Co-op students help craft a post-pandemic future for local Cider brewers

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Photo of apple trees at an apple orchard

By: Namish Modi

The COVID-19 pandemic posed serious challenges to small businesses—especially the hospitality industry. For a local small business, University of Waterloo co-op students have been key to its recovery.

Students bring drive, enthusiasm, and innovation to the table at KW Craft Cider, a local brewer. Co-op students are helping to make the transition into a post-lockdown economy smoother.

Established in Waterloo Region in 2014, KW Craft Cider produces a premium hard dry cider prepared from carefully selected fresh-pressed apples.

“We really want to tap into the students’ creative side, and their business skills,” says Cidery Manager Matthew Sotnik.

The small business has long attracted talented entrepreneurs. They continue to hire co-op students from Waterloo. KW Craft Cider has strong ties to the community. They look to co-op students to help source local ingredients while showcasing products at places like the St. Jacobs Farmers Market.

Sotnik says that students bring ideas that are especially valuable at the tail end of the COVID pandemic, where recovery and relationship-building is extremely important.

“They (co-op students) bring a whole level of creativity and different perspective that we may not have necessarily had before,” he says.

“It’s all been incredibly valuable to our business, and it’s something that we’ve really appreciated, and really enjoy working with co-op students.”

Two students work for KW Craft Cider each term.

What do the students work on?

When KW Craft Cider hires co-op students they are looking for candidates with a great work ethic and great interpersonal skills. For its marketing co-op roles, the organization generally looks to hire students from Waterloo’s Arts and Business or Science and Business programs. For other roles, they typically look for Engineering students and specifically in the chemical and mechanical engineering stream.

“What we like to see is that they have the enthusiasm for the position they are applying for, and that they’re also bringing forth a wide set of general skills that can apply to different aspects of the position,” says Sotnik.

In addition to regular responsibilities, KW Craft Cider looks to task each student with a major project as part of their work term. Depending on the area of the business students work in, the organization assigns tasks to students based on their skills.

Recently, students worked to help KW Craft Cider develop their social media presence. The campaign, which included a flavouring contest, resulted in the company producing a new flavour of cider.

Students also helped with the organization’s booth at the St. Jacobs Market to promote and sell products. Students were tasked with creating promotional materials to hand out at the market and entice customers.

KW Craft Cider cans in different cider flavours

KW Craft Cider branded glass, keg and a 24 pack of cider cans


How much value can students bring to small businesses?

“We found co-op students have been super helpful in so many (ways), or different aspects of our small business. All the way from the ground up of making the cider itself to getting the cider into people’s hands. We have worked with co-op students in all aspects of small business and have been really grateful for all the ideas they have been able to bring to the table.”


What advice would you give other small businesses/beverage producers in terms of working with co-op students?

“Don’t necessarily limit yourself to thinking co-op students are only suitable for some sort of basic jobs or suitable only for positions that don’t require a lot of responsibly, because it’s totally the opposite. There are so many distinct aspects that they can help with. I think that all employers should really consider them for a variety of roles, especially in a small business.”