Martin Barrett on Sozo Friends & For-Profit Charities
Date: June 26th, 2016

It is common for most people to attribute “non-profit status” to a faith-based organization that is dedicated to charitable giving.  But can such an endeavor be run as a for-profit enterprise?  This week we visit with Martin Barrett, co-founder of Sozo Friends, a small wine-bottling business that seeks to “facilitate community and funding around friends who meet basic needs.”  By teaming with restaurants, auto dealers, realtors, mortgage companies, and other businesses, Sozo Friends is able to provide funding for such organizations as Emergency Food Network, Rescue Freedom, and Olive Crest (to name just a few).  Mr. Barrett details his own upbringing in a faith-filled home, along with his participation in, and work for, Young Life.  It is with this youth-oriented organization that he developed the sense that religion needs to be relational, building community beyond the boundaries of the walls of the local church.  He then discusses the origins of Sozo Friends, conceived during a conversation over wine with the company’s other co-founder Monte Regier who had returned from a several year stint serving in Liberia with Mercy Ships.  Martin details the various trials and errors of setting up a business model centered around wine and community, using focus groups with young professionals to explore new ways to engage people in charitable giving.  Their first attempt at “Party in a Box” proved to be unsuccessful, but both Martin and Monte forged ahead with other ideas and settled upon using sales of premium wine at restaurants to help fund various charities.  Canlis, a Seattle restaurant, was the first to jump on board.  Martin notes how the idea is first to sell a high-quality product and then follow up with the story of how each bottle sold (or glass poured) helps an orphan or other person in need around the world.  This marketing is atypical of other charities that tend to lead with the story and then sell the product.  We then discuss how Sozo Friends has expanded into the area of chocolate and coffee, as well as expanding the business model beyond restaurants to other businesses — e.g., auto dealers — who give bottles of wine in a gift basket following the purchase of a vehicle.  Martin notes that when someone who just bought a car receives this gift and learns that the proceeds of the sale go to a charity selected by the auto dealer, a bond of trust and community is created that is beneficial to all parties involved — the customer, the auto dealer, and the organization running the charity.  Mr. Barrett finishes off explaining his business philosophy of how building relations and trust are central to a well-functioning marketplace and why he runs his business as a for-profit, rather than a non-profit.  Recorded with the gracious assistance of Willows Lodge (which partners with Sozo Friends) in Woodinville, WA on June 15, 2016.

(Note: This interview, while not “social scientific” in nature, per se, is part of our occasional series on “practitioners” who live their faith at ground level.  Talking with these folks about how they actual do the things they do is part of the social scientific process according to this podcast’s host.)


Sozo Friends (and the Sozo Friends Facebook page).

Monte Regier & Martin Barrett on how Sozo Friends began (YouTube video).

Martin Barrett on the Sozo experience (YouTube video).

Sozo Friends Pairs Premium Wines with Fighting Hunger,” by Glenn Drosendahl (article in Puget Sound Business Journal).

Sozo Wines: Let’s Chug-a-Lug for Charity,” by Leslie Kelly (article in the Seattle Weekly).

Young Life (mentioned in podcast).

Mercy Ships, Olive Crest, and Rescue:Freedom (charities mentioned on the podcast).

Willows Lodge – Woodinville, WA (gracious host of the interview).


Jay Hein on the Quiet Revolution and Religious Social Work.

Jay Hein on the Faith-Based and Community Initiative.

John Fea on the American Bible Society.

Owen Strachan on Chuck Colson.

William Wubbenhorst on Serve, West Dallas.

David Wills on Religious Charity and Taxes.

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