Who are you and what is your background?
Our names are Nathan and Matthew. We met while we were doing our undergrads at the University of Campus and worked together for several years during that time, including apprenticing under a botanist.
Your current job:
We are tea, botanical, and kombucha enthusiasts who run our brick and mortar stores in Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.
In which city:
Lawrence, Kansas is our home base.
Where does your interest in Kombucha come from?
Our interest in kombucha comes mostly from an exploration of the possibilities of what tea has to offer. That, and many of the people we worked with when we first started had a passion for all things fermentation!
What prompted you to start your company?
When we first started our business, we envisioned opening a Tea and Kava lounge. Mana Bar started from humble beginnings, but thanks to our knowledge of botany and the collective effort of our team we were able to quickly expand the diversity and range of our products, including single origin kombucha using our own artisan grade teas.
What makes your product unique?
What sets our kombucha apart from some other kombucha is a defined focus on tea quality and appreciation. Being a tea shop first and foremost, we like to create a balance between the more common focus of acidity and effervescence and the subtle natural characters that come from unique single origin teas. We feel as though tea quality is often not the main focal point in kombucha brewing, and we’d like to see it in the limelight more often. On top of this, we go out of our way to source organic and fair trade ingredients whenever possible, as well as using locally grown herbs and produce for some of our flavored second fermentation.
What do you want to convey through your brand image? Design: how was it designed? By who?
Our company name Mana Bar comes from the ancient Polynesian rooted belief that Mana is the “essence of life”. In other cultures, it’s been called spirit, life energy, qi, and soul. It’s our passion to provide a unique and uplifting environment for you to replenish your Mana. Our logo is designed by local artist and graphic designer Tanner Spreer.
What are the main challenges in your company?
Keeping up with production demand, especially in the summer!
What tools are essential for your work(app, software)?
Quickbooks, Google Drive, Excel, and Photoshop are all invaluable to our work here.
A word to define what type of worker you are:
We would say adaptable.
What does your office space look like?
Our office space is definitely what we’d call “organized clutter”, it works great for us!
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
Priority lists, many logs and spreadsheets, an absurd amount of whiteboards and communications boards, and frequent meetings with each other and our operations managers.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Flexibility, positivity, and communication.
What is the best advice you have been given?
The best advice we’ve been given is to try to learn something new every day. We are a young business so we are continually learning and growing!
Can you give us a tour of your local Kombucha scene?
Our local kombucha scene is pretty small here in Lawrence, with only a handful of local brewers and fermenters. Many of them have made an amazing impact on our community, from being served on tap at many local restaurants to being available to buy at our local Co-op and weekly farmer’s markets!
How do you control the growth of your company?
Being meticulous about sourcing the best quality products as we continue to grow and keeping our finger on the pulse of our customer’s demands so that we can continue to meet them, no matter how much production increases.
What is your strategy for making your kombucha known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?
Our business is very much centered around creating an educational environment, so wherever we go, we bring lots of reading material and come prepared to delve into the history, benefits, and science of brewing with anyone who shows interest! We offer samples of current flavors we have on tap at our storefront, and we also bring samples to local festivals such as Midwest Tea Fest and smaller events within our downtown area. Our production is very small scale – with only 12 to 16 gallons brewing at a time. Because of this, we prefer not to bottle and to instead do tastings and sell it by the glass at our storefront.
What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?
Wake up, work hard, play hard, go to sleep, and do it all over again!
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a Kombucha company?
Focus on quality, procure sustainably, and support fellow local businesses when you can!
Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?
Probably our kombucha pH tester! We use a combination of taste, intuition, and pH science to make sure our kombucha is just right.
Upcoming products or projects?
We are in the process of starting our kombucha production over at our newest location in Westport, KCMO. We can’t wait to join the large community of kombucha brewers that the Kansas City area holds!