Putting “art” in craft brewing | NZBusiness Magazine

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Like many craft brewing companies, Gail Matthew’s Kc Kombucha brand originated in the pantry. Now, three years after its launch, she is ready to revitalize her business.

Gail Matthew is used to working hard in business. Prior to founding Kc Kombucha, she had spent twenty years working in the hospitality industry, trying her arm out in various businesses including a licensed cafe in Gray Lynn. She is also trained in naturopathic medicine, is a medical herbalist, and ran a home-based naturopathic business when her two children were still young.
Then the fallout from the GFC and her son’s health issues had a huge impact on Gail’s stress levels. So she closed her business to focus on her children and, looking back, remembers being happier, healthier and “a better parent” as a result.
As her children grew and became more independent, Gail became seriously interested in finding another business to buy. However, despite her best efforts, none of the cases she reviewed “felt quite right.”
The answer came in the form of a kombucha hobby that literally quietly infused – first into her pantry, then into a space under her stairs.
“I started imposing my kombucha on all my friends when they came,” she recalls. “But they said to me ‘that tastes really good, you should sell this stuff’.”
In 2016, kombucha was still fairly new to New Zealand, she recalls. Many people didn’t even know what it was, or what its living cultures, aka scoby1, could do for their health.
Gail knew the good that fermented foods can do for the human body. His mother had helped fuel his interest by producing foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir water, and kombucha.
This is where the first seed of an idea was planted to commercially produce traditionally brewed kombucha (this is a craft drink considered far superior to cheaper concentrate products).
“I went to see mom one day and said, should I do this?” Gail remembers. “My parents had been business owners most of my life, so they had a wealth of knowledge and support to draw on.”
Fast forward to 2021 – after three years of development and despite trade restrictions imposed by Covid-19, home-based Kc Kombucha is now enjoying a growing presence in the highly competitive New Zealand market – with sales in wholesale to hospitality venues and gift box retailers, as well as online retail.
“Our online sales are primarily aimed at women between the ages of 30 and 50,” explains Gail. “People looking to cut down on alcohol and look for healthier alternatives. They also give it to their children to replace soft drinks.
Kc Kombucha is presented as a premium drink, ideal for bars, restaurants or barbecues. It has a natural live culture, but thanks to smart filtering, there is no obvious scoby or oyster growth on top and minimal sediment, Gail explains.

Meeting challenges, learning lessons
Gail admits there was a lot to learn to bring her product to market, and to a level she was happy with. With a premium product like this, supermarket storage space is out of the question, as are bars which often have deals with one of the major beverage makers. With the Covid lockdowns, wholesale and event markets have become even tighter, with Gail relying 100% on online sales. She is grateful to have a “super positive, super supportive” husband – her money making “rock”. “Grant earns it and I pretty much spend it,” she laughs. “And he’s my number one when it comes to repair and maintenance. “
She is also grateful to her two teenagers for getting down to business – her daughter getting up before dawn to help with the markets and bottling, and her son doing all the barrel washing.
The company has taught Gail a lot. She says there’s always the fear of being laughed at or ridiculed at first, so self-confidence is important, as is realizing that the more you talk to people, the more you learn.
“So constantly asking for advice has been the most important lesson for me.”
As an example, she recalls reaching out to a virtual women’s networking group called She Owns It for advice on approaching wholesale sites. She then partnered with business growth specialist Fiona Clark, who helped her prepare for a presentation, taught her how to open doors better and think outside the box.
“She’s been such a great sounding board, especially around the direction of the business and how best to focus in order to get immediate sales,” Gail said.
Another piece of advice that Gail has grown to appreciate around “all that marketing and sales stuff” is that perfection doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and sometimes a “not quite perfect” plan is still good enough to get started.
“You just need to perfect things as you go,” she says. “For a perfectionist like me, that was a great lesson to learn.”

Motivation to grow
Looking to the Future Gail is optimistic. With the help of Grant and her parents, she developed a special fermentation room next to her property’s cold room in order to increase production.
Its aim is also to dramatically increase sales – i.e. wholesale, online, in markets and events, and will involve more staff and, to relieve Gail, an on-board distributor.
“In two years, I would like to think that we will be operating from a dedicated brewery, a purpose-built production facility away from the family home.
Its BHAG is New Zealand rule. To be considered the best premium kombucha produced in New Zealand, while maintaining the traditional brewing values ​​of the brand.
And, of course, the road ahead for Kc Kombucha is underpinned and motivated by Gail’s personal journey to better health.
“I love natural health and have a real desire to see people think more about what they put in their bodies and how they feel,” says Gail, “and make better choices as a result. “
She also wants to continue to be a good role model for her children, not only when it comes to healthy living, but also business success.
“Show them how you can turn an idea into reality, and that there really are no limits. You can do anything you want in life to do once you get started and learn how. m

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