Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Bryan Deane Bertsch, owner, and brewmaster of Deane’s Kombucha in Minneapolis, MN. I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison, with 25 years of restaurant experience. Also have experience in sales, marketing, office management. Basically, every job I had since 15 has prepared me to start my own company.
Your current job:
Owner and brewmaster of Deane’s Kombucha
In which city:
Where does your interest in Kombucha come from?
My wife Davianne brought GTs kombucha home from the Co-Op in the early 2000s. I fell in love with it right away. I loved the taste, the fact that it was a “living beverage” and I loved how it made my body feel. Then I found out how much she was paying for it so I started home brewing. After about a year I got good at it and began exploring starting a beverage business.
What prompted you to start your company?
I really loved the art of making kombucha and sharing it with others. It just got to a point where if I was going to keep doing it I would need to spend more time with it and I loved the idea of having my own business.
What makes your product unique?
We brew in oak barrels and use whole fruits and herbs for flavoring. In addition, we use organic green tea for our base and brew in small batches (30-gallon oak barrels). The oak barrels are a perfect environment for the micro-organisms, and the whole fruit brings a true flavor expression to our signature flavors.
What do you want to convey through your brand image? Design: how was it designed? By who?
Our “logo” is a butterfly. For one, it’s a beautiful creature. But the whole synthesis a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly is metaphoric to the brewing of Kombucha. You start with a gnarly looking SCOBY and end up with a fresh, light, healthy drink!
I sent the image of the butterfly and text to my label printer. They took it from there and nailed it.
What are the main challenges in your company?
The biggest challenges are keeping up with the needs of our customers. As a small business, we don’t have a huge employee infrastructure, so when demand goes up or down (which happens seasonally as well as weekly/daily) it’s up to me to be flexible. It’s definitely a welcome challenge, but even though we are having success and growing, that growth cycle can be very difficult to manage on many levels.
What tools are essential for your work?
My best tool is my smartphone! I cannot imagine having the flexibility on all levels of customer service without having a hand-held computer in my pocket. The main software I use is Quickbooks for bookkeeping. Vistaprint is a great resource for marketing materials made easy.
A word to define what type of worker you are:
What does your office space look like?
My living room couch and a laptop.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
Yes, my days are very organized which is essential for the chaos of the demands of the job. I am up by 6 am and get to the kitchen before rush hour. On production days I am focused on that early on, and other days I map out my deliveries for efficiency. I am able to check my emails and texts for orders that sometimes I am able to handle that day. I try to get home by early afternoon to take the dog out, have a short nap and then tackle the rest of my emails and send invoices for the current day and create invoices for the next day. The organization is key to this. And makes the chaos manageable.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Create a routine that works and stick to it.
What is the best advice you have been given?
Jordan Peterson often talks about focusing on living a life of meaning rather than happiness. I could not agree more.
Can you give us a tour of your local Kombucha scene?
I’ll send some images. If you are in the great state of Minnesota I’d be happy to give you a tour.
How do you control the growth of your company?
One account at a time, never over-extending and have the ability to say no to a wrong opportunity.
What is your strategy for making your kombucha known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?
I started by working farmer’s markets in the first few years. Don’t have the bandwidth for that now so my primary “marketing” is teaching people how to homebrew kombucha in classes at various locations. My best advice for this is finding avenues where you can get your product (and you) in front of people while still making money. I try to avoid the “come to our event, pay us to be here, and give away your product.”
What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?
Early day – get up early, walk the dog, and get on with it. Today has already been pre-mapped by yesterday afternoon’s emails. End of the day, have a short nap to clear the mind and re-energize, then tackle the “business” necessities, which is mainly receiving orders via email, creating and printing invoices which is the starting point for the next day.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a Kombucha company?
Practice your trade before starting your business. Kombucha making should be the art and science of making kombucha first, then figuring out the business side of it. Then, be as resourceful as you can – and ask others for help. Talk to other commercial kombucha brewers and local beer makers about logistics, distributors, sourcing…any question you have. Develop relationships with them, make sure to “give” relative to what you “get.” But don’t be afraid to ask for help. And be willing to NOT take the advice from someone, even if you really respect them, if it isn’t in your alignment.
Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?
My toolkit. Cornelius kegs and beer systems can be finicky.
Upcoming products or projects?
About to launch a Kombucha Vinegar.