Virgin StartUp of the Week: Lois and the Living Teas
In an increasingly health-conscious world, new and wonderful products are coming out all the time. Kombucha is a fermented tea that's gaining popularity - thanks to startups such as our VSU of the Week, Lois and the Living Teas. After spotting a gap in the market for a kombucha microbrewery, and a version of the drink that's enticing to everyone, Louise Avery started her business. We caught up with her over a cuppa.
Business name: Lois & The Living Teas
Founder name: Louise Avery
Loan funds received: £6,000
Based in: Hackney, London
Facebook: Lois & The Living Teas
1. Explain your business in the time it would take the kettle to boil.
I have a London based kombucha microbrewery, using fresh and natural ingredients to brew health boosting, sparkling probiotic tea for health food shops and restaurants.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
I am based in Hackney which is a perfect location for developing food trends, with many like-minded young food enterprises popping up weekly. We are located next to a cold brew coffee company, a chocolate maker and an almond milk company, so we constantly discuss the market and support eachother.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
I fell in love with kombucha when I first tasted it on draft in a health food store in Vermont in the States. I searched for a similar micro-brewed, boutique version in the UK and I realised there was a gap in the market.
4. What’s the business model?
As kombucha is still a relatively unknown product in the UK, there is still work to be done to raise awareness around fermented living foods such as kombucha and the direct health benefits of probiotics. With this in mind I am currently selling in independent cafes and health food shops with plans to expand to bigger restaurant chains in Spring/Summer 2016. I also plan to get it into pubs on draft as an alternative to alcohol, but this might take time.
5. Who are your competitors?
Within the UK, there are four other large commercial producers of kombucha and a growing number of small producers like myself, which is helping to facilitate the market.
6. What’s unique about your business?
Each business makes their own version of the probiotic health tonic; however I would say that my personal goal was to produce an accessible tasty version of kombucha to bring in more ‘disciples’ and I am very happy with the results so far.
7. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
I had finished a six month trial of selling my kombucha (made in my kitchen) at two cafes in Islington and following the notable increase in sales, I gathered the confidence to take the plunge!
8. How have you used it to grow your business?
The money has enabled me to invest in my first commercial premises and to purchase professional equipment, both saving time and increasing production whilst also allowing me to standardise my product.
9. Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?
My mentor is called Patrick and specialises in competitive strategy development and marketing at a corporate level. My own experience is with small businesses and I have little knowledge of expansion through marketing, so he is helping me to clarify my sales plan and to carry out my goals. Additionally his background in science allows me to discuss the actual brewing and complexity of the product, which is a huge bonus for me.
10. Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
I was issued the loan directly through Virgin Startup in London.
11. Biggest achievement so far?
I would say moving into my first premises, and being commissioned by a London publisher to write my first book on Kombucha for homebrewers - both feel very good right now.
12. What’s next for your business?
The plan is to expand the business and production in the spring of 2016 to bring my kombucha to a wider range of consumers and stockists in the UK. I am most excited about experimenting with new flavours and finding like-minded individuals to help me to grow the business.