Chicago has always had a long-term vision for the value that a business can create. Compared to more recent trends that favor fast-scaling, far-reaching, and quick-flipping start-up companies, Chicago’s businesses more often favor stability, real transactions, and tangible value. It’s that kind of perspective that sits at the heart of a new endeavor by 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and Heritage Bicycles, called The Union Project.
Sometimes two businesses fall in love. What starts as a fascination with each other’s process, vision, or products, turns into an ongoing relationship where the businesses can learn from one another and share common goals. The space between these two businesses becomes full of possibility and opportunity.
Last week, 5 Rabbit founder Andres Araya, and Heritage founder Michael Salvatore, decided to find out what that opportunity looked like. Of course, the first thing they did was make a beer, a Vienna style lager, to kick things off. But what comes next is what will truly defines the project.
The Union Project will evolve into a platform for small business owners to share their experiences as owners, makers, and visionaries, and help them explore the spaces in between their otherwise discrete businesses. The realization for the scope of Union Project came when Araya
realized how many small business, whether equipment manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and creatives it took to support a brewery. He saw the network of a local Midwestern economy first-hand:
"Right now, a craft brewery seems like an obvious thing — everyone wants to start one and the future is bright, but for a long time they didn’t exist at all in this country. You could look at the space between all these other types of businesses — builders, suppliers, and creatives - and only now does it take the shape of a brewery for us. Going forward, we’re more excited about the invisible space that became a brewery than any of the constituent parts. We think there’s an opportunity to find out what else there is in those spaces between. And it might look very different when you invite other people to the table."
As a country we want to continue down the road of supporting small businesses, local economies, and craft in general, it’s going to take a lot more than an excited subculture to do it — it’ll require a new kind of infrastructure. And it all starts with knowledge sharing.
“Whenever I meet people in Chicago — smart, creative people — at events and gatherings for craft beer, I’m overwhelmed with how much opportunity there is to do more. But I easily get wrapped up within my own four walls of the brewery, or even my own isolated industry, and don’t take advantage of the connections and knowledge available from unexpected sources. Mike and I want to change that,” explains Araya. “Mike from Heritage is the perfect partner for
this not only because we have been friends for a long time, but he’s creative, ambitious, successful, and looks beyond his own business for inspiration all the time."
In the coming months, Araya and Salvatore will be inviting small business leaders and independent entrepreneurs to a series of intimate gatherings to explore areas of interest. But for now, they want Chicago to see “The Union Project” in a tangible way — through the beer itself.
“We made a beer for obvious reasons — it can get out into the world, turn some heads, and get the conversation started. And of course, nothing brings great minds together quite like a good beer.”
5 Rabbit Cerveceria is in Bedford, Park, Illinois.
5 Rabbit has set out to celebrate the rich tapestry of Latin American culture and historical cuisine through latin-inspired beers with a 21st century point of view.
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