Lisa Kivirist
January 18, 2016
kombucha tea

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Kombucha is easy to make at home, and it keeps the cost of this delicious concoction down.

When you think about it, kombucha really is the ultimate in local food: Why should it be brewed anywhere else but right where it will be used? That’s exactly what friends Vanessa Tortolano and Alla Shapiro thought when then started NessAlla in 2008, a kombucha business based in Madison, Wis., brewing fresh kombucha designed to stay in the community.

Pioneer leaders in local kombucha brewing businesses, the duo offers advice for urban food-based entrepreneurs:

Appreciate your community
“It’s all about local for us,” explains Shapiro, a bubbly redhead with Russian roots and a kombucha-making grandmother. “We started NessAlla with the goal of empowering people in our community to take health and wellness in to their own hands.”

Be patient forging new territory
With innovative new businesses such as NessAlla, much time and effort needed to be put into educating various state agency and regulatory staff about what kombucha is and why it is safe to produce. “Patience and education went a long way for us,” Shapiro adds.

Educate your customers
NessAlla represents the growing number of food artisan companies that don’t play by traditional business models: Why would you teach your customers how to make the product you want to sell? But Shapiro and Tortolano have found that by selling kombucha-making kits and teaching workshops, an educated customer base that understands the kombucha making process are their best advocates and marketing champions.

Enjoy the ride
“We have too much fun,” Shapiro says. Both young mothers, the duo integrate their kids into their farmers market booth and love brainstorming new seasonal flavor combinations to add to their kombucha base, such as Lemongrass Ginger and Lavender Mint. Local deliveries are made in a colorfully painted Subaru dubbed the “Art Mobile.”


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