How We Built a Successful
Premium Craft-Brewed Kombucha Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Freya, the founder of Fix8. We make premium craft-brewed kombucha. The inspiration came after discovering kombucha whilst living in Shanghai studying traditional Chinese medicine. Drawn to the taste and healthful benefits of kombucha, I became obsessed.
Upon returning to the UK, I couldn’t find any quality kombucha as I had experienced in Shanghai. So I set out on a mission to travel to the kombucha capitals of the world (from LA to Portland and Hawaii) to learn and hone my craft in brewing kombucha.
We currently have two employees! Chris, our incredible Head Brewer who was formerly Head of Beer at Partizan Beer. We like to call him the ‘king of fermentation’. And Helen, our Account Director but really so much more. She dips into all elements of the business from finance to creative, and there is not one thing she doesn’t do wonderfully well.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I was straight out of university when I set up Fix8. After studying Politics at Edinburgh University, I travelled to India to become a yoga teacher, thinking that would be my path. In the back of my mind, I was always obsessed with kombucha but it was very much just a hobby that I didn’t tell people about (in case they thought I was weird!)
Upon returning to London from my Indian travels, I started working in a cafe inside a London yoga studio, Triyoga. Before long, I was brewing kombucha for the cafe. From there, demand increased and I got to experiment with all sorts of flavours and gather feedback! It was the perfect breeding ground for my kombucha business (little did I know at the time!).
Yoga is still fundamental to my life and no day starts without it. I would not be able to run a business if I didn’t have it in my life, to keep me grounded and create time and space to breathe and collect my thoughts. It’s so important to take time for ourselves, especially when we are perhaps running a business and dealing with endless tasks.
For me, the problem was that kombucha was becoming an outdated category. No one was making it sexy or fun! Through design, kombucha was coded always by what it wasn’t – resembling a beer or medicine. No one was branding or defining kombucha for what it WAS – buzzing, lively and exciting.
I wanted to shake up the category by creating a product that appealed to a modern market of kombucha drinkers, whether they were drinking it for its health benefits, or as a cocktail mixer! We wanted to celebrate the taste and buzz of kombucha without being confined to the medicinal / beer market.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
For me, the biggest challenge was knowing where to start and then scaling up! As I was straight out of university, it felt daunting to lack experience and you are certainly not taught how to set up a business in school. Putting one foot in front of the other and reaching out to as many people as possible was where I began. Of course, then came the business case and creating a product from scratch.
Scaling up was a big challenge, especially when you are dealing with a fermented product like kombucha – which by nature is alive with its own yeast and bacteria colonies. As such, it’s not something that you would outsource if you want to do it properly. So, moving from my parents London flat to a properly functioning brewery, and then building that from scratch, certainly presented its challenges.
There has been so much learning along the way and I’m hugely grateful for every challenge that has been presented so far. They are all opportunities for learning and growth within the business.
Who is your target market?
Our target market is less focussed on age/demographic, and more focussed on mindset. We target those individuals who seek to look after themselves, enjoy a quality craft-brew and have fun at the same time! ‘Healthy hedonists’ is probably not the right term, but you get the idea.
We are certainly not a pure health focussed brand, but celebrate the taste of an authentic craft brew and the natural buzz it gives you, whether in a cocktail or simply as an afternoon, lifting refreshment.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Instagram has been a huge platform for us and allowed us to connect directly with our tribe. Since the arrival of COVID-19, we have focused on digital advertising and unpaid social media influencers to get the product out there.
Instagram is the go-to app for inspiration for lifestyle, diet and good-vibes, so where else to cement our brand and message?! Since the arrival of COVID-19, we knew we would need to focus more on our digital advertising, and perhaps enlist the help of social media influencers to get our products visible to thousands of new customers.
This was, at first, a daunting task; the world of the “influencer” is still a new model, and there are no guidelines or instructions on how to successfully get your products in front of those you admire, but this did not stop us!
We drafted a list of dream influencers that we wanted to share our product, and we started reaching out. A top tip here is to connect with the influencer, showing your genuine interest in their brand and work, to ensure a personal connection.
We have been extremely fortunate to have so many people offer to share Fix8 on their platforms. Once several key influencers (many from our original dream list!) started sharing, we were approached daily by many more.
It is hard work at first, constantly outreaching and discovering new platforms. But slowly, they begin to request products from you, which is hugely flattering. Influencers are aware of the crucial role they now play in marketing, and especially during these times where we are spending more time than ever on the internet. Their influence has never been greater.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We’re hugely involved with our Instagram followers and are always directly answer their messages. We have recently pivoted to sell home-brew kombucha it’s on our website, and offer 20 days brewing consultation with our head brewer Chris to make sure they are well looked after.
Asking for feedback has always been important. It’s one thing asking and it’s another thing listening. We listen to every piece of feedback we get – there is nothing too small or unimportant.
We’re about to run a campaign focussed on how kombucha makes you feel. This will be a collaboration of all our consumers speaking into the camera on how ‘Fix8 makes me feel’.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We’re a very close-knit team. Our first two employees have been friends of mine and our head brewer Chris came recommended from a mutual friend. So we have kept everything close to home!
We encourage a very open culture and everyone’s opinions matter. Even though he is in charge of brewing, Chris has input into marketing. Even though she is in charge of accounts, Helen’s opinions across the company are always voiced and heard.
We are a small family and care deeply about each other. Not just in business but in our personal lives too! Everyone is pulling in the same direction, which makes it possible for us to move forward together and advance as a business.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
G Suite is also a big help – long live G Suite! Michael, my co-founder, is a real tech-wizard and is entirely to thank for the selection and implementation of our software services across the business. They certainly enable us to be more productive and efficient.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Every day there is learning! I joke that setting up a business from scratch is very much a ‘baptism by fire’, but there is no amount of studying that can prepare you for real-life situations, so you might as well get started!
1. Just start. Stop friggin’ and just start.
2. Ask for help when you need it! Suffering in silence will get you nowhere.
3. It’s not ‘no’ it’s just ‘not now’. Persistence is key.
4. Obstacles are important as they will push you in a new direction and encourage you to be flexible and grow.
5. Keep it simple. Don’t be distracted by all your ideas – keep the main thing the main thing!
6. Look after yourself. Without you, there is no business so make sure you are healthy in mind and body first.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
They say variety is the spice of life! No two days are the same and you will experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows. This keeps things interesting to no end. Of course, it’s also rewarding seeing your idea on a shelf and knowing you were part of the creation.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Wearing many different hats can make it hard to focus. One moment you’ll be calculating margins, the next you’ll be in the cold room packing boxes and delivering product from the boot of your car. It’s hard juggling the many competing demands of a business when you are a small team.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I loved The 4 -Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris! Easy ways to maximize your productivity here. The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday is also an essential read for any entrepreneur. It teaches you to see any obstacle as an opportunity to overcome and learn from.
Attending events like Bread and Jam and connecting with fellow food entrepreneurs has been incredibly helpful. I have found that having a strong network of fellow entrepreneurs and foodies essential for bouncing ideas, answering questions and finding collaborators. A connection with others is so important for any new business.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Hopefully producing more flavours, different formats / SKUs and of course with a bigger brewery and team. Collaborations with other breweries are also a big part of what we hope to do. Creating hybrid versions of kombucha-cider or a kombucha wine is on my list. We have big ideas and plans and I’m excited to bring them to life!