Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nelson Meggitt, CEO of Zen Moment - Oak Cultured Tisane, located in Nanaimo, BC, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Zen Moment - Oak Cultured Tisane is a Canadian producer of Luxury-Tier Functional beverages inspired by Traditional Chinese Herbalism. Our selling partners are fine dining establishments, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, cruise lines, as well as non-alcoholic bottle shops and retailers. Our end consumers are those who understand that health and peace of mind are the true foundations of a happy and prosperous life. They gladly pay a little extra for the assurance that they are receiving a truly better-for-you beverage indulgence that is brewed with devotion.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up on a dairy farm in Alberta, and my working background is originally in agriculture and construction trades. After working extremely hard in all kinds of weather for many years, and prompted by my own winding health journey, the direction of my work also evolved over time to Civil Drafting, OH&S Consulting, and then to Life & Wellness Coaching. I was first introduced to kombucha in early 2014 by Pei-Fen Chang, who would become my best friend and co-founder. Although I had already accumulated a decent selection of holistic tools and tips to pay forward to my coaching clients after making significant gains in recovering my own health, kombucha was not yet on my radar. Pei-Fen grew up in a loving and traditional family in Taiwan, and she was only allowed to drink water, tea, or her mother's homemade kombucha. Her mom made the best kombucha in the neighbourhood, and so many of the friend's mothers would return for fresh SCOBY because they were unable to keep the original one they were given alive. I was touched by Pei-Fen's story, fascinated by the legend of kombucha's ancient origin, and before I knew it, I had become an obsessed home brewer with only one short primer booklet to guide me aside from Pei-Fen's recollections and advice.
Through an interesting turn of events, a blessing in disguise as they say, Pei-Fen and I were living on Denman Island in 2016. We had set out wanting to operate a healing-retreat style B&B, but the original business plans for moving there fell through when we could not obtain the property lease as promised. This happened shortly before the Farmers Market opened, so we decided to stay on and have a go at bringing our wares to market. With a gas stove that was loaned to us by Lama Rodney from the Buddhist Hermitage, Pei-Fen prepared an amazing selection of her Vegetarian Taiwanese-fusion eats and her signature hot sauce while I had organized myself with enough bottles and basic equipment to bring a small selection of my latest kombucha flavour inspirations.
Well, we were a big hit that entire 2016 market season and people would repeatedly say to me that our kombucha was far better than what they had been buying at the store, and they wanted to know where else they could find it. Believe it or not, I was still oblivious to the fact that kombucha was starting its upward trend in the grocery space, and my flavour formulations were developed entirely independently of such observations as I would enjoy long discussions with Pei-Fen about the Traditional Chinese Medicine - Five Element Theory and various Chinese Herbal properties and so forth. So by the end of the market season, we were both pretty motivated to lean into this new direction and actually make a business of it. Our focus has always been on the quality of the product and approaching the oak brewing in a way that honours the ancient roots of the fermented tea beverage and lives up to the spirit of the findings of the late Dr. Masaru Emoto, from his fascinating work - The Hidden Messages in Water.
What motivates me each day is the fact that we have had more synchronicity, miracles, and winks from the Universe than we can specifically recall, including two clear dreams of premonition that I had a few months before acquiring the leases to each of our successive facilities, the 880sf test facility in Courtenay, and again with the current 3660sf pilot facility in Nanaimo. All the unexplained mysteries and the various supports we've encountered along our journey, in combination with our determination to deliver something original, health-promoting, and truly special to the world, keep us and our growing team going as we steadily build momentum through the challenging phase of transforming from the proverbial local mom & pop shop to an investment ready startup with a global vision.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Having gathered the market insights and fostered the dream of conducting a first-mover luxury re-brand in the kombucha space, as well as planning a relocation to a significantly larger facility, is one thing; however, having the bravery to make the move and execute the multitude of steps to see that vision come to life is a totally different set of internal guides and physical-mental-emotional fortitude. Having our forthcoming herbal formulation in its new luxuriously packaged 750ml format being recognized at the largest beverage competition in the USA is certainly a milestone for us and a sign that we made the right decision. Winning a Masked Silver and an Unmasked Gold in the new Functional category at the 2022 PR%F Awards is a major accomplishment.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things for me personally is actually getting a good night's sleep. Of course, I understand the importance of doing so and have good routines around sleep, but that fact is that as a founder, there will always be a multitude of to-do items and unsolved problems crowding in on the mind when falling asleep or when waking in the middle of the night. My best advice for dealing with this is to get things onto paper or a smartphone notepad before retiring and to have some calming music to create a space between the last activities of the day and actually settling in. I tend to go for traditional Chinese instrumental music like Erhu and Guzheng.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Mae sure you know why you are doing it. If your business idea is strictly for the potential profits, it will be too tempting to quit when things get bumpy, as they are guaranteed to do at some point. Having a clear and wide-reaching reason for starting the business as your North Star will keep you motivated to get through all the ongoing challenges.
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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