JENNINGS:
One of the ways that companies tend to raise
money a lot of the time is by selling ownership
interest in the company. Because they were so dedicated
to being worker-owned, they weren’t able to go out and,
say, sell equity to investors. JAMES RAZSA: The
direct public offering that Harvard was able to do for
us really allowed us to collect a lot of money from people
in the greater Boston area, which then really
created a massive cheerleading squad for us. JASON TAGGART: A lot of
our initial investors are our customers on
a very regular basis. JOE HEDAL: This
project was challenging and a stretch for our clinics. Because we certainly
had not taken on a project such as a
direct public offering. HILLARY BAKER-JENNINGS: We
couldn’t find many examples of it being done before. For me, it was my
first real example of translating
something that I’d learned very theoretically
in a law school class that I took to actually
doing it in practice. I’d taken a course
on securities, laws, and regulations. But then going into
this and actually getting my hands
into it and seeing how that works out in practice
was entirely different. JAMES RAZSA: So we just had
our one-year anniversary. We have 31 employees. And we now have
11 worker-owners. I think, at the
end of the day, we want to be a showcase for
democracy in the workplace. We really don’t
want to be preachy. But on the other
hand, we do want to have folks, once
they leave here, be like, that was the
best burger and beer I’ve had in a very
long time, and it’s pretty amazing that those
people who actually waited on me and actually made it are
all actually owners here. And that’s a real
interesting difference. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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