September 21, 2015
After revealing August’s Amber Grant Finalists last week, we’re excited to finally announce our qualification grant winner. Congrats Ayla Bystrom-Williams, owner of Honeymoon Brewery!
Read on to learn all about Ayla and her brewery:
WN: What is Kombucha and how did you learn about it?
ABW: The text book definition of Kombucha is: it is an ancient fermented tea recipe which originated in Asia. For generations, it has been touted as a panacea for a myriad of ailments, as well as a regimen for continued health. The base of Kombucha is tea (Camillia Sinensis, in the form of black tea, pu erh tea, white tea, oolong tea, or green tea) that is then metabolized by a microbiological culture known as a SCOBY. That is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY metabolizes the sugared tea into a spectrum of beneficial metabolites, and the living colonies themselves are also clinically proven to be probiotic.
The modern understanding of Kombucha: it is a wonderful (to some) effervescent health drink which has gained attention for its health benefits but also has a really fun and recreational nature. Those who are avid kombucha drinkers tend to highlight their interest in the way it makes them feel as well as the way it tastes. Because it becomes alcoholic by nature, it is has been highly regulated since it was pulled off the shelves in 2010. Although the modern understanding of Kombucha is controversial because of this alcoholic nature, I have always found Kombucha to be an extremely interesting profile of a wild, tea based, fermented beverage.
WN: Where is your beer distributed now? Plans for the future?
ABW: Well, although the regional Whole Foods team has expressed a serious interest in our product and has made a verbal agreement to carry our product, we are not currently producing/distributing commercially. Because Kombucha has so many health claims that are not supported we decided to take a step back pre-production and pre-revenue to really embrace the amazing R&D sessions we have been awarded with our collaborators at the Los Alamos National Laboratories. We are one of only maybe a few breweries to be backed by a federal research grant of this magnitude.
Our time is presently spent refining our recipe and intellectual property with the help from our lead researcher at LANL and our patent attorney, as well as putting into motion privately hosted events where we can give away our Kombucha Beer and receive feedback.
Our plans for the coming year are to document a thorough process and recipe for our utility patent, and for all regulatory requirements locally and federally, and to document market intelligence gathered from our private events and crowd funding campaigns. Once we begin commercial production, we plan on fulfilling orders for four regional Whole Foods locations which have shown an interest in signing a contract for our product.
WN: Explain Los Alamos
ABW: The Technical Assistance Funds we received from Los Alamos National Laboratories have been a beautiful and harmonious representation of the hard work it takes to be an entrepreneur. We received these funds after being rejected for a fairly high profile fund, known as the VAF, offered to small businesses here in New Mexico. When we realized we were not the recipient of the VAF, we responded to the coordinators with a thank you email and in passing they mentioned some “other” programs available to small start ups like us. Without a moment of hesitation we came to discover that the Technical Funds were an additional program we were eligible to apply for. Although the Technical Funds do not put money into our start up pockets, we were awarded one year of research with an outstanding Principal Investigator, David Fox who is an incredible bio-organic chemist. Our work with Mr. Fox has been more valuable than any cash funds we might have received up until this point….and we are definitely in need of start up capital. The benefits of gaining scientific capital in lieu of cash capital has been very eye opening for us.
WN: What are your long term goals
ABW: Our long term goals are to be a successful start up with an unusual product. Simply: we want to overcome the hurdles presented to start up companies and especially start up companies which deal with alcohol. Although we are really looking forward to expanding our product line to include other “healthier” beers and alcoholic refreshments such as a Dandelion Root Stout, Kvass, and maybe a New Mexican Style Lambic, we feel like the most important thing to have in our long-term-goal-sights is success, sustainability, and scalability.
WN: What piece of advice would you give other female entrepreneurs just starting out?
ABW: There is no better word than perseverance. Sometimes when being the founder of a start up is beyond challenging, I google stories and quotes of perseverance. I check out books from the library on the subject. It seems there has been no greater limitless well of energy and encouragement for me than reading about the incredible stories of those who have come before us. This is just something that I have found useful; maybe this will be a helpful tool for other female entrepreneurs as well.
Thanks for reading! Remember that we award a grant every month – if interested, please apply today.
And if you’d like to vote for Honeymoon Brewery to win the $2,000 Amber Grant, you can vote for them here.