Chris Goddard (BA ’01) is the co-founder of Craft Brand Co., a Toronto agency that partners with local brewers to offer globally renowned brews to Ontario beer lovers. In 2019, Craft Brand Co. launched their online store, Bodega, where you can order limited release brews, exclusive offerings and all the classics – and have them delivered anywhere in Ontario.

This spring, Chris and his colleagues partnered with Waterloo to create another Alumni Happy Hour Box—with a refreshing summer twist. Crack open a cold one and bring it to your balcony, yard, patio—wherever you can enjoy the weather. The Happy Hour Box has everything you need to keep your beverages cold, your thirst quenched and your Warrior spirit alive! Order your box today, filled with your choice of libations to celebrate Alumni Weekend 2021

We caught up with Chris to learn how he became a beer entrepreneur, and how his time at Waterloo prepared him for this unique career.

What did you study at Waterloo, and how did you come to found your company?

I studied theatre while I was at Waterloo, which didn’t directly train me to build a brewery and an import agency but it certainly didn’t hurt. My degree not only trained me to be an actor, but also to be a good listener, to be adaptive in different situations, to think quickly on my feet and to be willing to take risks. These great stills for the stage, and they are tremendously useful in the business world.

Building our importing and sales agency started with a dream to bring great beer to Canada and create something we could be proud of. The brewery was a natural extension to the business and very complimentary as it allowed us to brew our brands in market and get the freshest beer to Canadians. We also wanted to provide a world-class facility that gave breweries a home much better than they may have been able to afford on their own.

Craft Brand Co. co-founders sitting around a table

Chris Goddard (BA '01) and his business partner Mike Laba

What’s the number one skill you took from your time at Waterloo? How has it helped you to found and run Craft Brand Co?

The ability to think creatively and constructively. I can create blue-sky dreams for our business and then find ways to make them a reality. We don’t want to be another import agency or brewery – we wanted to be the best at what we do, and that meant looking at partnerships and problems in creative ways.

Being an entrepreneur is a huge challenge, filled with obstacles that could derail your business (like COVID-19). What keeps you going through all the chaos?

Family and Friends helped me through the tough times. I’m also very lucky to have an amazing business partner, Mike Laba (a Laurier grad). Taking care of our staff during COVID was very important to us, but super challenging when almost 40% of our sales stopped overnight. Luckily, we had soft-launched our online store in November of 2019. We were poised and ready to pivot our focus quickly, but it was still a sharp learning curve to find the scale and efficiency and to deliver on a great experience.

Why did you decide to partner with Waterloo for Alumni Black & Gold Day?

It was a wonderful opportunity to help folks celebrate and connect even if we can’t do it in person. Who doesn’t like a cold beverage?!

If you could give one piece of advice to your student self, what would it be?

I was lucky enough to be part of Orientation Week (I was the “I AM ARTS” guy when “I AM CANADIAN” was a big thing), and I listened to Bob Kerton’s address to the students when he was Dean of Arts. He told first-yars that school was very important but only half the reason you come to university; the other half was to find out who you are as a person and to have fun. I always saw that as a wise thing to promote. University is kind of like life with training wheels – you have a great support network and structure to your life which allows you to fail somewhat safely and learn. Taking care of your mental health and promoting a good work-life balance right from the start is a good habit to build. Life is a marathon and it takes hard work to forge a path of your own, but don’t lose sight of having fun and taking care of yourself. Having a good work-life balance is hard and it starts by having great leaders who help to promote this – be those leaders.