How a San Diego Brewery Keeps Its Creative Edge

July 22, 2016

Modern Times is not like any other craft brewery. In fact, its production facility in Point Loma, located in an industrial area of San Diego, is not even technically a brewery. Its founder Jacob McKean prefers to call it Lomaland Fermentorium, a wonderland of unconventional beer, coffee and design that attracts devotees from all over Southern California.

As Modern Times continues to expand with a second San Diego outlet called the North Park Flavordome and plans for a standalone brewery space in Los Angeles, it’s more important than ever for the company to stay focused on its mission of maximizing creativity while minimizing bureaucracy, says Melissa Ninegar-Concidine, whose official title is the People Operations Guru at Modern Times Beer & Coffee.

“We’re going to keep growing in everything we do,” she says. “More rad spaces, more boundary pushing beers, more fantastic coffees. I’m excited about all of it.”


Thinking Beyond the Tap

Since opening its doors in 2013, the 2000-square-foot onsite tasting room – ahem, the Fermentorium – has served as a popular showcase for the brewery’s aromatic beers like the Lomaland Saison, Fortunate Islands wheat ale and Black House Coffee Stout, which are also available at several bars and liquor retailers across California. Modern Times also roasts its own line of coffee, using select beans ordered direct from farms in Colombia, Ethiopia and Brazil.

“Our goal is to make world-class drinks available to everyone,” says Melissa. “We’re populists. We think everyone should be able to start the day with mind-blowing cup of coffee and end the day with a spectacular beer.”

The creative thinking goes beyond the tap.

On one wall, the warehouse is plastered with pages from McKean’s personal comic-book collection, while another prominently features a gigantic mural of Michael Jackson and his pet chimp Bubbles made entirely out of thousands of Post-It notes. “The company’s main investors, meanwhile, are celebrated with a set of velvet portraits over the entrance.”

Melissa brings that forward-looking attitude to her administrative operations. Modern Times’ rate of growth required some innovative thinking on her part.

“Not having someone to focus on HR, especially benefits, necessitated a lot of legwork with a traditional broker, and not having the resources to focus on all things HR was certainly challenging,” she says.

Anticipating Growth

Joining Zenefits was one key to moving forward. “Prior to Zenefits, information lived in multiple areas and was not consolidated,” she says, noting new employees previously required at least four hours of onboarding on their first day. “Now, they are ready to go on day one!”

“We knew we had a huge growth spurt ahead and that we’d need a better solution than what we had in place,” Melissa says. “A large part of the reason we signed up for Zenefits was due to the broker/client relationship not making sense. It felt very archaic taking the time to fax things back and forth. Zenefits is built for the digital age we live in.”

Melissa uses Zenefits primarily as a hub for tracking onboarding progress and promotions — two things Modern Times is doing a lot these days as it approaches the 200 employee range.

“Most recently, we worked closely with our Zenefits support team to launch open enrollment for our staff,” she says. “The Zenefits support team was amazingly helpful. I’ve never experienced this level of support before. They helped make a very complicated process simple, educational, and understandable for myself and our staff. It was a paperless breeze and something I have zero anxiety about for next year.”

Keeping Up with the Times

Another major advantage of moving to Zenefits is the ease of use for Modern Times’ young, tech-savvy employee base.

“They have an expectation that we’ll be able to keep up,” Melissa says. “Our staff is able to take care of everything online at home. They can start, stop, adjust and easily calculate their 401(k) contributions using the tool.” She says the employees especially like the simple navigation and sleek design of the Zenefits platform. “It feels like a modern system. Zenefits understands the importance of user experience.”


By streamlining its HR and benefits programs, the crew at Modern Times can stay focused on growing its operations, building a great culture and continuing to deliver unique and amazing experiences for customers.

“I’ve recommended Zenefits to several friends of mine who own their own businesses and are at the growth stage where they are hiring staff for the first time,” Melissa says. “Their roles are shifting from business owner to people manager, which can be unfamiliar territory. Zenefits provides the basic tools you don’t even know you need that simplify and take care of processes for you, like payroll, onboarding paperwork and administering benefits — while also providing a team to support both the people manager and employees.”


Kevin Young is Director of Communications at Zenefits. The best part of his day is sharing how Zenefits is helping small businesses thrive and grow.

Category: Small Business Success Stories

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