If you attended Fresh Fest 2019, you may have seen her buzzin’ around the festival (how we met), and sampled the beer she influenced with the collab at Bloom Brew. Or perhaps you’ve seen her pop up on your Instagram feed or sat in on her virtual discussion at Fresh Fest Digi Fest 2020. By now, if you haven’t heard of the Canadian native, here is your introduction: Ren Navarro is an absolute rock star in the Canadian and American craft beer industry, and is an advocate for diversifying not only the beer industry, but also industries beyond.
Starting in craft beer some years ago, Ren was a sales rep who was getting a little burnt out on the work and was ready to change careers and work for Canadian Mail. It was almost by accident that Beer. Diversity. was created.
“People would ask, ‘What’s it like being a black woman in craft beer?’ And I was like, I haven’t really thought about it!” But once that thought was planted in her head, it was all she could think about.
“It was supposed to be a side project,” Ren admits. “I kind of created the company by accident!” Ren was hired to do a talk and needed to look legit. What she thought would have been a 6 month to maybe a year thing is thriving after year 3 and doesnt look like it will be ending any time soon. “I’ve got a lot more to do. I know that there’s no ending to it.”
She also shouts out to American Beer Twitter, saying that without the American Craft Beer World, where she got her sense of legitimacy, Beer. Diversity. wouldn’t have taken off the way it has.
Beer. Diversity. is all about creating a safe space for discussion about diversity. Ren knew that breweries were working to educate themselves, but often times, were turning internally to their own staff to discuss diversity, who were most likely white. “Having white people decide what should be done to diversify is a joke.”
Ren used her expertise, and of course, her lived in experience, to figure out, “How do you advertise? Who is your intended audience?” and while figuring this out, helping folks understand that when they hear the word ‘diversity,’ it does not mean that someone loses out. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Ren simply put it like this, “I think that the issue that people have with it [diversity] is that they think that if you’re going to have diversity, it means that someone loses out. And it’s like, think of it as a giant family table, you know, you’re having this giant meal and your friend comes to the door and instead of being like, ‘Grandma, get out, ’cause I want Timmy to sit here.’ Everyone just kinda shoves over and that person gets to come and sit and enjoy and share in what’s happening and possibly impart some of their knowledge. So, dont think of it as someone that needs to be excluded, think of it as someone who should be included.”
So, how does the Beer. Diversity. business model work? Ren, prior to Covid, would do staff sessions, which heavily relied of interactive conversations. Rather than her “talking at” the company, she would be like, “This is who I am, this is how I perceive your company. Let’s talk about it.” Then they have a chance to say, “This is how we intended it…” and then the two parties could work together to achieve the desired result.
And the conversation doesnt just end there. Ren keeps an eye on the breweries she’s worked with, most recently, Seventh Son Brewing in Columbus, and sends praise for thoughtful and inclusive marketing strategies or suggesting that the client take a second look at their message.
For 2021, Ren is aiming higher. She’s been working on the Brewery Inclusion Toolkit, “which is basically me, in a box” says Ren. The Toolkit, which comes equipped with an App, is broken down into modules: values, community, diversity. It’s not only Ren in a box, there are also other collaborators who joined in on the project!
Ren also hopes to work further with underrepresented college students. She’s worked with colleges in the past, conducting seminars on diversity and leadership.
“It’s not all just beer. I just started with beer because that’s what I knew. And I knew there was a problem there. But the problem is everywhere, in all industries.”
We can wait to see what’s next for Ren and Beer. Diversity. Keep your eye on this mover and shaker, great things will continue to evolve from it!
Image courtesy and property of Beer. Diversity. Photo cred: @xoemoh