Mauricio Lozano, MFS’09
Local entrepreneur and Faculty Brewery Co. owner and 0perator, Mauricio Lozano, MFS’09, had to quickly pivot his business model, be adaptable and resilient when the pandemic started in March 2020. Faculty Brewing Co is a micro-brewery and tasting lounge located in the Mount Pleasant area in Vancouver. We were fortunate to speak to Mauricio in between juggling new building permits, evolving municipal by-laws and the new directives from the Provincial Health Authorities. Mauricio navigates ambiguity and uncertainty by taking everything a week at a time and adjusting priorities. Read along to learn more about his story.
This is a condensed and edited version of a conversation Nicole Yeasting, Manager, Alumni Career Education had with Mauricio Lozano on Monday, June 1, 2020.
When did you open Faculty Brewing Co.?
I moved to Vancouver in 2008 to start my Masters in Food Science at UBC. I started the project to launch a brewery in 2015 while being an Instructor at BCIT. It took me a year and half to get permits and get construction underway before launching in 2016.
How have you pivoted since the pandemic started?
Our brewery is a small tasting room and the majority of our customers are bars and restaurants and maintaining physical distance measures is really hard. We pivoted early to home delivery and launched an online store. I have a lot of friends in the industry and we partnered to launch Beer Van with local breweries such as Luppolo, Dominion Cider, Dickie’s Ginger, Slow Hand, and Oddity Kombucha. We kept all of our staff from March, April and May and delivered to Vancouver, North Vancouver, and New Westminster. We also used all the available programs and it’s been helpful to survive.
The theme of our newsletter is job searching in challenging times and providing support to those looking for work or who just graduated. Do you have anything to share to those who are navigating the current situation?
Yeah, it’s a tough time to find a job right now. Hand down, although a career, a title and skill fit into boxes that you may want to achieve, I encourage job seekers to go into a job and learn to learn. I learned a lot after completing my Masters in Food Science, but since then, I have learned more about fermentation, building an online store, and an e-commerce website.
It’s good to be open minded to a skill to learn and keep learning. For instance, I didn’t have experience in home delivery or dispatching, but I had the willingness to learn and look beyond the title. I was adaptable and resilient. But sometimes, it’s hard to look beyond what you can do in a role, because that’s how jobs are advertised.
What made you want to open a brewery?
There are several things:
- I consider myself an early millennial. I wanted to make my hobby my job. My passion has been in fermentation and it made a ton of sense to go into fermentation -- so I made my passion my job.
- Opportunity. There were no tasting rooms before 2013. It was a new market and it was viable. The opportunity came and I previously worked at Molson [Brewery], so I knew how to make beer.
- Had a concept that I liked. I loved my Masters degree and I taught at BCIT. That’s how Faculty was created. Faculty is based on the principal of academia, where journals are open sources and there’s the ability to comment and provide feedback. I realized I had a hobby, a unique concept, and an opportunity and that’s how Faculty Brewery was created. The business is the ‘what’, and not the ‘why’ I started Faculty Brewing.
Tell me more about the origin of the name?
In 2015, it was hard to get a dotcom. When I was thinking about the business, it was hard to get a name and a domain. I felt the word ‘Faculty’ embraces what we are trying to achieve and our business concept fit well into a ‘Faculty’.
We publish all of our recipes, like a faculty, we are open-sourced and create an environment to learn in a friendly and collaborative way. Our recipes aren’t secrets. We publish them and want feedback so we can adapt our recipes.
Do you have other UBC alumni who work at Faculty Brewing?
Yes, Rachael Warner graduated from UBC Sauder and was our marketing manager for the past 3 years and Xander, our brewer, who graduated from UBC in Civil Engineering.
It’s great to hear you’re starting to make plans to reopen the tasting room. How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
The whole economy has been affected. People have lost their jobs and if people are short on money, they aren’t spending it on beer or kombucha. Most of our clients are local bars and restaurants and a lot of our revenue has disappeared. The service industry has been affected greatly. Luckily, things are starting to reopen at half a capacity.
How have you navigated the uncertainty and ambiguity of the current situation?
We take everything a week at a time and adjust our priorities. We initially closed for two weeks, then it was a month, and now two months. We had to be flexible and be able to pivot.
There’s a quote from Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, that I like. She said, “Done is better than perfect.” If you get it done, you have it! Maybe our delivery services could be better, but a lot of people stay in the planning phase to make it beautiful and not execute. We focused on completing it and getting it done.
Right now, there is a lot of ambiguity about opening up our patio. Last Thursday, we were told we could expand our service. So, we worked with the municipality, put together a submission, came up with the drawings, and applied; only to find out that having a patio on private property [such as a parking lot], could take longer. My advice would be, if you start thinking, be comfortable to change direction.
I am also fortunate to have engaged staff and dedicated individuals where we all work towards something as a team.
As BC is in it’s second phase of the “BC Restart Plan”, how are you coping?
Times are very uncertain and plans change. Sometimes you have to wish and it’s hard to plan ahead. Even when the shutdown happened, not knowing for how long, builds stress. We are [reopening] in a responsible way. We can’t commit and assume there’s risk involved. We’ve been coping by not getting angry and working with what we have.
What do you think the future’s going to look like?
I think we will be in this time of physical distancing for a year or a year and a bit, until we have a vaccine or a heard immunity. But there’s a silver lining to it all. Especially, how some governments, municipalities and corporations now have paid sick leave.
It has also adjusted our mindset. Where it is now possible to get things done by working from home. That will be a big change for the future.
Do you have any words of advice for budding entrepreneurs or the graduating class of 2020?
We are currently living in tough times. But think about challenges as opportunities. Reaching out to others is important. When you collaborate with others and stay in touch, everybody gets a better result. Now that we are realizing the impact to care for each other, I hope this trickles to a similar mindset about climate change and equality.
To the graduating class, don’t fall into a box. Times are changing, so consider shifting your priorities. Reach out to your peers and help them out.
To learn more about Faculty Brewery Co. and Mauricio Lazano’s, MFS’09, creative solution to adapt to the pandemic, check out, www.beervan.ca. Beer Van which allows customers to order products from multiple breweries and beverage products in the same order and delivered to your home.