Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mike Durighello, Founder of Whalebird Kombucha, located in San Luis Obispo, CA, USA.

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

Whalebird Kombucha is a raw and organic kombucha brewery located in San Luis Obispo, CA. We distribute our canned and kegged kombucha throughout CA and WA to cafes, coffee shops, offices, and grocery stores.

Tell us about yourself

A phenomenal surfer and a friend of mine introduced kombucha to me back in 2006. Initially, I was very put off by the flavor, but I gave it a second try because I thought it would make me a better surfer. Turns out kombucha will not up your surf game, but I started to notice that it gave me great energy and sustained focus.

I began bringing bottles of kombucha into the library at UC Santa Cruz as a study ade... I was hooked. After UCSC, I moved to San Luis Obispo, CA, and saw that no one was making kombucha locally. I wanted to work for myself and share all the benefits of kombucha with my community, so I started brewing and selling commercially in stainless steel kegs in 2013.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I love helping people live healthier, and if they can swap out their soda for kombucha, that's a win for me. Additionally, we've been able to employ 20 wonderful people that help us get kombucha out to the world!

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

Working on your team culture is the most important and most difficult task I've encountered. As our team has grown, so has the nuance of interpersonal relationships. In order to navigate that effectively, you have to connect with your team on a daily basis and lead with empathy. The more intimately you know your team, the better you can lead.

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

  1. Find a co-founder that is just as motivated as you. Someone who is willing to burn the midnight oil to bring your dream to fruition.
  2. Hire people smarter than you and get over yourself. A great business owner knows what areas they excel in and are deficient in. Stick to what you are good at, let go of what you are bad at, and bring in good people that can do it better.
  3. Always make time to eat well and exercise every day. It's amazing how quickly you'll turn into a ball of stress without these two things.

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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