Who are you and what is your background?
I’m Isabela Christo, 27 years old and CEO of Soul Kombucha. I did Soul Kombucha business plan at a postgraduate program at Georgetown University (Washington - D.C.) in entrepreneurship.
I’m Isadora Darwich, 26 years old, I’m the COO and head brewer of Soul. Cooking is my passion and I was trained as a raw chef by the Académie Végétale from Crudessence (Montreal - Canada).
We got to know each other a long time ago in college during our BA in International Relations
Your current job:
We are both full-time committed to producing, selling and delivering the best kombucha in Belo Horizonte (Brazil). We also participate in local farmers’ market and events!
Where does your interest in Kombucha come from?
In 2015 we were housemates, both working in non-profits in Washington D.C. when a mutual friend from California introduced us to the magic drink. We tried as many kombucha flavors and types as we could find in the market. Back home for Christmas in 2015, we realized there were no kombucha companies in Minas Gerais (our state) and in general, in Brazil.
What prompted you to start your company?
When Isabela was studying at Georgetown in 2017, we knew that kombucha was an ascending market trend, especially here in Brazil where people are very focused on having a healthy lifestyle. Also, working with something that can directly bring health and well being to people made a lot of sense for us.
What makes your product unique?
We dedicate ourselves to make a premium quality kombucha that also ferments the local economy. We do that using only organic products and always brewing in small batches. Our flavors are based in teas, herbs, and spices to highlight so it doesn't compete with the amazing taste of raw kombucha.
What do you want to convey through your brand image? Design: how was it designed? By who?
We want to demystify the idea that you have to be super healthy all the time to love and drink kombucha. For us, everyone can and should try it! The name of our designer is Babi Brasileiro she is Brazilian current working in Finland. We’ve chosen her because her style is clean and modern, which it was exactly what we wanted for our brand to display: the simple amazing well being that Soul Kombucha can bring to an urban routine. Another very important aspect of our vision is to be a local, organic, women-owned business and a high-quality kombucha.
What are the main challenges in your company?
When we started the big challenge was creating the recipes, producing flavors that would appeal to the Brazilian taste, making several test batches. The main challenge today is logistics, which is a difficulty that all entrepreneurs in Brazil face.
What tools are essential for your work(app, software)?
Instagram is the most important for us. Also, people can contact us directly through WhatsApp, which is very important for home delivery clients. We mainly use Google Drive for file storage. When we have long-distance meetings we use Zoom and Dropbox.
A word to define what type of worker you are:
What does your office space look like?
Our office space is really well organized and clean. We have a whiteboard where we wrote down our to-do list of the day and main goals for the month and year. Also, we like to go to different co-working cafes where we sell around the city, which gives us a great opportunity to be closer to our clients.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
Yes, we are always organizing our priorities in different groups, setting clear goals in the short and long term and especially setting our responsibilities. For example, Isabela is mainly in charge of the administrative work of Soul Kombucha and Isadora is in charge of the production. We also try to maintain a similar schedule every week, of course, it will have variations but let’s say Wednesday is meeting day, so we make an effort to arrange our appointments with new clients that day.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Trust your team and make them feel part of the company as much as the founders so you can feel safe when delegating responsibilities. When you don’t delegate responsibilities and try to perform all the tasks, it means you either won't do a very good job, or you won’t have the time to finish all of them. Not only the roles have to be well defined but also every person in the team must know what they are responsible for and be held accountable for that. In this way, you can analyze if it is possible to better allocate some tasks or streamline some of the processes being more productive.
What is the best advice you have been given?
The best marketing strategy is a happy client. They will be willing to give honest feedback, to talk to their friends about Soul Kombucha and become loyal costumers.
Can you give us a tour of your local Kombucha scene?
Some people in the 70’ had fermented their kombucha tea at home, but without a lot of information or recipes, they usually gave up thinking the taste was too strong and vinegary. In Brazil, kefir used to be more popular and commonly found.
When we first started in 2017 there were no breweries specialized in kombucha in the state of Minas Gerais. In the rest of the country, the only breweries were in the south of Brazil, an area very well-known for its large healthy foods market and in São Paulo.
In 2018 more local companies begun to appear across the country, usually lead by one or two owners, selling in fairs and festivals of healthy food. Today there are around 10 brands in the Minas Gerais state.
How do you control the growth of your company?
As kombucha is a completely new market in Brazil, we have always been strategic with our growth by setting clear goals since the beginning but it doesn’t mean they are fixed; we are always adjusting them to our reality. We use “ The Lean Startup” methodology for our business strategy; focused on lean the product development cycle and continuously innovating.
What is your strategy for making your beer known?
Our strategy was a little different from established kombucha markets like in Canada and in the USA. As the first movers in this market in our city, we saw the necessity of first, educating our clients to what exactly is kombucha, its benefits, history, taste, everything!
To do so and directly reach our clients we offered tastings sessions in different stores explaining the benefits of kombucha and the mission of our brand. People were very receptive and interested in our product. As a result of our initial campaign, we were selling Soul Kombucha in 40+ stores in less than six months. Another thing that is essential in our marketing is the partnerships we have with cafes that offer a brand experience, to associate Soul Kombucha to these urban refugees.
What are your end-of-day and early-day routine?
To start a productive working day, we like to have set clear ideas of what to address or a to-do-list the day before. That is the ideal, of course, that is not always possible when we work late in an event for example. The important is not to feel like you don’t have time to plan and start tackling problems before prioritizing and having an overview of all it has to be done.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a Kombucha company?
Build a good team, have your mission and goals clear, dream big but also work hard. Have an amazing tasting kombucha and trust your gut. When you start your own company, everyone will have "great advice" to give, if you focus on trying to follow all of them it will never work, so trust yourself.
Finally, always be open to getting to know and listen to other entrepreneurs, you always will have something to learn!
Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?
Isabela: My Garmin watch and AirPods for morning runs!
Isadora: Does a car charger for the phone count? Haha. If not, then Bluetooth speakers to play some relaxing music for the S.C.O.B.Y.s!
upcoming products or projects?
Yes! We are super excited about a new limited edition flavor we will be launching next month, the only tip is that is going to be purple.