Food In Canada

Who’s Who 2024: Mitch Cobb, co-founder, Libra

By Mark Cardwell   

Food In Canada Beverages Editor pick Libra non-alcoholic Prince Edward Island

Mitch Cobb firmly believes in a triple bottom line of profits, people and planet

Photo © Upstream

A decade ago, Mitch Cobb, co-founder of non-alcoholic brand Libra, had a revelation. A budding entrepreneur with a keen sense of social justice and equity, he discovered while doing an MBA program at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown that he could reconcile profits and people in a social enterprise.

“Up to that point I had always considered business and community to be on opposite ends of the spectrum,” said Cobb. “But learning about B. Corp really opened my eyes to the possibilities of a triple bottom line of profits, people and the planet.”

Not long after, he hooked up with friend and fellow Islander Mike ‘Hoagie’ Hogan, a software engineer who was locally renowned for the beer he brewed in his basement. The two talked about opening a craft brewery called Upstreet, developed a business plan, then pulled together the financing needed to build a 15-hectolitre brewhouse with taproom that opened in P.E.I.’s capital in June 2015.

From its first three flagship products – Commons (a Czech-style pilsner), Rhuby Social (a strawberry/rhubard witbier) and Do Gooder (an IPA) – Upstreet has blossomed into one of the biggest and best-known craft breweries in Atlantic Canada.

It now produces eight styles of flagship beers, six seasonal beers, nine different flavours of seltzers under the Rewind brand and two lines of craft cocktails that are sold in bars and liquors across the region. It also has a second taproom in Charlottetown and is a partner in three pub/restaurants, including the Upstreet BBQ Brewhouse in Dartmouth, N.S.

Its hottest product, however, is Libra, a five-flavour line of non-alcoholic beer that was launched in 2020.

Community initiatives

Upstart ploughs 10 per cent of company sales into its Do Good fund, which donates to local social and cultural groups and initiatives. It also hosts popular annual events like Christmas tree lightings and block parties. It is involved in fundraising activities that generate money for local charities. Those efforts have helped Upstreet earn P.E.I.’s first B. Corp certification and a Start-Up Canada regional award for social enterprise.

“We like to say that our mission is to refresh the community,” said Cobb. “We’ve positioned our brand as a fun, community-based product that people here really enjoy and support.”

Dream come true

For Cobb, being co-founder and CEO of a successful business that aims to maximize corporate profits and social benefits is the realization of an entrepreneurial dream.

Born and raised in Malpeque, an oyster-fishing community on P.E.I.’s north shore, Cobb was an energetic and curious kid who dreamed of travelling the world and becoming a forensic scientist. After graduating from the University of New Brunswick with a quirky dual degree in anthropology and international development, he spent a year as an organic farm volunteer in Central America and then did a one-year education degree in Australia before returning to PEI and a job teaching life and employment skills to high school dropouts.

After getting married, Cobb and his wife spent a year backpacking around the world. He said he caught the entrepreneurial bug during the trip in Asia, where he started a short-lived online business school. Back home again in PEI, Cobb, a father of three, enrolled in the MBA program that opened his eyes to social enterprise.

“Being an entrepreneur is so hard,” he said. “But being able to give back makes it all worthwhile. I’m so grateful to be doing what I’m doing.”

This article was originally published in the April/May 2024 issue of Food in Canada.

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