Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Heather Van Tassell, Resident Mad Scientist and Owner of Mad Scientist Kombucha, located in Houston, TX, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Mad Scientist Kombucha is a Houston-based, small-batch kombucha brewery. We cater to those who want a real product made by a small business. Our kombucha is different from grocery store brands in that we balance the acids produced during the first and second fermentation to produce a strong kombucha that won't burn your nose hairs.

Tell us about yourself

I started making kombucha because I had digestive issues. Like me, so many people struggle with this. I started drinking kombucha, and my symptoms quickly subsided. But I didn't like the taste of grocery store brands. I figured I was a scientist. I can figure this out. And so the Mad Scientist lab began. I worked out experiments to determine how much sugar to use and how long to ferment each step and worked out recipes. I made it for myself for a long time before I was convinced to take the leap to sell. Food Managers Certification, Commercial Kitchen, Manufacturing License, and some late nights later, I brought Mad Scientist Kombucha to farmer's markets. Seven years later, I now do this full-time. I left my day job at the Houston Health Department in early 2021 to focus completely on the brewery. We are now in select stores and growing, and I couldn't be happier. Now I can help more people solve the same problem I had with a tasty and affordable product.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner has had the ability to transition from working nights and weekends to growing the business to focus full time.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

A funny topic that sometimes comes up is whether or not I miss working in the lab. I run my kitchen like a lab, and with all of the testing equipment used in making the product, I still get the lab vibe. But the only thing that I could ever think of to say is that I do miss the salary. Not in the literal sense. Knowing exactly what is going to be deposited each month is all fine and good. But know that every penny I make I earn is an amazing feeling. Also, there is a direct reward for my hard work.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

If someone was interested in looking to start a business today, I would recommend they:

  1. Fully understand the product that they are going to be bringing to market. Research the way to make it and find ways to streamline the process. Sometimes there is a way to "work smarter, not harder" that you learn along the way, but working toward that from the beginning with save you precious time.
  2. Network with other producers that use the same packaging. Packaging is the highest cost for Consumer Packaged Goods. If you can share a larger shipment with someone ordering from the same manufacturer that you are, it could save you a good amount of money.
  3. Location, location, location. Not every product sells in every place. Some locations are great for one product but not for others. You might be able to completely sell out at one location, while in another, you are barely covering overhead and costs. Look at what has sold historically in that area, the types of personalities that shop in those areas, and ask other businesses how they are doing.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Owning a business isn't always easy. In fact, it can be more hard than easy. But if you love what you are doing and are truly happy, the good will outweigh the bad in the end. Keep on keeping on and enjoy the process.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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