Wouter Vandegehuchte, Founder and CEO of Cult Brewery

Ghent | Belgium
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Who are you and what is your background?

My name is Wouter Vandegehuchte, 36 and the founder of Cult Brewery. I was raised in a family of restaurant owners which my father started with a Michelin star restaurant in the seventies. After I graduated in economics I took over the family business as a chef and manager. Originally raised in classic French cuisine I evolved the business over 12 years into a more health conscious establishment with increasingly more vegetarian dishes. Since 2012 I took extra classes in natural health care and took up interest in a more mindful way of living which led me to quit the restaurant business in 2015 and decided to start a new endeavor. 

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Your current job:

I'm the founder and CEO of Cult Brewery, currently, a 3 man operated kombucha brewery. 

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In which city:

The medieval city of Ghent (Belgium)

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How did you discover kombucha?

I had been making fermented drinks like kefir and ginger beer for a few years when I got a kombucha scoby from a local fermentation exchange network. Until then I hadn't been really interested in the drink since the only brands available were sour like vinegar and were only scarcely available in health stores. 

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What prompted you to start your company?

When still running the restaurant, I offered kefir and kombucha as an alternative to classic sweet sodas and alcohol. Alcohol abuse became a big issue the last decade in our country and I started to look for alternatives myself more often than not. Unfortunately, aside from juices and light drinks, there wasn't anything to be found aside from a few scarcely available kombucha brands. I first opened a temporary fermentation bar in town which served all kinds of fermented non-alcoholic drinks. I named the place Cult., short for "Cultured". Reactions from people were so positive and demands came from restaurants and bars to provide them with my drinks, so I decided to start brewing commercially on a larger scale. 

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What makes your product unique?

Our booch isn't as sour as the classic brands and infused with fresh or dried herbs for subtle flavoring. We don't use juices to keep the sugar content low and as it's a raw kombucha to keep the alcohol levels to a minimum. We only use organic ingredients and work with green tea rather than black for the added health benefits and lower theine content.

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What do you want to convey through your brand image?

Aside from health we also want to put the craft culture back in the bottle. We want our customers to know that producing a healthy drink is possible without fooling ourselves and them. We take care to minimise our ecological footprint and are including that message more and more in our future branding. 

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What are the main challenges in your company?

As kombucha is still a novelty in Europe we are competing with the big soft drink brands where production costs are much lower compared to craft breweries. Albeit a positive challenge, being able to meet demand becomes increasingly difficult.  

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What tools are essential for your work(app, software)?

As we're still a small company our automated CRM system works wonders for keeping up with orders and billing without having to invest more time than necessary for those tasks. 

Having quality tools and brewery equipment is also a prerequisite for a well-functioning business. 

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A word to define what type of worker you are:

I am very passionate about what I do and not used to counting down the hours. I like a positive atmosphere at work and with colleagues. But whatever work's on the table, there must always be time for coffee, chocolate or kombucha breaks. 

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What does your office space look like?

Although we'd like to stare out of the floor to bottom glass windows into the forest from our desk, the reality is less poetic yet very cozy! We have the fermenters room next to our walk-in, a small desk which is rarely used and lots of mixed out workspace in the kitchen which is used for all kinds of fermentation experiments from kimchi to kefir, kraut, and kombucha of course. 

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Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?

Optimisation comes with a clear mind. I'm an avid meditator which keeps me focused at all times. The most important task is always to check on the fermentation process on a daily basis. 

As we're only a 3 man company we all have our strict tasks. I also love to kill to-do lists on a daily basis.

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What tips would you give to improve productivity?

The focus is the key to success. Having a clear idea of where time consumption can be reduced is the most important thing. 

Work less but work smart. 

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What is the best advice you have been given?

Start doing and stop planning. 

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What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?

I try to meditate for an hour in the evening and morning. 

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Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?

My Nespresso machine. 

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upcoming products or projects?

We're about to make a huge leap in branding an packaging. But you'll have to keep an eye on our social feeds before we can tell anything about that.

facebook.com/cultbrewery | cultbrewery.be