Creating a family business takes a lot of courage and will. However, it seems that Ethan and Kate Zuckerman have it all. Barefoot Bucha was founded in 2010 by Zuckerman family. Today I have a pleasure to talk to co-founder Kate Zuckerman.
Kombucha is a fermented tea. It is effervescent and is served cold. Many people drink it because it contains probiotics, bacteria that are believed to be beneficial for the digestive system and other systems of the body. Others simply drink it because they enjoy the taste—which can vary widely from brand to brand.
We began by delivering weekly six packs directly to our clients. In time, that evolved to setting up kombucha fountains at various retailers, which are draft systems where people can purchase an empty bottle, fill it, drink it, and bring it back for a refill. Last year we added a prefilled bottle line, so customers can purchase a full bottle that they find in the fridge, and bring it back for refills. We only place our prefilled bottles at retailers that also have kombucha fountains, to ensure that people can bring their bottles back for refilling.
We have four flavors in our prefilled bottles, and anywhere from 6-8 flavors on draft at any given time. We’ll be launching at least one more prefilled bottle flavor soon, so stay tuned on that.
When Ethan and I wanted to start the company, one thing we were uncomfortable with was the idea of making a consumable product that would just generate more waste. It went against some of our fundamental values. That’s why we decided to give customers bottles that are refillable, and also why we don’t place our prefilled bottles in locations that don’t have fountains.
There is an inherent challenge in our no waste model. It’s not for everyone. It can be hard to remember to bring your bottles back for refill, your bags back for groceries…but those who appreciate the option to make a conscious choice are loyal customers.
We believe our tagline, “big flavor. small footprint,” says it all. We focus on making a delicious product that contributes positively to environmental consciousness. Our kombucha is also Certified Organic, is undiluted, and does not contain powdered probiotics or other additives.
Someone who is conscious of how the decisions they make impact their own health, and that of the planet.
Our first keg delivery was to Blue Mountain Brewery, just up the road from our house, where they were kind enough to give us a chance to be on draft. We were so excited that we took pictures of loading the kegs into the car and driving over there! That same week, we installed our first fountain at Rebecca’s Natural Food in Charlottesville. Rebecca’s carries very high quality products and we were so proud to take the big step into retail at such a great store. We are still carried at both of those spots, but have added many more accounts throughout Virginia, DC, and Maryland.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball? Our growth process has been very organic. We respond to what our consumers want, while prioritizing a healthy work-life balance for ourselves and our team members. I expect we’ll be making delicious kombucha and staying true to our low waste mission, but beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess…
We have two young children, ages 1 ½ and 3 ½, so having a family business has given us the flexibility to spend more time with them, which is a high priority for us. Ethan and I also enjoy working for ourselves and our team. We’re both entrepreneurs at heart, it’s one the ways we get to express our creativity in the world.
Frequent, deep breaths! Seriously, though, I am grateful for years of yoga and meditation that have given me the tools to get through the more challenging moments. I regularly remind myself that the various hats I wear are not separate, they are the fabric that makes up my life, which is an integrated and dynamic whole.
For more information visit Barefoot Bucha website.