Business Planning Tip

Kombuchick: A Kombucha Bar & Microbrewery Co.

Leslie Crews

Norfolk, VA


SCORE Mentor
Tom Vaughan


The Company:

After graduating from college, Leslie Crews decided to upgrade her lifestyle and nutritional habits. To substitute for soda, she began brewing kombucha, a nonalcoholic, probiotic fermented tea that has numerous health benefits. She began taking her bottled kombucha to potlucks and other events, and soon friends and family were asking to buy it. In 2011, she launched Kombuchick: A Kombucha Bar & Microbrewery Co.

The Challenge:

In 2012 Crews contacted SCORE seeking to expand her network of business resources and get help with cash flow management. “I wanted to get perspective from those that have actually run a business, as opposed to theory-based counseling,” she says.

The Solution:

SCORE mentor Tom Vaughan taught Crews how to ensure that the company’s cash flow stays steady even during economic downtimes or off-peak seasons. “Most of our cash flow was coming from retail; we weren’t doing enough to expand our B2B sales,” Crews says. Vaughan showed her how retail and B2B sales could complement each other and how to set “reachable, but challenging” growth goals and benchmarks for sales and revenues. 

Crews also learned a lot about marketing from SCORE. “Tom showed me how to target underutilized marketing avenues that are cost-effective for a growing business,” she says. Vaughan suggested alternative marketing ideas such as selling kombucha at music festivals, parties and events, trade shows and local yoga studios. He also helped Crews establish connections with community organizations. “Getting involved with the community and finding out what they need has really helped,” Crews says. “For example, on a neighborhood cleanup day, we offered cold beverages to people doing the cleanup. They remembered us and it led to residual business, even though we gave that product away for free.”

Most importantly, working with Vaughan helped Crews grow her business without working herself into the ground. “SCORE helped me figure out my strengths and weaknesses, so I learned how to work smarter, not harder,” she says. “For example, I realized how important marketing is, so I brought on a marketing coordinator who handles sales and keeping in touch with customers and clients.”

The Results:

“Through our relationship with SCORE, we have been able to discover and fill our niche market within the urban scene of coastal Virginia, which has been the first step towards becoming the premier woman- and minority- owned kombucha company in the Mid-Atlantic region,” says Crews.

Since working with SCORE, Crews has added several new vendors, been featured in a prominent regional magazine, and hired three employees (with plans to add an intern soon). Future plans include building a second bar/microbrewery near the current location.

Mass Mutual is not associated with, and does not endorse, the business featured.​