From jar-lined countertops in her kitchen to a 13,000-square-foot facility brimming with brew tanks, Lisa Bledsoe’s mission to pour Kansas City a more refreshing bottle of “booch” is scaling fast, she explained over a freshly tapped glass of her “Beachlife”-flavored kombucha.
“I think it can be an inspiration for younger women or even other women looking to journey out and start a business,” Bledsoe, owner of Olathe-headquartered Scoby Master’s Tea-Biotics, said of the company’s growth — which includes raising $1.2 million in two weeks and finding success in a multi-state distribution deal with Hy-Vee.
“If through it all, the journey inspired one other woman to go take a risk and build a business, then that’s pretty cool,” the mother of two and Tea-Biotics founder said in reflection of the company’s traction and what’s to come.
Click here to learn more about Tea-Biotics, one of Startland’s Kansas City Startups to Watch in 2019.
Sporting probiotic power
As Tea-Biotics continues to scale, the company has found support from local celebrities, now managing a freshly-inked endorsement deal with Hunter Dozier, third baseman for the Kansas City Royals, Bledsoe explained.
“Hunter’s just a big Tea-Biotics fan. And he said, ‘Hey, if I’m gonna support a product, I want to support a product I believe in,’” Bledsoe said of the deal’s origins.
“To be able to have someone that, where their health and fitness is the No.1 thing in their entire life — that’s how they make a living at the highest level — to be able to share their experiences with the youth and maybe try to get them off of soda is great,” she said.
Dozier isn’t the only pro-athlete to take notice of Tea-Biotics. The Kansas City Chiefs and Sporting KC continue to crave the company’s 32 probiotic-packed flavors of kombucha, Bledsoe said.
“The [Chiefs’] team stays in a hotel the night before a game, I guess for curfew, and they actually put a kegerator in the team hotel for the eight home games a year,” the result of a craving that grew out of a partnership that saw kegs at training camp and in the team’s practice facility last year, she added.
Twenty-five kegs of Tea-Biotics have already been delivered to Chiefs training camp in St. Joseph where the team will begin reporting July 23.
Additionally, University of Missouri athletics is set to install two kegerators in their facilities in the coming weeks, she noted.
Click here to read more about the company’s operations which include a first-of-its-kind kombucha tap room.
A taste for new markets
Beyond the world of sports, Tea-Biotics is rapidly finding its footing in new markets, Bledsoe explained. The company partnered with 25 St. Louis-based Dierbergs Markets grocery stores in April.
“We’re up to 51 locations [combined with] different retailers throughout St Louis, so it’s going well already,” she said of traction in distribution. “We branched out into Dallas, Texas, and Oklahoma with a $7 billion retail company called Winnco. They’re massive up and down the west coast.”
On shelves for barely two weeks, Tea-Biotics Hibiscus Watermelon flavor became the No. 2 skew in the kombucha category for Winnco, the company revealed.
“Our goal [for 2019] was to try to get outside of Kansas City and really understand if people enjoy Tea-Biotics because it’s local or do people enjoy Tea-Biotics because it’s a great tasting, probiotic beverage?” she said.
So far, the company has found it’s the refreshing transparency of its brewing practices that keep customers cracking open ice cold bottles of Tea-Biotics kombucha, Bledsoe said, calling attention to what she said is a growing problem in her industry — fake products.
“There’s people making kombucha and putting vinegar in it and calling it ‘kombucha’ because they can, because there’s no definition for us — or anybody to follow,” she said, giving insight into the industry that’s become increasingly popular.
Educating consumers about the differences between mass-manufactured competitors and Tea-Biotics has become Bledsoe’s personal mission.
“We make all the tea here, we don’t use concentrates. We use a real scoby, the same one I’ve had since 2010!” she said. “It has grown all these thousands of scobys. We use cold-pressed organic juices and herbs and we use real flowers and real ingredients and purified water, which is really unheard of in the industry as a whole.”