10 to Watch 2017: Cultured Kombucha

“The scariest thing for me was actually just starting. I had dreamed up so many businesses and never had the guts to just go for it. And for some reason, this time I did.”

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

What started as a quest for a high-probiotic diet turned into a business idea for stay-at-home mum Christine Susut when she discovered kombucha, a fermented tea rich in natural probiotics. She soon began to ponder whether she could make it herself more cost-effectively and with a better taste than commercially available varieties.

“I saw the potential for kombucha following in the footsteps of craft beer,” says Susut. “I immediately recognized the timing was too good not to do kombucha first.”

So she started her research, sampling other people’s brews and tweaking her recipes. She took a business class, wrote a business plan, secured a loan — and now she supplies dozens of stores and restaurants in Victoria with her many-flavoured brews.

Susut handily faced the challenge of entering a market that lacked kombucha-specific knowledge and mentors. Instead she took the self-taught route, turning to beer and wine equipment and creating a fermentation set-up from scratch. Now she has four vats in the Cultured Kombucha fermentation room, and space for more.

“There’s no hard science or kombucha school to go to, and no brewmasters who are willing to let you in,” she says. “It’s kind of tight-lipped at this point. It’s so new we’re all just figuring it out as we go.”

Q&A with Christine Susut of Cultured Kombucha

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given?

Daniela Cubelic from Silk Road Tea has been an incredible mentor for me. The first day we met, she told me that … being successful in business depends on how quickly you can knock the tasks off of your to-do list — because you have a huge list you just need to get through! As soon as you can get as many of these top-priority things out of the way as possible, you can go out and grow your business.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’re going to get somewhere.
Some days you feel like you didn’t do enough, but I always tell myself, “I’m just going to keep on moving.” It’s really important to know when you’re able to make a big push and when you need to ride the momentum a bit to recharge. You’re running a marathon — and you can’t sprint the whole way.

Cultured Kombucha Business Profile

Type of business: Maker of kombucha, an ancient functional beverage made of fermented tea that contains natural probiotics.

Year founded: 2015

Owner/principals: Christine Susut and Nick Wise

Employees/contractors: 2

What sets you apart? Our kombucha is made locally using organic ingredients, and it’s primarily sold by bulk-fill, leaving a low environmental footprint. We set up and maintain the infrastructure to serve our product on tap.

This article is from the April/May 2017 issue of Douglas.